I walked into the church expecting the same old thing. The finely polished band would entertain us for forty minutes; announcements of upcoming events and the offering received. A few more songs to set the mood before the pastor shared a message, prayed for those who came forward and then dismissed the congregation. The monotony had been wearing on me for years. I usually left at the conclusion of the message.
About twenty minutes into the service, the worship leader, set a microphone on a stand in the middle of the stage. “Anyone who wants to say something about Jesus come to the microphone,” he said, then resume his place behind the piano. That was different and perked me up a bit. A few people made their way to the stage to thank God for the things he had done for them.
I had not seen a testimony service in a very long time. The first church I attended in the mid-1970s often called upon the congregation to tell what God had done for them. In fact, the first time I walked into a church they were in the middle of sharing testimonies. Eventually, the practice was abandoned. After sharing the initial salvation experience several times from different perspectives people had a hard time thinking of things to testify about.
I expected the stream of people walking to the microphone to wane and the service to move to the next order of business. The stream of people continued. The pastor spent the whole service sitting on a pew. For the first time in a long time, I actually enjoyed the service.
Then the unexpected happened. Teenagers and adults, who had been attending the church for years, stood behind the microphone to confess their sin and repent. I have witnessed a number of pastors caught in sin forced to ask forgiveness before their congregations. I had never witnessed people voluntarily stand before their fellow Christians admitting their failures and asking God for help.
Thirty minutes into the testimony service that turned into a time of repentance I realized something unusual was happening. John the Baptist prepared the way for a visitation of God by calling people to repentance. The only person who called upon the congregation to repent that morning was the Holy Spirit. Is he preparing us for a visitation of God?
The next morning, I called my prayer partner to inquire if anything unusual had happened at her church. “Nothing out of the ordinary,” she said. I told her what happened and my thoughts.
She told me about a conversation she had with a friend over coffee Sunday evening. Her friend told her, “I feel in my spirit that God is up to something. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know how to describe it. But God is going to do something.”
“I wasn’t feeling it,” said my prayer partner. “We hear that kind of talk all the time, and it usually amounts to nothing. When I went to bed that evening, I asked God if it was true. What you just told me gives me hope that it is.”
Only time will tell if that service was an anomaly or the beginning of something greater. My feelings about the matter are neutral. I have witnessed a lot of corruption in the church, and wished I could find a church that sincerely loves God and God’s people. The church is sorely in need of a revival, but revival is a mixed bag of blessing and persecution. To some it would be a sweet odor. To others revival disrupts their lives with a foul stench.