Sixty seconds. This was the challenge given to our congregation by our Senior Pastor. Sixty seconds to share a condense version of our testimony. Why? Because not enough people are sharing their story. Storytelling is essentially the foundation of Jesus’ ministry during His time on earth. It’s how He drew a following and connected the love of God to the hearts of hurting people. We desperately need to share stories again. All too often we go to church, listen to the story the pastor shares and go home without hearing each other’s stories and without the skills to share our own.
Author Erwin McManus describes the danger of doing church this way in his book, An Unstoppable Force
“This move has made the pastor the only minister, while making the members the only recipients of ministry. What is lost in the process is an army of healers touching the planet”
It’s scary isn’t? To think that our idleness could someday effectively cause the discontinuation of the greatest story of all time. Sure, there will always be buildings with steeples, but the church is meant to be so much more than that. Take Jesus’ words in Matthew 16
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
That sounds a little more intense than a good sermon and a potluck to me. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with getting together for fellowship and communion. However, the church was meant to be an active, ethos changing, relentless movement and anything less is simply a social club.
Challenges like the one my pastor issued are good for us. They challenge the norm, make us uncomfortable in a way that is healthy and necessary. So, while I have less control over the seconds it will take you to get through it via this medium, I want to share with you my sixty second condensed testimony.
I was born with a disability called Spina Bifida. I overcame the biggest hurdle of walking, shortly behind the rest of my peers. However, it would be my peers that I would struggle to find an affinity with on many other levels.
The social realm was the most difficult. I never felt like I fit in. My attempts to fit in usually got me in trouble by either being the class clown or putting up a wall of resent and bitterness. I was constantly anxious and suffered from panic attacks for years.
In Junior High, a friend invited me to his church. It was a Southern Baptist church that had a family atmosphere. It was here that I finally started to feel like I belonged somewhere. This church had a tradition where they would do an altar call and those who accepted Jesus where brought to the front of the church and everyone would come up to congratulate them and shake their hand.
For most people that sounds terrifying, but I was desperate for attention and attracted to this rite of passage ceremony. So, one Sunday evening, I waited for the altar call to happen. I was going to have my moment. But the call never came. This was one of the very rare occasions I can ever remember there not being an altar call, it was almost a given that it would happen at the end of each and every service.
On the way home I explained to my chauffeurs, an older couple from the church, that I was bummed there was no altar call because I wanted to get saved; in reality, I wanted the attention from the ceremony. I told them I would just wait for the next one. Yet, they insisted on turning the car around immediately. I didn’t understand why it was so important to them because I didn’t fully understand what it meant to be saved myself.
We made it back to the church where the youth pastor was just getting ready to leave. They told him about my intentions, or what they thought were my intentions. My pastor explained to me what it really meant to follow Jesus and in a dark sanctuary with no lights, no roaring crowd, I came to know Him as my savior.
I have no doubt that the lack of an altar call that evening was a divine conspiracy. God always finds a way to bring things around so that He will receive the glory. Jesus was telling me that I would always be accepted by Him even if I didn’t fit in anywhere else. I thought I needed to be the center of attention to feel loved, but in reality, I just needed Jesus at the center of my heart.