TEXTimonies

j0439835What we did

Our church is pretty conservative, so I’ll admit it was with a little fear and trembling that I introduced “textimonies” as part of our service last night.  No ominous-sounding voice mails or “You’ve done it now” emails awaited me when I arrived at the office today, so I think I’m safe.  Actually, it worked well and seemed to be received well.  I think it was a fresh, effective way to encourage participation and express praise.

We needed to praise the Lord together for the good things He is doing for us (Matthew 7:7-11) and in us (Philippians 2:13).  I offered three ways for people to participate and share what God is doing.  We used our “roving microphones,” three pastors taking wireless mics to anyone who raised a hand and wanted to share a verbal testimony. We asked for song requests, encouraging people to select songs that expressed their thanks and praise to God.  And we asked for textimonies.

How it worked

Anyone who had a cell phone or other text-capable device could send a brief word of praise to a number displayed on the projection screen.  Two guys in the technology center received, edited, and entered them into a PowerPoint slide.  When a slide was full, it was put up on the screen.  The slides were changed as new ones were ready with more textimonies.  At first we were going to put the slides up only while we sang and not while others were sharing verbal testimonies.  But there were so many texts we had to run the slides continuously.

Here are some textimony samples:

  • I praise God for bringing trials into my life to show of the real meaning of love following His example at the cross.
  • I asked God to show me his will in a situation.  He did! It wasn’t exactly the answer I wanted to hear, but the peace and strength he has given me is overwhelming.
  • The Lord was working in my heart and I re-assured my salvation almost a month ago.
  • I’m thankful to see the Lord answering prayer in healing the marriage of a friend.
  • I thank God that He is my Father and I can talk to Him about anything.
  • For the past several months, I’ve been praying for God’s provision & guidance in buying a car.  It’s been amazing to see him provide a car for this summer.
  • I’m thankful for Judy and Gretta.  Since my freshman year they have always sat in the back [of church] and asked me how I’m doing and pray for me.

Benefits

  • People participated who would not normally feel comfortable talking to a large group of people.  This was probably the greatest advantage.
  • We were able to include many more testimonies than if we only used the “roving mic” method.
  • We allowed anonymous textimonies.  Some people’s testimonies might embarrass them or others.  Remaining anonymous freed them to share more openly.
  • It was fresh.  Breaking out of routine engages thought and attention.  This did.
  • Dare I say it was fun.  No, I don’t think we have to make church fun, but it’s ok for fellowship to be fun, isn’t it?

Problems

  • The response was much greater than I anticipated.  Next time we’ll be ready.
  • Some people wrote paragraphs.  Next time we’ll give instructions about limiting the length to a brief sentence or two.
  • Our techie was typing each textimony into the slide rather than having a way to copy and paste.  I’m sure there is a way to retrieve the texts from a website and paste them in.

Concerns

I had read about Twitter church services in which people send messages that appear on the screen throughout the service (including the sermon).  I’m not going there.  But I thought we could use what is now a very natural means of communication in a positive way in our service.  I was concerned there might be people in our congregation who would be bothered by it.  I thought hard and talked with others to discern how textimonies might be offensive.

We have a large number of “seasoned citizens” in our church, whom we love and respect.  I do not want to disturb or alienate any of these dear members.  The truth is many of them are very tech-savvy and open to the use of technology in ministry.

There are individuals in conservative Christianity who interpret the use of new methods as a sign of movement toward a contemporary style of ministry.  I am not adopting contemporary church-growth philosophy or practice.  But, as I told our congregation last night, when churches first started using microphones and slide projectors (anyone remember those?) there were probably people who considered it worldly.  This is 2009.  We are simply using current technology for effective ministry.

Another concern is that I did not want to encourage people to use Personal Electronic Devices inappropriately during church.  When I announced what we were doing, I told kids to be sure to get the “ok” from their parents before participating.  I am not bothered at all by people using laptops, PDA’s, Smartphones, etc. during church to take notes, look up verses, etc.  I probably shouldn’t acknowledge this, but the occasional urgent text message during church doesn’t concern me, just like it doesn’t bother me when people whisper to one another occasionally during a service.  Texting is just remote whispering.  NO, I don’t want people texting during church!  Mature people will know not to take advantage of my tolerance.  Reality is people have their gadgets with them in church, and as long as they are not being disruptive (e.g. cell phone ring, showing pictures to friends) or inattentive (e.g. texting friends, online shopping), I’m ok.

The bottom line is I honestly could not think of a reason that someone in our constituency would be genuinely offended or even bothered.  So we did it.

Conclusion

The immediate feedback I received last night and today have been overwhelmingly positive.  I loved it.  We’ll do it again, with some tweaks.  We sent sacrifices of praise to heaven (Hebrews 13:15)!

I am sure this has been used elsewhere.  However, I Googled ‘textimony/ies” and came up with very few results that are similar to what we did.  Most of the results were misspellings of “testimony.”  So maybe we have a new word for the Christian vocabulary.  We do have one more way to give thanks to God and encourage one another in the good that God is doing in our lives.

Sandra Binney

Jim and Sandra Binney
Jim and Sandra Binney

I don’t know how many pastors, missionaries, and churches Dr. Jim and Sandra Binney have helped.  I know they have helped me.

Sandra fought hard and long, but ultimately the cancer that afflicted her was the means God used to take her from her earthly body and bring her to her eternal home just after 3 am, Sunday, April 19.

My first acquaintance with the Binneys was at Northland Family Camp about ten years ago.  Jim helped my heart and my church then.  I remember him calling Sandra “drop-dead gorgeous.”  She is!  We loved them so much that week we took them home with us.  Jim was free the weekend following camp, and agreed to come to our church and preach that Sunday.

My appreciation for the Binneys grew when I was called to pastor Calvary in 2003.  Jim had been the interim pastor for the previous year.  He and Sandra faithfully guided the flock through a critical transition period and prepared the way for the new shepherd.

Since then, Jim has been a mentor to me, encouraging and praying for me, counseling me through struggles, and helping me with some extremely challenging ministry issues.  Jim has driven me deep into the Word.  He has shown me how to experience fullness of life in Jesus Christ.  I can honestly say that I would not be ministering today were it not for Jim and Sandra Binney’s influence in my life.

Sandra is warm, gracious and dignified.  She is the ultimate in extending hospitality.  She has been Jim’s partner in making many discouraged, hurting, fallen servants of God feel welcome, at ease, and comfortable sharing their deepest struggles so that they could receive genuine, nonjudgmental, life-giving counsel.  She has played a vital role in restoring hurting, desperate, broken ministry workers to wholeness and fruitfulness.

Jim and Sandra together have rescued many, many servants of God – their personal lives, marriages, and ministries – from defeat and ruin.  They have prevented many problems as well by equipping through conferences, books, and personal counsel.  Jim is the preacher, counselor, and writer, but Sandra has always been his perfect complement and assistant.  Only the Master knows all that Sandra has done for His servants and His name.

I hurt for Jim.  I miss Sandra.  I wonder if the members and ministers of Christ’s body will realize what we have lost.

I know Sandra is already enraptured in the eternal celebration.  Her being there heightens my anticipation.

Enjoy, Sandra.  We’ll be there soon.