It was, without question, the most uncomfortable church service of my entire life.
Our pastor was out of town and so lay leaders in our small church were running the service and preaching the sermon that day. One of the worship leaders had issued a simple invitation: Would two or three people from the congregation like to come up to the
mic and briefly share what God had been doing in their life recently?
After a few moments of silence, a man I’ll call “Kurt” marched up and took the mic. He’d apparently missed the guidelines “briefly” and “recently,” charging ahead into what turned out to be a 40-minute rendition of his personal testimony. Despite the efforts of church leaders to politely wrap things up, Kurt was on a roll and would not be deterred. His story was full of drama: involvement in the mafia, drunkenness and drugs, sexual escapades, a dramatic suicide attempt, hearing God’s audible voice, and even a few curse words peppered throughout to make it more exciting.
When Kurt’s story finally came to a close, you could almost hear the communal sigh of relief from the congregation. It wasn’t just joy that Kurt had come to know Christ, nor was it just because we were glad the hijacked church service was now out of Kurt’s hands. The discomfort we all felt as Kurt spoke was also because his “testimony”—though comprised of the standard “how I came to know Jesus” plot elements—well . . . it wasn’t really about Jesus. It was about Kurt. And it was about the drama and excitement, shock and awe. While it might have gotten a four-star review if it had been a movie on the big screen, for us real people in the room that day, its focus and tone smacked of grandstanding and inauthenticity.1