I recently conducted a writing workshop for a friend in communications in the Ontario Conference in Canada, titled “Every member a writer”. The workshop was a basic newswriting workshop, a session I’ve done plenty of times. It covered simple principles to help participants communicate a story and gave even beginners some simple tools to work with.
I love the idea of every member being a writer and I agree that it’s possible but I want to expand on our theme a little: Every member has a story. Thankfully, given my work, stories are a passion of mine. And I’m a big believer in the power of testimonies. It’s been a little while since I’ve written about testimonies in this space but every time I do an event like the workshop in Canada, I’m reminded of the power of people’s stories. Somewhere in your church service, Sabbath school or prayer meeting programs should be the opportunity to share stories about what God is doing.
It is easy to get caught up in studying the Bible, in sharing truths, in reading the lesson or following the words and thoughts of great biblical teachers and expositors. However, we too often underestimate the power of personal witness. Ellen White says as members of His body we are to be “His missionaries, bodies of light throughout the world, to be as signs to the people, living epistles known and read of all men” (Testimonies for the Church).
The apostle Paul did this well. A number of times in his letters, he uses his own hardships and struggles—even his conversion story—to paint the picture of what God was doing in his life and to point to God’s glory rather than his own.
Paul shares his story to the hostile crowd in Jerusalem. He is then imprisoned but gets the opportunity to share his life story with King Agrippa. Every opportunity he got, Paul highlighted what God was doing in him. Paul, who described himself as a pharisee of the pharisees, had learning and knowledge of the Scriptures but was not afraid to reference his own experiences with God.
If we decide to take this calling seriously—to be tellers of God-stories from our life into the lives of those around us—it challenges us in at least two ways.
The first is by making us more aware of God’s work in our lives. When we are remembering and retelling stories of what God has done, we are walking in the footsteps of the ancient Israelites who were encouraged to tell the story of how God rescued them from Egypt.
“And you shall teach them [stories of what God did] diligently to your children and speak of them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:7).
Remembering the events God has led us through and looking for evidence of His influence on our lives is an important boost for our own faith when the going gets tough or God seems silent. It can also be a blessing to others going through similar circumstances. As you relate to them, they are more open to sharing their own story, to trusting and to opening up to God.
Our second challenge is to be walking with God every day—to have the Holy Spirit working in our lives—so we can have fresh and recent stories to tell. Our conversion story is important but if that was the only time Paul encountered God, then it could have become stale in the retelling. Instead, Paul had a wealth of evidence of the Spirit’s work to draw on. He could list the challenges and difficulties in his life and the places where God protected or saved him.
As Christians, we should never forget our conversion, but our journey shouldn’t stop there. My challenge is to seek the Holy Spirit in my life, to desire new testimonies and fresh faith stories to share with those around me that I encounter every day.
We can join the writer of Lamentations, who in the middle of mourning for all Israel had lost, was able to recognise that “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (vv3:22,23).