Bishop Andy Lewter
  September 27, 2016

Your Testimony isn’t about you

We live in an age of narcissism. It is the era of self-actualization, the relentless race to perfect the self.

Time magazine reported in 2013 that “narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that’s now 65 or older…58 percent more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982.”

As the West has become more narcissistic, so have the people in our churches. We see it on social media. We hear it over coffee. We see it when young people break away from living and breathing social groups to snap a selfie.

We also see it in our evangelism. A decade or two ago our evangelism still pointed outward. We spoke of the existence of God, objective truth and the historical reliability of the resurrection. Now, swaths of churches have moved on to leading with personal testimonies.

This contextualization isn’t necessarily wrong. In a postmodern era, stories are often more powerful than objective truth claims. Testimonies can be a valuable way to share the good news about Jesus. But in a society where even Christians are steeped in rampant individualism and self-idolatry, our testimonies can easily sound like another story of self-congratulation.

Though some personal testimonies are on the mark, many boil down to this: “Look! God is great because me me me.” These are not road-to-Damascus stories, but spiritually tinted selfies.

Selfie Testimonies
A caricature might be helpful here. This example below is—sadly—only slightly exaggerated.

My life used to be in shambles. I was a wreck. I used to do X, Y and Z. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff I did. I found my meaning in the opposite sex.

But Jesus died on the cross to change my life. Now, I thank God that I’m not like those old friends. I live a good life. I wake up with purpose every day. I volunteer. I sponsor a child in Africa.

Oh, and did I mention? I have a smokin’ hot Christian spouse.

The good news is you can have this life, too.

This isn’t the gospel. It’s the kind of Self-help Narcissism 101 you’ll find in any Barnes & Noble. Just add a twist of God.