Be More Specific

Posted: October 25, 2008 in Uncategorized

How many times have you heard a conversation like this in a church small group setting? We’ll use the name Billy as a hypothetical name (if your name is Billy, please don’t be offended).

Leader: Ok, guys, before we get started, does anyone have any testimonies of God’s grace?

Billy: I do!

Leader: Great, let’s hear it.

Billy *in a quiet, “spiritual” tone of voice*:  Well, recently I’ve been going through this struggle. But God began to show me his grace and showed me that I need to trust in him more. So I prayed and humbled myself and cast myself before His throne of grace, laying all my burdens at the foot of the cross. Now I’m on fire and just want to see his name lifted high above all names.

At this point, everyone looks around in a very serious way, acting as if they’ve been really encouraged by this incredibly insightful testimony.

Leader: Thank you for sharing that, Billy. With that, let’s go ahead and pray and get started….

Now, Billy feels as if he’s done a great service to his small group by sharing his life. To some degree, he has. But unfortunately, his testimony lacks any specific details of exactly how God worked in his life (and never mind the littering of Christianese). Sure, he understands how God showed grace in his particular circumstance because, after all, it happened to him. With details lacking, however, he’s missed an opportunity to encourage others who may be in a similar situation.

When I used to write papers for my mom in high school, I would fairly consistently get them back with this remark printed somewhere within the body: “Be more specific.” In a paper, you have to support your thesis or stance with various specific examples, quotes, details, facts, etc. If I were to say that Abraham Lincoln was the best president in America’s history, I would have to give clear reasons why that’s true, regardless of whether or not my reader otherwise agrees with that statement. In the same way, if we tell our small group that God’s been gracious to us, they need to hear specifically how. Otherwise, they’re left with an unsupported opinion that will likely be forgotten by the time they walk out the door (certainly by the time they wake up the next morning).

For a great example of a clear and specific testimonial song of praise, look at Exodus 15.

“Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD :
“I will sing to the LORD,
for he is highly exalted.
The horse and its rider
he has hurled into the sea… ( v.1 )

But you blew with your breath,
and the sea covered them.
They sank like lead
in the mighty waters.” ( v. 8 )

If you read the entire song, you’ll see that the Israelites carefully chose to sing about precisely how God saved them from Egypt and Pharaoh’s army. They didn’t simply sing “God saved us from our enemies and now we’re free.”

I hope I’m not coming across as judgmental. I’m guilty of overgeneralizing in these settings, myself. But let’s think of it this way. God sovereignly chooses our specific trials. God sovereignly chooses our specific outcomes. Therefore, I think He’s more honored when we acknowledge that He planned every facet of what we’re praising him for and our praise ought to cover those facets. Others are also more encouraged, especially if they’re failing to see God acting in their own lives.

Let’s be more specific!

  1. zoanna says:

    I’m so pleased that you’ve carried the message of “be more specific” from the page to real life.
    A detailed testimony (and not necessarily a long one) is far more powerful that a general one.

  2. Sarah says:

    Agreed. And I am definitely guilty of overgeneralizing, especially in groups.

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