Testimony. As a member of the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International (FGBMFI) this is a word I hear uttered every week. It's usually in the form of an invitation at weekly chapter meetings: "Does anyone have a testimony for us today?"
This is what is known as a Short Testimony and the person is usually allotted five minutes. Of course being Ghana some Short Testimonies have been known to hit the fifteen minute mark. But how on earth do you stop someone who is so caught up in their testimony that all time fades away?
I joined FGBMFI because I felt I was not spending enough time with my Lord. A chance encounter (actually three chance encounters) when I attended a Ridge Church Breakfast Meeting lead me to FGBMFI. And I discovered that one of the pillars of the Fellowship is testimony. And it has rapidly become my favourite part of a meeting.
Exactly what is a testimony anyway? There are dictionary definitions galore, all of which can be summoned on your smartphone. I'm sure each and every Christian denomination has it's own view on what constitutes a testimony, and indeed each and every church.
I'm no expert, but at it's raw level a testimony consists of an individual relating a particular set of circumstances. These circumstances usually consist of a situation, a divine intervention, and the situation afterwards. Basically a beginning, middle, and an end. The circumstances are also usually very personal, can be very ordinary to begin with, may involve others or not, but are always very recognisable to the person involved in them.
To give an impactful short testimony you need to have an encounter with the Holy Spirit. I can't describe that fully, but you will know when you have one. Hopefully the Holy Spirit will still be with you when you give that testimony. You must aim to grab your audience's attention immediately. Do not meander, do not repeat yourself, and leave them pondering what you have just said.
In the relating of a testimony I find that people go through a roller coaster of emotions. The story is usually a very personal and intense issue and we simply cannot help getting totally involved and absorbed in the telling. I think you will find that in most testimonies the person is actually re-living the event. Have you seen a person weeping during their testimony? It's not uncommon. It's difficult to absorb the emotions that are generated by a person re-living what should have been an impossible event, but which turned out to be possible because of the intervention of the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately what this means is that there is also scope for fake testimonies, and these would be 'performed' by people with an ulterior motive, and the skill at storytelling to carry it of. A skilled storyteller can make you believe anything, and is that not the raison d'etre for any con-man?
The most attractive element of a testimony for me, and I'm not sure 'attractive' is the right word, is that it makes me re-consider my own problems. When I hear a testimony, preferably well delivered, I cannot help but think that, hey, my problems are as nothing compared to this! My fellow human beings are seeing things oh! You can hear a testimony that can make you pause and re-assess not only your life, but your perspectives, horizons, views, and maybe even appetites. And most of the time I emerge from the experience of anothers testimony a better, more reflective person, ready to tackle whatever issue I thought I had in a more positive frame of mind.
At that point I ask myself whether I am waiting for others to have bad experiences before I realise what is going on in my life. I really need someone's misfortune to appreciate my life more?! Not anymore.
And yet somehow the people relating the testimony are still standing. Whatever happened to them has pushed them to the point where they must speak about it to others, acknowledging the part the Almighty plays in their lives. Most importantly they have recognised the miracle in their lives. And that's important because until you recognise what a miracle is in your own life you will never be able to stand up and testify.
Unfortunately there are testimonies that are so boring and seemingly aimless that you can't help praying that the Good Lord should please forgive the person for wasting our time. I know, this is very judgemental of me. But it is true. I find that testimonies like this tend to be a little confused; the person testifying has something to say but simply doesn't arrange the parts of the story well enough. To put it mildly, they are bad storytellers.
It can actually be embarrassing for the person when they end and the audience realises that nothing concrete was said. Being polite Ghanaians (and thank God for that) we all applaud. But imagine if you have visitors who are attending a FGBMFI meeting, or your church service, for the first time. Well, let's just say it's a bit of a letdown, and might not inspire the visitor to come back. On the other hand it just might let a visitor who has never testified believe they can also testify, and better.
Personally I believe in preparing my testimony because I want it to have the deepest impact possible. I will practice it, I will change it a few times until I am happy with it, and then I will select the time and place to deliver.
However, please note, ALL this means NOTHING when the Holy Spirit grabs you and says, "Speak! Now!!" At such a point, please, grab the attention of whoever is in charge of the meeting and service and GO BABY! NOW!!
I have given testimony at FGBMFI meetings and at a Ridge Church Breakfast Meeting (that was my first time ever). I have spoken about health issues, ticket prices miraculously dropping before our eyes, university acceptance, almost starting a fight with a Moslem, and 'missing' luggage. It was exhilarating speaking about how the Lord intervened in my life. It was revelatory (even to me testifying). It was humbling. It was a TESTIMONY.
If you have never testified in public (I know there are some who have testified multiple times in front of a mirror) I urge you to consider it. Obviously as a member of the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International I am totally biased, and I would invite you to a Chapter meeting near you. Come and experience the power of a testimony, and I'm sure you'll be inspired to tell your own story.
An interesting point: testimony seems to take on greater significance when the person testifying is known to the audience. When you know something about the person's character, conduct, and concern for others, it makes the person's story more impactful. If these aspects are positive then obviously it will be impactful in a positive manner. But if you know a person and these aspects are negative, then….
I wish I could tell you some of the testimonial stories I have heard, but I decided not to infringe on other peoples stories. You'll have to go along to a meeting to hear them for yourself. Oh, and I'm about to pitch something I call the Interview Testimony. Interested?
As a last word on testimony I am going to a strange place for an example: Pulp Fiction. Those of you who have seen this wonderfully violent movie will surely recall a scene where two hit men (Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta) are fired upon by a young man in an apartment after they shoot his friends. He fires five times at point blank range, emptying his gun….and misses them both. After they shoot the young man dead Samuel L. Jackson describes it as divine intervention, a miracle. John Travolta says these things happen.
They argue about it extensively, even after they leave the apartment. Jackson says God came down from heaven and stopped the bullets. He says he felt the touch of God, and that God got involved. Please note that we are talking about two very hardened and cynical assassins.
I would give anything to hear Samuel L. Jackson give a testimony about this event! Because it has all the ingredients for a powerful testimony. Although….he would probably get arrested as soon as he's done.
Remember: Every day is an opportunity for a new testimony.
(Copyright: RamiTalks 2018)