A Book Review, Communion and a Defence of Testifying in Church

My family in Christ, shalom.

I have said that God may have led me back to the Anglican church because of the respect I have developed for Communion. However, not everyone who respects Communion is Anglican. [1] As many of my followers come under the banners of ‘Protestant’ and ‘Evangelical’ I have therefore been doing a bit of research over the last week or so, and I have been quite surprised with what I found; not least because it has led me to consider public testimonies made during corporate acts of worship. (But more about testimonies in the second half.)

My point of reference for this post was Beni and Bill Johnson’s 2019 book The Power of Communion: Accessing Miracles through the Body and Blood of Jesus. I had once thought that the once-monthly or twice-monthly reception of Communion was a poor substitute for a weekly participation in the remorial of Christ’s sacrifice. In My Struggles with the Anglican Liturgy I did suggest that maybe one could even consider a daily Communion, [2] not expecting that this would have already been taken up within Evangelical circles. How wrong I was!

Although Bethel church routinely celebrates Communion once a month, Beni (one of Bethel’s intercessors and senior pastors) says that at times she feels moved by the Holy Spirit to “take” Communion on a daily basis. She talks about the sacrament’s healing properties which not only effect herself, but also others. The former part I think is straightforward, but the last part may surprise you just as must as it amazed me. Both Beni and Bill seem to understand Communion to be an outward expression of their inner anguish and prayerful concern that Yeshua’s loving, merciful and healing blood be poured out on whomever or whatever is weighing on their hearts. [3]

With years worth of experience, Beni now positively proclaims that Communion is

“a tool in my intercessory toolbox”. [4]

Beni has felt moved to take Communion at such times as when Bill was in hospital, to defeat a curse, and for both other people’s and Beni’s own health problems. Beni also relates an interesting story about an Assemblies of God pastor who was dying of kidney cancer. Out of the blue a formerly unacquainted pastor taught him about the power of Communion and, taking it daily as he layed in the hospital bed, the miraculous soon happened. [5] Suffice it to say, those who stubbornly refuse to accept Christ’s friendship remain dumbfounded!

Now I believe that on the first Holy Saturday Yeshua entered hell and told Satan that his usurped reign will come to an end soon. But this ‘cheeky’ devil claims not to believe that it will happen, and Beni relates a remarkable story of how (empowered by Christ’s sacrifice and the memorial that He left us) the intercessor Henry Gruvor was able to overpower satanism in Wales and reclaim the cult’s sites for God. A few years after his trip, Gruvor was told by a high priest of the cult:

“You took out all our high places, all over this country. Every year we were losing high places and we didn’t know who was doing it”! [6]

There is indeed true power in the blood! For the Creator has not stopped creating; the Redeemer has not stopped redeeming; the Liberator has not stopped liberating, and the Blood has not stopped purifying. Though the devil always bounces back (for now away), he needs to be continually beaten down, and through His atoning sacrifice Christ has given us the power to do it:

“Every time you take Communion, you remind the devil of his failure”

(cf. 1 Corinthians 11:26). [7]

Communion, I believe, is in a sense an expression of wanting to be transformed by Christ; that is, taken from their slavery to sin and death (Romans 6:23). For at the Lord’s table a communicant may says “I am Who You Say I am” for they not only accept the transforming power in the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice, but also that only God can decide what the person is to be tranformed into.

“Jesus never requires perfection in order to come to Him…We don’t need to be anxious about taking Communion, searching for any potential hidden sin. Fear is never productive; it just gets in the way of love’s transforming power” [8]

What does all this have to do with testimonies? Well, I think that we (the recipients of the power of Christ’s death and resurrection) can all agree that before taking of Communion we must first examine our lives (1 Corinthians 11:27-32). I am suggesting that testimony offers us a way in which to do this. [9] When I first heard a testimony being said in the Elim community I visited last year I was absolutely amazed! Not just at the courage of the speaker but also by the effect it had on the congregation. I also became a little angry and selfish. If God was involved in my life then why hadn’t this been revealed like it had in the person now bearing witness? Well, after struggling to make a decision [10] God did finally speak to me. And how I would love to give this testimony in church!

And for any traditional Anglicans who should be reading this, [11] I must stress more forcefully that testimonies are not just for the sake of the speaker getting something off of their chests. They also have an effect on the hearers. Take the person who has just wondered into a place of worship from off of the street. Yes, maybe they have experienced ‘church’ before and have an idea about Who God is and that He is somehow involved in the world. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for that person to hear how God has worked in the life of someone? Maybe the person is ‘unchurched’ and will at last be able to hear and realise that God is far from being a mere abstract idea, supported by people in strange clothes who work in antiquated buildings just so that they can take money away from the gullible. And yet, there is something more amazing than this.

Our churches are much more than strange looking buildings. Inside each is a faithful community, a mixture of diverse souls who, as the community addressed in 1 Corinthians needed to be reminded, must love and care for each other (11:17-22). Testimonies have both spiritual and unificatory effects. For by each of us testifying within our communities we help each other to grow in faith by sharing the “pure milk” (1 Peter 2:2 NKJV; cf. 2 Peter 3:18), bearing witness that the good news of Christ did not end with the Book of Revelation, but that it is alive and affecting people today, locally as well as internationally. Now we are God’s people who have received mercy (1 Peter 2:10), giving testimonies which will “silence the ignorance of foolish men” (v. 15; 2 Peter 1:5-7). Sure, not all of us are gifted to testify (1 Corinthians 12), or at least not all at the same time. Some may also hear and ponder the glorious witness statements that have penetrated their hearts; others may forget as soon as prayers are said afterwards. Maybe memory itself is a gift!

Traditions which do not call for or invite public testimonies may say that there is ample time given for such things both before and after the service. To this I have to ask why something which could help all members of a community grow spiritually is limited to this? Some people’s schedules may not allow for such niceties, and that would mean that people in need of pure milk would be purposefully barred (by the church!) from hearing it and would be forced to listen to something that sounds meaningless. They may also see a change in the one with a testimony to give, but would never know how this change in their lifestyle came about. Chuches need to be as attentive to God’s activity in its members as to “a light that shines in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19b NKJV; cf. Revelation 21:11).

Before I finish, I think I need to be more clearer about the link between Communion and testimonies. How did they come to be connected in my head in the first place? Part of the answer is a quote from Beni Johnson:

People can argue with theology, but your testimony is your most powerful tool. When we take Communion, remembering what Jesus accomplished on the cross, we are repeating the ultimate testimony again and again. Jesus Christ died so that we could be free of sin, sickness, and sorrow. He is the Healer, and He wants to do it again.” [12]

After reading that, my mind just focused on the first two sentences and I was drawn into contemplating it. Little by little I began to see: was the apostle Paul’s vision on the Damascus road just a story that this one-time persecutor of the Church had made up by putting theological arguments together? No, it was his testimony, his transformation experience. And what showed it to be true was his transformed character: a persecutor (Saul) becomes one of the persecuted (Paul, Acts 7:38b-9:31; Galatians 2:20):

“Although Paul had not been present when Christ established the practice of communion, the Lord had made known to him by revelation all the details concerning its institution.” [13]

It’s strange how for most of my life I didn’t care for contemporary Christian music. Now certain ones get stuck in my head all the time, and after concentrating on Beni’s passage for so long I thought of this one. Considering the effect it has had on me, I will do what a number of my followers do, and write out the lyrics:

Mercy is a song

Singing to my heart

Telling me it’s ok

Come just as you are

Ain’t never heard a melody

Like the one they’re singing over me

And I just wanna sing along

‘Cause mercy is a song.

Freedom is a choir

Swinging back and forth

Shining in the shadow of

A stain glassed Sunday morning

Shouting hallelujah

Yesterday is gone

O freedom is a choir

And mercy is a song

(Chorus:) Singing ohh

There is a life for every soul

No matter where you’ve been

Just come on home

Let all God’s children sing along

Hallelujah chains are gone

Mercy is a song

Guilty is a lie

Spoken by a fear

Saying after what you’ve done

You don’t deserve to be free

but I can look ’em in the eye

And say this time you’re wrong

Cause guilty is a lie

And mercy is a song

Chorus (x 1)

A song of the redeemed

I want to set free

A glimpse of what waits

For you and me

Heaven is a mansion

A promise in the sky

One day we’ll be singing

With those angels up on high

That old familiar melody

Like we’ve known it all along

O Heaven is a mansion

And mercy is a song

Well Heaven is a mansion

And mercy is a song

O tell me can you hear it

Singing ohh

There is a life for every soul

No matter where you’ve been

Just come on home

Let all God’s children sing along

Hallelujah chains are gone

 

All God’s children sing along

Hallelujah chains are gone

Mercy is a song

Mercy is a song

Mercy is a song.

I think that for the visitor to the church (at least), inhabiting the same fallen nature as those bearing witness, they will hopefully come to see that God does in fact work with people despite what they have done in the past. Our God is full of mercy! Oh what strength the community of faith would receive, rejoicing at the ways in which God has liberated their siblings, the ones who now testify about the Father Whom we will one day be with. And when we finally come to the Lord’s table, we can say thank you for the salvation which Christ’s sacrifice has brought us, and ask for that salvific blood to cleanse our loved ones and recapture the parts of creation that the devil still stubbornly believes are his. For it is by the power of Communion that we can resist the devil (1 Peter 5:8-9) and alert the spirit realm as to whom we belong. [14] What a blessing!

Shalom and God bless you.

DISCLAIMER: Despite being very impressed with the Johnsons’ book, I think I should warn people against it. This is because of a single sentence:

“Every time we take Communion…we are reminding ourselves that we are Christians – little Christs. [15]

I am utterly opposed to the last two words!!! I do not stand at the Lord’s table thinking that I could do what He did! If I were crucified, or even just given the 40-lashes-minus-one (cf. Isaiah 53:3-5) I would simply be receiving the due punishment for my sins, and it would not bring salvation to anyone! To believe otherwise would be wrong. Our salvation comes about by believing in the fact that God’s Son Yeshua Moshiach (Jesus Christ) provided the one and only sacrifice for sins.

Endnotes

[1] Regular readers of my blog will know that I much prefer to use the term ‘Eucharist’. But as this post takes a more general view of the Church and its use of the sacrament, I will use the more generally accepted term ‘Communion’.

[2] When I wrote that I had in mind the Catholic church’s legalism which allows certain priests to do this on certain occasions.

[3] Beni and Bill Johnson (2019) The Power of Communion: Accessing Miracles through the Body and Blood of Jesus. USA: Destiny Image Books, pp. 13, 162-164.

[4] ibid., p.12.

[5] ibid., p. 138.

[6] ibid., p. 45.

[7] ibid.

[8] ibid., p. 131.

[9] I think that public testimonies are something my denomination shies away from. In a world where films and television programmes regularly look into someone’s life, and where people’s lives and experiences are never-endingly spread far and wide across social media, this may seem a little bit out of touch and old fashioned! I mean, take the phenomenom of mega-churches. I may not agree totally with their theology but I do admire the way in which they have adapted the clubbing and concert scenes.

[10] I auppose God had made the Anglican church my ‘spiritual home,’ and the more time I spent in the Elim community the more homesick I became. I think that the primary role of any place called ‘church,’ even though all denominations (and all churches belonging to a single tradition) are different from one another, is the worship of God. As a worshipper, where does God want me – the introverted person that I am – to participate in corporate worship?

[11] Or any member of any tradition which do not incorporate public testimonies into their services. (I have recently heard about Evangelical Anglicanism, but I have not had a chance to find out much about it yet.)

[12] Power of Communion, pp. 54-55.

[13] Bartlett, Matthew (2012), 1 Corinthians. The Pentecostal Bible Commentary Series. USA: Biblical Studies Press, p. 202.

[14] Power of Communion, p. 18.

[15] ibid., p. 113.

 

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