Testimony Time

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Originally published February 2001.

Lately my church has been having a testimony time of sorts.  It has not been the traditional testimony time where people stand and share what God has done lately.  The pastors decided that they should take turns giving their life testimonies to the church.

How interesting!  I was surprised to find out that these pastors of mine were sinners–and a couple of them were really bad.  These wise and godly men (both word being very operative in their lives) who I respect and trust with decisions that affect me were not always this way.  And a couple of them would have never made it through my youth program or even into it.

If I had really thought about it, I would have realized that they used to be sinners.  I know we all were and are now sanctified sinners.  But these wise and godly men were sinners.  They are so wise and godly now that I assumed they had to always be that way to become the men that they are now.

 

This blew me away but it really blew away one of “my boys,” now a 26-year old man.  Randy has done a lot of bad things.  His juvenile record is quite long and his adult record does not look too good either.  Yet he was not as bad as some of these pastors.  And look at these pastors now.  This has given Randy much hope.  He has hope that he can make it as a Christian.  He can even be like his pastors some day.  From those testimonies Randy got a glimpse of how I see him.

Something I thought about that Randy didn’t think of was that Randy has a head start on the pastors.  He has been walking this walk since he was 12.  Those pastors came to know God in their late 20s, 30s and one even older.  Randy has a great foundation to grow on.

Then at my home group we all took turns sharing our testimonies.  Who would have known such stuff?  There were amazing similarities in everyone’s unique stories.  Two of the ladies both had husbands die from suicide.  Who would have known?  The common thread was that everyone was on a search for God and knew it.  They were very aware of needing something in their lives and knew that something was of God but didn’t know how to get it.  It was through people that they found it.

This was so encouraging to me because at my school I see so many youth on a search whether they acknowledge it or not–yet.  I am encouraged now that they will somehow find God in the most unique yet common way.  God truly draws His people unto Him and He is active in that.  Once again 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 comes alive as my place as a minister and conversing with all those students at Gar-Field High School.  Only God makes things grow and He is actively doing this over a lifetime.

Another thing about those home group testimonies struck me.  With the exception of myself, a former youth group member now grown and married, and a 60+year old lady, no one became a Christian in their teen years.  Personally I was looking for the dynamic youthful testimony that involved a church youth group.  That wasn’t true of the group nor me nor with the 60+year old and only somewhat with that young adult.  Other relationships had a greater influence.

My home group definitely blew the already blown legend about the 85 percent who come to Christ before the age of 18.

So where does youth ministry fit into all this?  It has certainly made me question it.  Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. God is actively drawing.  And I may not always be involved because it is not my role in everyone.  I don’t know if everyone is an overachiever like me but I feel I need to be involved actively in nearly everything possible to reach the youth I am exposed to.  I need to do my part and do it well, but I am not the important part.
  2. Our testimonies are a powerful tool God has uniquely given us.  Revelation 12:11 says “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.”  My pastors’ testimonies were used powerfully in Randy’s life.
  3. Youth ministry is not the end all.  I have a passion for what I do.  It is so important and everyone I am exposed to either needs to be in youth ministry or helping a youth ministry.  But I’ve learned that God also has other ways to reach His people.
  4. Everyone has a young association with church of some sort and it most often was favorable.  But it was their grown decision that they identify as the moment of their decision.  I received this recent e-mail from a youth pastor.  “I was one of those youth that just played along (in youth group).  Until I was about 25 I never really made God my PERSONAL Lord and Savior.  But the training, and love I received as a youth brought me back to the center of where God wanted me.”
  5. Youth ministry (as well as children ministry) has the most important responsibility of forming a Biblical foundation and good memories to make that grown decision.  May everything I do reflect that first.