Last weekend I spoke at a retreat, and after the talk I did the smartest thing I've ever done at such an event. I bagged the scripted Q&A time and asked the women---whoever were willing---to tell the group either about how they came to Christ, or some other special encounter with the Lord. It turned out to be the best part of the weekend.
A testimony does something that a sermon doesn't generally do. It takes the preaching of the Word a step further by showing its incarnation in the life of a person. The good sermons do that too, of course. While the heavy lifting of a sermon is considered to be the exposition of the Word and its principles, the preaching of the Word includes its application---and blessed is the pastor whose life of faith has generated testimonies to share, and who need not rely on stale quotes from Bartlett's Familiar Quotations or eSermons.com.
But if you scratch the surface at retreats, you find stories aplenty. For we all have the Spirit and we all have testimonies. And at this point I am almost lapsing into quoting Paul in 1 Corinthians 14, where he describes how your average, run-of-the-mill worship service should go when "the whole church comes together" (v.23):
"When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. . . . Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and be encouraged . . ." (verses 26, 29-31).
I would like to know one thing: Why don't we "let all things be done for building up" in our modern worship services? I would like to know who had the authority to rescind that practice established in the Word, and what was the reasoning of the authors of the "regulatory principle" who left it out. In doing so they left out a means of encouragement and overlooked a principle of reciprocity by which the preaching of God's Word is made complete by the antiphonal response of His people.
I should amend this. Not all churches neglect the pattern of 1 Corinthians 14.
I have seen it practiced in just enough congregations to know that I'm not crazy.
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