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The Team Player: Defining the Term

10 Apr

Living what we believe comes naturally. Unfortunately, acknowledging that we live what we believe often doesn’t. Our ego can get in the way of our ability to accept our imperfections or address our sins for what they are. It has the ability to block us from recognizing the difference between a genuine slip in our behavior and the repetitive patterns that arise from misshapen beliefs. And few things are as good at exposing the gap between what we hope we believe and what we actually believe as teamwork.

Of course, one of the greatest challenges we face is that not everyone defines “team” in quite the same way. Is it a group of people capable of following the vision of another? Is it composed of individuals willing to cast a vision and take the initiative? Does it find its roots in equal work and equal say? By some of these definitions, the Founding Fathers and the French Resistance were equally lousy team players. By others, they were among the best.

So what does the Bible say? According to Romans 12:4-10, “just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.”

The Church is a team and we work our best when each of us gives our best – even when our best looks different from someone else’s. Each of us is a specialist in our own right, but it takes all of us to accomplish the goal of proclaiming Christ to the world. It’s the stuff that the high-performance teams in today’s market place are made of: individuals contributing their best in the pursuit of a single vision.

Unfortunately, not every team is high-performance. Not every individual (either in the Church or in the workforce) gives their best. Not every player embraces the same vision. Not every worker pursues the same goal. Not all of us are inspired by the same future.

Next week, we’ll start to take a look at some of the difficulties we face as members of a workplace “team”. We’ll explore some ideas for dealing with our frustrations when others don’t play like a part of the whole. And we’ll examine some ways to live our faith when we are the ones who don’t share the vision.

Sharing Your Testimony: The Conversion Story

10 Apr

Over this last month, we’ve taken the time to explore “What it Really Means” to give a testimony, taken a look at both “One Liners” (short testimonies to God’s character and value in our lives) and “Deeper Dialogues”, and addressed the fears which must be overcome if we’re to effectively “Get the Ball Rolling”.  While it’s true that most of the time our testimonies will be spontaneous, every now and then we’ll encounter a situation that calls for a prepared testimony.  It may be in an evening church service or over coffee with a friend, but you can guarantee that at some point, someone is going to ask you to explain exactly how you came to faith in Christ and why you continue to walk in His paths.  And when this happens, you don’t wants to find yourself staring blankly into space!  Over the next two weeks, we’ll take a closer look at what goes into preparing a testimony and share some tips that will help you ensure that yours accurately and concisely reflects God’s work in your own life.

So why should we bother to prepare a formal testimony?  Well, to begin with, if you’ve already anticipated a question, you’re less likely to be caught off guard by it.  None of us like to be put on the spot, especially when it comes to issues as personal as those which surround our deepest beliefs and convictions.  If you have already taken the time to prepare your testimony, you probably won’t find yourself muttering a string of meaningless mumble jumble as you try to craft one under pressure.

Secondly, a prepared testimony helps to ensure that you don’t stumble around with useless details while everyone else is waiting for you to get to the point!  You may not have much time to share, so you want to make the best use of it that you can.  Most people only have a three minute attention span, so unless you’re a particularly riveting speaker, you’ll want to limit what you say to those facts (and only those facts) which clearly convey the message.

Remember that not every Christian has had the same experiences, so your testimony will probably sound a bit different from everyone else’s.  That’s O.K.  God uses each of us to reach different people.  That said, there are four basic types of testimony and we’ll be addressing the first of these (How You Came to Know Christ) this week.

To be entirely honest, conversion stories tend to be easier to tell if you were saved as a teen or adult, since in many ways such accounts resemble the before and after pictures on a TV makeover show.  (Those of us who were privileged to encounter Christ at an early age, often have very little memory of what life was like before that encounter, so the preparation of this type of testimony may be difficult, if not impossible.)  One of the primary features of such a story is an element of empathy for how a lost person feels.  It’s important to note that there is a big difference between “sympathy” (being with someone in their trials) and “empathy” (having gone through those trials yourself) and people tend to make a more genuine connection with those who understand their struggles from the inside than with those who think that they comprehend from without!

Generally, this type of testimony highlights three points:

1.  What life was like before you knew Christ?  How did you feel about the world around you?  How did you relate to your co-workers, family, and friends?  How did you view yourself?  Were you lonely and depressed?  Smug and overconfident?  Caught somewhere between?  What things did you turn to in order to fix the problems you encountered?  Did they seem to work?

2.  How did God intervene?  At what point did you realize that the way you were living just wasn’t working?  How did God drive the point home?  What events or thoughts effected your decision to seek Him… or did it seem that He was the One seeking you?

3.  What is life like now?  How has knowing God changed your perspective on the people and events which influenced your life before you knew him?  How have your relationships changed?  How are your thoughts and goals different from before?  What new desires have developed within you since you handed your life over to Him?

These questions are just seeds – a place to start as you consider God’s influence on and activity within your life.  You may not be able to answer each of them, but I’m willing to bet that at least a few will get your thought processes rolling.  Let the Spirit guide you as you begin to formalize you testimony, then (if you’re feeling bold), share your story in the comment box below!

Before we wrap, one final word of caution: While this particular formula is quite common, it’s important to note that it only works if God takes center stage throughout the story.  Like the Apostle Paul, we don’t want to focus our testimony upon all the gory details of the “bad life” we lived before we encountered Jesus or even upon the many “good” things that we have done since, but upon the transforming power of Christ.  Make sure that what you say keeps the focus on what God has done for you, not what you have done for or against God!  Christianity is about Christ being formed in us and about His power to effect that same transformation in others.  Everything else is peripheral.

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