Our ancestors talked; now we text. Somewhere between our preference for conversations with less than 200 characters and our incurable fear of public speaking the art of the “testimony” is all but dead. Some of my most fond memories as a child growing up in church were the times when the saints of God would stand and share stories of what God was doing in their lives. For me, testimonies made the gospel alive and current. Testimonies made worship less of a spectator sport and more participatory. You were not just at church to hear a sermon or to sing a song, you were there to share and respond.
Last week we decided to bring the testimony back to worship – with an upgrade. Using cell phones, wifi, and projection I asked questions throughout the sermon and the congregation responded with short texted testimonies. We paused for brief interludes throughout the service to watch the responses scroll on the screens. The result was an incredible worship experience with the congregation sharing with one another and responding to God.
For example, when I asked, “What was happening in your life when you started listening for or seeking God?” Here are some of the responses:
· Drug use/overdose, I realized the profession I made at 13 was just to get someone who was a Christian to leave me alone.
· Jail, he was publically exposing me to my sins. He opened my heart and ears to hear and see that my righteousness can’t and won’t save me.
· I realized I could not “fix” everything. That left me hopeless, so I turned to someone who gave me hope.
· I was in college struggling with sexual sin when God opened my eyes to the truth that I could have a relationship with Him.
· Divorce, job change, being a single parent, lack of hope.
· When I was diagnosed with diabetes.
· Chaos at home, a sense of desperation and a longing for something more in my life.
Here are a few of the responses to the question, “What are you asking God right now?”
· Am I doing it right???
· Am I serving Him where he wants me? Feeling failures as a mom and wife.
· Who are you God?
· Show me how to make up for lost time as a godly husband and father.
· Heart break. Why did you choose me for this God?
Our second service is a little awkward simply because most of the people in it are fairly new to one another. I think seeing the texted testimonies helped to break down some relational barriers as each person in the room realized they were sitting around people who were experiencing many of the same insecurities, seeking the same sense of meaning, and asking the same questions. At the end of the service I encouraged our folks to move those stories from text and into meaningful conversations. After the weekend it made moving forward seem more safe. We are all in now. Let’s talk.
Now the pastor-tech part, how did we do this? Our initial plan was to have three people holding cell phones, provide the congregation with three numbers based on seating, and type in responses as we got them. After the way this all worked on Sunday, I can testify, THERE IS NO WAY THAT WOULD HAVE WORKED. There were too many texts coming in way too fast. It would have been a disaster that would have done nothing but distract from the service. Fortunately, on Thursday night I searched for a solution and found Jarbyco.com. For a reasonable fee you can subscribe to their service for a month. Keith Baldwin got us set up quickly and helped us throughout the weekend with a few tech support questions. Jarbyco offers a variety of ways you can use the text to screen technology such as polls, trivia questions, Q and A, or in a testimony service like the one we experienced on Sunday. I highly recommend Jarbyco. We found the text to screen technology to be a great way to reinvigorate worship, to resurrect the art of the testimony, and call our people to not just be a spectator but a participant.