Have you ever visited one of those Megachurches that the media can sometimes portray as being a little bit too capitalistic in their approach to spreading the Gospel? If you haven’t visited one, I’m sure you’ve probably heard about such establishments. About five years ago, I visited one of the biggest churches in the nation. It is an impressive place, complete with its own bookstore and its own Starbucks coffee shop. The main auditorium is state of the art, with a sound system second to none.
So how did my visit turn out? Well, not a bit like I expected. All the glitz and glamour, all the bells and whistles, and all the professional suits and extravagant gowns were not what I remembered most about my visit to the Midwest Megachurch. What I remember most about my visit to Munster, Indiana’s world famous Family Christian Center is the testimony of a teenage girl who approached the stage after an open invitation to any worshipper to talk about what God is doing in their lives.
The teenage girl was one of many to give a testimony about their walk with Jesus, but this young woman delivered an amazingly powerful, sincere, and distinct account of what it is like to really seek and find the face of God. Here are her words as best I can remember them.
“I’m sure you can tell I’m nervous. I’ve never spoken to this many people at once. But I had to come up here today. I had to tell you, all of you, about the last few days.
“See, I’ve been coming here a while. I’ve been around you, sat with all of you, even talked with some of you. My friends from school come here. And I see all of them, all of you…you have something in your eyes, in your voices, and in your confidence – something that I have always found hard to explain with the words I know. And even though I just started attending services here, I wanted that energy I see in all of you. So I listened. I read. I watched videos. I talked more about the Bible, about God, and about Jesus with my friends.
“But honestly, I wasn’t getting it. Oh, I understood the message of salvation alright. I believed in the sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf, on your behalf. But I did not have the joy that I see pouring out of you. I didn’t experience the love connection that this congregation seems to have with God. I felt the same, even after hearing, understanding, and believing the message of hope that should have transformed me into a new person.
“So, I became desperate. Desperate in my attempts to know God the way all of you seem to know God. And in my desperation, in my willingness to admit that I was not able to rise to the occasion, I began to understand that it is not my power to reach out and find God that leads me into a personal relationship with him. It is his willingness and grace that is reaching out to me.
“I can’t come to God asking him to be what I expect him to be. He is unchanging because we need that stability and assuredness. I have to truly change from the inside out in order to see God’s face.
“So the other day, totally alone, in my bedroom, I knelt down and prayed for God to direct me, inspire me, and carry me through whatever he has in store for me. And I know you’ve all heard the expression “let go and let God.” Well it really is just that simple. I’m not saying that we should pray about every decision we make in life, but I know I have to ask myself if what I do, what I say, and what I think is pleasing to God.
“I was praying out loud in my room that night. It was just my voice talking to God. No other human being knew that I was there, praying for guidance from the same God who guided Abraham so long ago.
“But as I prayed for God to reveal himself to me, I began to realize that he already had. Every blessing, including this church and all of you, in my life has come from him. The more I prayed to see his face, the more I realized I have seen it many times. People make sacrifices on a daily basis. A father goes to work everyday to support his family. A fireman runs into a burning house to save the people inside. A counselor instructs an addict how to get his life back in order to make the world a better place.
“And then I realized that all of these sacrifices are just an endorsement of what Jesus did for all of us. Everything in my life has pointed to the face of God, but I wanted him to look the way I thought he would look. Everything in my life has been because of God, yet I wanted to take credit for my blessings. I had to “let go and let God.”
“I had to come up here and tell all of you that I now have what you have. I understand who my God is now. I eventually fell down, face first, on the floor of my room and cried for hours. But they were tears of happiness, tears of joy. God is in charge, I don’t need to worry. It doesn’t matter what church I go to, what college I attend, or what profession I choose, I will always have the Creator of the Universe with me as I walk forward.
“I know I am just a teenager, having very little life experience, and I may have not been the best testimony you’ve heard today, but I had to tell you about this because I know there are others who feel like I felt. They needed to know what I now know.
When this teenage girl left the stage, the entire audience jumped up and applauded for almost twenty minutes. Hundreds hugged her and congratulated her on her testimony.
To this day, I consider it one of the most moving, sincere, and unambiguous testimonies I have ever heard.
When I left the auditorium that day, I laughed as I passed by the Starbucks in the foyer of the church. A church with its own coffee shop didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore. Too bad the national press hadn’t been there to hear a teenage girl give a testimony that could have changed the world.