Experience as Prime Witness
Shea: This week’s episode in our summer “Disorganized Religion” tour of Acts reads like a movie script. Paul keeps getting called on to account for himself—before the Jerusalem church’s leaders, before his adversaries, before the Roman Governor Felix, before the Judean King Herod Agrippa. He keeps telling his story. Sometimes that strategy works in his favor, and sometimes it enflames his enemies even more.
Tim: You’ve just preached a whole sermon about evangelism right there. Our stories are the raw material of our witness. Without them, everything we have to say about our faith is pure conjecture.
Shea: Paul is a brilliant theologian and religious lawyer. He can split the finest doctrinal hairs to make a brilliantly nuanced point. But when the rubber meets the road—even in his letters—Paul skips the doctrine to tell own story. His personal transformation is where the legitimacy of his faith stands tallest.
Tim: That’s where so many of us miss the boat. We believe we don’t know the Bible well enough to discuss our faith. Or we’ve not got our theology sufficiently worked out to explain our belief.
Shea: In this week’s study, we find Paul telling folks, “Something amazing happened to me. I was going down one path and suddenly I got turned in another direction.
Tim: Exactly. Although I can hear folks say, “Well, Paul’s experience is unique. He gets knocked to the ground and blinded. I don’t have that kind of story. I just felt drawn to follow Jesus. Or, I was taught to be a Christian before I even understood what it meant.”
Shea: I get that. You and I were both reared in homes where it was assumed we would follow Jesus. It was all we knew, pretty much all our parents talked about. Yet both of our stories have moments when we realized we weren’t walking in the way God intended, that God’s desire for us exceeded our tradition. These transformative moments happen in big and small ways. We may not get bowled over. But I believe we all have experiences that turn us around.”
Tim: I agree one hundred percent. When I describe my faith journey with people, I consistently see their faces light up when I tell them how I knew God was calling me to minister to the margins, how my own experience of being trapped in a religious ideology that conflicted with my making opened my heart to so many others who suffered similar experiences.
Shea: Paul’s repeated testimony in Acts and throughout his letters reminds us that experience is our prime witness material. Our stories matter because they explain how God works. And that makes them theological, because theology is simply “talking about God.” There’s some powerful stuff in this week’s lesson!
We’re wrapping up our summer tour of Acts, “Disorganized Religion,” with the final chapters in Paul’s ministry. Don’t miss these last two sessions! We meet on Thursday evenings at 7:30p CDT at Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake Street, in Oak Park. Or you can join us online via FB Live.
We need your help!
As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!
Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea
As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.