Thank you for being willing to share a little bit about yourself and lead our congregation in the Apostles’ Creed. You will find everything you need to prepare here on this page. If you have any questions, just contact Pastor Langdon – he would love to help you. There are two sections to this page. The first section, How to give a Creedal Testimony, will give you the practical steps you need to create your testimony. The second section,Why do a Creedal Testimony, will give you the theory behind what we are trying to accomplish. Some may find it helpful to read this second section first.
How to do a Creedal Testimony
You will speak for about three minutes and then invite the congregation to join you in reciting the Apostles creed. Here are the steps to take to prepare your presentation:
1. Prepare, practice, and pray
The most difficult thing about a creedal testimony is keeping it brief without making it feel rushed. This can only be done with preparation and practice. Some people may feel it is less genuine to carefully prepare and think it will be better to just “wing it.” The opposite is usually true – the more you prepare, the more your nervousness will disappear and the more effectively you will be able to communicate what you really want to say. People who wing it almost always go longer than people who prepare. Actually practice your testimony out loud and time it. It must take you less than three minutes to get to the start of the creed. The time you take to do the difficult job of chopping and rewriting to get to that point will result in a much more powerful presentation. Spend time praying about what you should say – listen to the leading of the Spirit. Ask God to use your testimony to his glory.
Include the following components in your testimony:
2. Say your name
The goal is to say your name in such a way that people can remember it. A very effective way is to say your name slowly and state your first name twice as follows: “Hi. My name is Sarah. Sarah Dence. Today I would like to share with you…”
3. Introduce yourself
We remember peoples names better and feel more permission to approach them to talk to them when we know a little bit about them. Share things that help people know who you are and where you fit into our church. You could pick 2 or 3 of the following in order of priority:
a. How long you have been part of the church and one or two things/groups you are involved in at church
b. If you were brought to church by friends, name them. If your spouse or family comes to church, name them.
c. How you ended up at our church
d. What town you live in and how long you have been in the area
e. Where you work and what you do (in layman’s terms we can understand 🙂
f. One or two things you love to do – hobbies or pursuits
4. Share ONE experience or an insight
This can be anything that points people to God and prepares us to declare the creed together. Here are some especially helpful things to share:
a. an experience from a recent mission event including how it made you think about God or being a Christian
b. an experience from some other kind of recent church activity (men’s breakfast, small group, chili cook-off, etc.) that pointed you to God.
b. a bible verse you recently read including what it made you think of and how it applied to your life
c. an experience where you saw another Christian in action and how it impacted you / what you learned from it
d. an idea about what God is like or what the Christian life is about that recently came to you
e. an experience from every day life that you felt God used to teach you something
The key here will be to narrow this down to as few sentences as possible, making it descriptive so we can feel what you felt, and making the point clear so we understand how it relates to God or the life of faith.
5. Include the Hinge to the creed
The next two-three sentences need to tie what you just shared to the creed and to let people know that the creed is coming. The first sentence will vary depending on what you have shared. It will often take a form like this:
This experience/insight has reminded me that God is at work here and now and that I am part of His family.
The second sentence is somewhat fixed because it needs to accomplish some specific theological goals. Please say something either identical to, or very similar to the following:
“Because I do believe in the power of the gospel to change peoples lives
and because I believe the Apostles’ Creed brings us back to the center of the gospel,
I invite you to join me
as I join our brothers and sisters across the ages and around the world
in declaring the Apostles Creed –
as my own creed,
pausing after each phrase, saying…. “
6. Lead the congregation in the Creed
We want to make it easy for people who don’t know the creed to join in, and we don’t want to confuse people who have it memorized one way when we use slightly different words. Therefore it is important that it is available in written form exactly as you intend to recite it. Usually, the lines of the creed will be projected on the wall. An image will be shown with each phrase to help people think about what they are saying. Contact the pastor in charge of your service ahead of time to confirm how the creed will be presented. Other options include printing it in the bulletin, or reading it from the hymnal (it is located in the first few pages).
Your job is to slow them down, to pause after each phrase so that rather than rattling off the lines by memory, the congregation is able to reflect on each phrase. When we are up front we tend to speak quicker than we should. Speak each line clearly, pausing at each comma, and then count “one one thousand, two one thousand” before saying the next phrase. The form we will usually use is as follows (each blank line indicates a switch in the image shown).
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of Heaven and Earth
I believe in Jesus Christ,
His only Son,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again from the dead,
he ascended into heaven,
and now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
from there he shall come again, to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. AMEN.
Obviously, it is important that you can say these things as your own – that you actually agree with the hinge statement and the Apostles Creed. If you cannot in good conscience say these things as your own convictions – we apologize for putting you in an awkward and unfair position. Just let us know, and we will ask someone else – no worries ! If Christianity is about anything it is about honesty and we never want to put you in a position where you are being asked to say things that you don’t agree with. Reading the rationale for the Creedal Testimony below may be helpful to clarify whether leading a Creedal Testimony is a good fit for you.
Why do a Creedal Testimony ?
The goals of a creedal testimony are:
1. The community experiences the creed corporately – but by hearing someone else make it their own personal
2. The creedal testimony fosters community and intimacy (getting to know each other’s stories and names)
while linking the church’s universal creed to individual lives.
We are asking you to put together two things that are often separate in a church service – a personal testimony, and the congregation’s shared declaration of a fixed creed. Let’s look at each part., first the testimony and then the creed, and then finally, how they go together.
When you share your own personal story of faith with the congregation, a number of important things can happen:
1. You build community.
People learn your name and a little bit about you. This seemingly small step is actually incredibly important in building a sense of community in our congregation. We need to begin to get to know each other and each other’s stories. Your willingness to share sets an example for the rest of us to follow.
2.You strengthen other people’s faith.
You probably don’t feel like you are such a spiritual giant that you should be sharing your testimony – that is exactly why we asking you to share it! We want to be an authentic community where we see small but real glimpses of the gospel in ordinary people’s lives. Giving your testimony doesn’t mean you have it all worked out or you don’t struggle with doubt – it means you feel you can share one small story, or one small insight that has been helpful to you and could be helpful to others. When we share our own struggles and doubts and convictions – it is a gift to others. It normalizes their own experience. Many will think – “Hey if a ordinary person like them can love Jesus, maybe I can too!”
3. It can help your own faith.
Having to take the time to sit down and really think about what you want to say can help you think about what you really believe. For many, just getting in front of others is a step of faith! Hopefully all of us will feel the need to pray long and hard before our testimony, and any excuse to pray is a good thing !
4. You point people to Jesus.
As you prepare you should work hard to draw attention not so much to yourself as to where you see God at work. When you do this, you give a gift to the rest of us. The point of your testimony should in some way point people to Jesus. We constantly need to return our gaze to our savior, to be encouraged to follow after him. Hearing another person say it helps us in our own walk. Your testimony can be a gift to others and bring honor to Jesus.
Some people are skeptical of creeds. They say things like “Creeds are man made, I just use the bible.” But imagine I asked you this question “How does a person become a Christian?” You would answer in your own words, perhaps including scripture to explain your points. What you have just done in that moment is given your creed. The word “creed” comes from the Latin word Credo which means “I believe.” Now, if someone asks me what are the most important beliefs of Christianity, which is more legit, my personal creed (Christianity according to me with all my biases and blindspots), or the consensus creed of millions of Christians across the world and for over two thousands years ? That is basically what the Apostles Creed is. It is not the creed of one person but the creed of the community. Every true Christian church whether denominational or non-denominational, whether they use creeds or not, agrees with the beliefs stated in the Apostles’ Creed. It is the beliefs of THE church. While some churches would add additional beliefs to what the Apostles’ creed declares, no truly Christian church says less than the Apostles Creed, because it represents the root beliefs of the first church from which all modern churches can trace their existence. For more information on the Apostles’ Creed, see here.
When we declare the creed together as a congregation, a number of important things can happen:
1. We are reminded what church is all about
We all know that unity is important for any community, but what exactly is a church to unify around ? What is it that holds us together ? A love of traditions, a love of beautiful church buildings, a love of music, a shared economic/cultural standing ? enjoying doing mission projects together ? While all of these things may be important, none of them can keep a healthy church growing for long. What we all hold in common is the conviction that “Jesus is Lord!” The beautiful, world changing thing about Christianity is that it is our love for Jesus that unites us. This means that we can see as our true brothers and sisters people we normally might not hang out with. It cuts across economic divisions, racial divisions, (and perhaps most amazing) aesthetic divisions, and unites us as the body of Christ. Without a creed, there is no agreement as what the center is or should be. Without the creed, we pledge loyalty to nothing bigger than ourselves and our own fleeting interests and opinions. Declaring the creed is an act of associating ourselves with something outside of ourselves – a community that already existed and already had rules and convictions before we ever came upon the scene. Declaring the creed together declares what the core of our community is all about. It reminds us what the center, the focus, and the priority of our church should be. It declares, with agreed upon words, that Jesus the head of the church, and that his life, death, and resurrection are the center of the gospel.
2. We confess publicly what we personally believe
Romans 10:8-10 declares:
The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,”
that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,”
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified,
and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
There is something vital about being willing to declare your faith out loud in public. When we say the Apostles Creed as our own creed, and mean it, we are confessing our faith, we are declaring – “It is here that I am hanging my hat – here is where I am waging all my chips.” Jesus said in Mark 8:38:
If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation,
the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
We need to speak up about Jesus and our allegiance to him. God wants to pull us out of our comfort zone and the lie that faith is supposed to be personal and private. Christianity requires us to publically state our faith with our own lips.
3. We are encouraged when we doubt.
But what about those days when we are full of questions and doubts ? What about those days when we don’t know what to believe ? Most of us would admit that we are inconsistent – our emotions and convictions fluctuate from day to day. When we are in the dark, and can’t see anything clearly, we need to remember, to hold on to what we once knew, when we were in the light and saw things clearly. Reciting the creed is a gift to people like us. Some days I say it to the world as a statement of my faith, other days I say it to myself as a reminder of “the faith once given.” Sometimes I cant even say it, and hearing my brothers and sisters around me declare the faith gives me strength and hope that one day my convictions will return.
4. We make the main thing the main thing – once more.
All of us have convictions and each of us sees different parts of the Christian life as more or less important. We all drift from the priorities of Jesus in one way or another. But it is worse than that. All of us tend to drift away from “the faith once given” (Jude 1:3), to create a religion of our own that feels more comfortable, more reasonable, that doesn’t cause us to struggle. Declaring the creed as our own creed re-centers our faith and reminds us which parts are the essentials. The creed brings us back to the core of the gospel message.
5. We pass the treasure of the gospel on to the next generation.
Teaching our children to be good and kind is a beautiful thing, but it is not enough. It is not the gospel. It will not keep them in the church. We may be satisfied and comfortable with an unarticulated gospel, we may find comfort and enjoyment in being part of a church community and have no interest in its theology. But this will not help anyone else know Jesus – especially our children. What changes lives, what gives hope and meaning and purpose to living is the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. All other ground is sinking sand. With all the aspects of Christianity that change from age to age, from culture to culture, the focus of the gospel message does not. Saint Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…
Each of us who takes upon ourselves the name Christian has the same responsibility as Paul – to take what we have received and to pass it on to others, especially the next generation. The Creed is both a compact way to transmit the biblical message and a learning tool that can be unpacked to point people to the amazing breadth and depth of the gospel that is found in the scriptures.
Creed and Testimony Together
In our particular cultural moment there is a tendency to approve of personal testimonies as “genuine” and see written creeds as “artificial, rigid, promoted by those in authority to force conformity.” There is a popular statement “Mission unites but doctrine divides.” But as we have seen above, this simply is not true. At it’s best, the creed represents the summation of personal experiences and convictions of the entire church over 2000 years, beginning with the apostles themselves. At it’s best, the creed gives the reason and the power to pursue mission in the first place. We are whole people – we need experiences, reasons, convictions, and the experience and knowledge of others to grow into healthy disciples of Jesus. Personal experience was never meant to be separated from the doctrine of the church. The two go hand in hand , building each other up. A Creedal Testimony is an attempt to reconnect experience and doctrine, the individual and the community, doctrine and mystery. By tying the two together, we point people beyond ourselves to the one “in whom we move and have our being.” The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is meant to be the center of our shared faith. It is meant to be the center of our individual lives as well. Our hope and our prayer is that by combining creed and testimony into one liturgical act, we will create a juxtaposition, a tension that returns each to it’s original function of drawing us closer to the Triune God – that we might be changed and used for His glory.
Rev. Dr. Langdon Palmer