My Testimony

A little while back, we were visiting my parent’s house. During our time there, my parents asked me to sort through some of my old stuff and decide if there was anything I wanted to keep or whether stuff could be chucked. Apparently when you’re 28, married, have two kids and haven’t really lived at home full time for about 10 years, your parents decide it’s probably time for you to finally take your stuff away. As I sifted through various folders containing bank details and GCSE certificates, I came across two handwritten pieces of A4 lined paper with the heading “My Testimony”. I had written this about 11 years ago, shortly after I became a Christian. I think Jon March had probably told me I should write it down before I forgot. Well I did, but it had sat forgotten for over a decade. Needless to say it had some sentimental value and I wanted to hold onto it. Now finally I’ve typed it up and put it onto my computer and as we’re in a week of interviews and testimonies at All Saints this week, I thought why not share mine. I’ve copied it below and it’s all as written by 17 year old me, with no changes, even if I would’ve liked to have tidied it up a bit.

My Testimony

I was at Soul Survivor B 2003. I was enjoying the experience, especially the worship as that was the only time I felt I was really connecting with God. Even then, I had doubts about whether or not it was actually the music I enjoyed or the praise. I have now come to the conclusion that it was a mixture of both and the reason I liked the music was because the Lord had given me a real passion for it. Despite feeling connected to God during the musical worship, I was saddened that I didn’t feel anything when I was being prayed for.

The main tent at Soul Survivor

I had had prayer on about two occasions, with people placing their hands on me and praying for various things, including healing. The prayer for healing went unanswered and I felt upset and angry with God as I was truly asking him to come into my heart. I also was sad about it because it was evident that people around me were getting healed and some very quickly. I began to think that the only way the Lord would really give me some sort of sign was when people laid their hands on me and prayed for me. I felt that my prayer wasn’t good enough to warrant an answer.

On the third night of Soul Survivor, Mike Pilavachi did not ask people who wanted particular prayer to stand up and for people to pray for them by laying hands on them. Instead, he asked everyone to stand and to pray in whatever way we wanted for the Lord, the Holy Spirit to come down upon us. I heard people screaming in what I thought was tongues and Mike was saying that he knew some of us had anger rising up in us and that we could let it out. I was feeling nothing at that point and felt fine, apart from being worried that God didn’t want me. I was also scared at all the noise going on around me and Mike said not to be scared but I still was. I prayed to God , telling him I was scared and asking him to make it right. I asked the Lord to fill me with the Holy Spirit and for Jesus to come into my heart.

I began to tremble in my legs, which I had felt in previous prayer sessions before. However, I was always dubious of this in case it was my body just shaking because I was cold or that I might be somehow faking it. As I went on in praying I began to shake violently. I remembered Mike saying that if we can’t cry here, with God, where can we cry and so I said to God something along the lines of “Lord I’m not afraid to cry in front of these people, so if you’re there please give me some sign.” Almost instantly I began to fill up and I burst into tears. Sam, Oli, Jon and Anthony prayed for me whilst I just let it come down.

It was the most emotional experience I have ever had. I cried for all the bad things that had happened to me, such as the lack of healing and other life problems and it hurt emotionally and I remember thinking maybe I was doing something wrong, as surely I shouldn’t feel this upset. I was crying because I knew I had made mistakes. But whilst I cried, I felt that the tears were tears of awe because I knew that it was true, all true and I was going to heaven and I was going live forever in heaven and I could never doubt again. And as I went on praying, there were moment that the tears subsided and I thought the Lord had almost finished saying what he wanted to me but then the tears came again and this time I was crying for the things I had done in my life which had not glorified the Lord and I was saying, “Sorry Lord, I’m so sorry, it’s all true.”

When these tears passed, I felt myself laughing because I just felt so happy but I was so happy that I couldn’t smile or laugh enough to express my happiness so I just had to cry again. Then my tears subsided and I fell to my knees and bowed my head, partly in exhaustion because I had done a lot of crying, and partly because I felt bad for all the wrong things I had done and I cried again.

Eventually, it all passed and I was left tearful but absolutely beaming because I was so happy. How could I doubt now?

Despite thinking, “how can I doubt now?” and the fact this this occurred only a few days before I wrote this, the further the event got away, the more I began to analyse and think about what happened, the more I began to think, “maybe I was just letting out pent up emotion” or “I got caught up in the mood.” I don’t believe that this is because I don’t believe in the Lord, but that it is because it is human nature to doubt. I know he’s there because I felt it to be true so strongly and if it was just me, I would have had some doubts even at the time but I had none. I felt God so intimately but still I doubt as is my nature but even as I write this my faith is reaffirmed as I remember something I think J. John said. “When we pray, coincidences happen. When we don’t, they don’t,” and as I write my testimony of how I felt the Lord, songs are playing on the radio praising Jesus and never before, until now, have I heard music praising the Lord on Radio 2! Now that’s what I call a coincidence. Amen.

Youth Work Needs More Fat People

Some more reflections on the Sussex Youthworks training morning I mentioned in my last post.

One of the positive things I took away was Rory Bell’s thoughts on recruiting leaders. He looks for fat people. No, not people who have a more than healthy appetite for cake but people who are Faithful, Available and Teachable.

"I'm afraid you're not what we're looking for."

I think looking for these characteristics in people is more helpful than say, looking for character, competence and conviction, as books like The Trellis and the Vine would suggest. Character, competence and conviction are all things which can and should be continually worked on but it’s quite difficult to know quite where the cut off point is between having enough of those things or not. Sure this person has character, but is it enough? Are they competent enough though? Is their conviction as deep as it should be? It’s easy to not make any real headway when those are the criteria you’re searching for.

But being faithful, available and teachable are much more absolute. For faithful, the question is ‘are they actually a Christian?” Yay or Nay? Of course there will be people who have been Christians for longer and some more committed than others, and so I’m not suggesting we do away with all discernment, but generally speaking, if they are a believing Christian, they are a potential candidates for leadership. That opens up your options quite a bit.

If they tick the faithful box, the next question is ‘are they available?” Do they actually have the time to commit to helping with your youth work? If so, great. If not, find out why. It may be that they are already involved in another ministry and it might be right for you to suggest they leave that to help with yours, especially if the other ministry is something which could easily be done by someone else. There’s nothing wrong with doing a bit of poaching when it comes to finding leaders, but we do need to make sure that we don’t put anyone else out by stealing their leaders. It’s helpful to find someone else who might be able to slot into the position you’re taking someone from.

Having ticked both the faithful and available box, the last question is whether they’re teachable or not. They don’t have to be great at teaching or leading a bible study as long as they’re the kind of person who can learn and is happy to be taught, perhaps taking some constructive criticism along the way. Some people might tick both the faithful and available boxes, but if they’re not teachable, they probably won’t be helpful to you in your ministry. In fact, they’ll probably end up being quite the opposite.

So there are three criteria for putting together a great youth ministry team. Get F.A.T. people. Using these criteria might open up more possibilities than we’d perhaps considered before. It’s not foolproof, we still need to be wise and discerning, but it may lead us to some people who we might have otherwise overlooked.