This project aims to consider how the art of testimony, as embodied within the traditional Black church, functions as missionally formative practice. The purpose of this project is to examine the ways testimony service can be utilized to reimagine an alternative eschatological community in a postmodern society. Testimony, in the historical Black Church, was a central component to the life of the congregation; it served as a tool to shape and navigate the theological imagination within a particular community, it cultivated and nurtured centered belonging and was a primary vehicle for spiritual formation. As a result of modern rationalism’s cognitivist anthropology and a general affirmation of a disembodied, dualistic theological posture, rooted in individualism, testimony, for the most part, is no longer identified as an indispensable component of Black liturgy. This study aimed to reflect on the ways testimony service can be recovered as a missionally formative discipline which directly addresses the disembodied individualism that emerged in the modern era.
This dissertation captures and examines All Nations Worship Assembly Memphis’ participation in three consecutive testimony services and draws upon the interpretive responses of the participants of various focus groups related to this project using phenomenology as a research philosophy. The participants in this research conveyed their enjoyment and hoped to make testimony a regular part of the worship service. This hope, however, was not realized. The research strategy for this project, which is thematic analysis, unexpectedly revealed the presence of shame induced perfectionism, which serves as a barrier to authentic testimony and genuine missional community and ultimately underpinned the reason testimony would not continue in this congregation. I have determined, through this research, that testimony is a v necessary practice because it trains our heart to grow in the discipline of dialogical theology. Testimony is a tool that can curate the mutual community, relationality and love that is represented in the Triune God.
Cobbler, Christopher, "Recovering the Art of Testimony, as Embodied within the Historical Black Church, as a Missionally Formative Practice" (2023). DMin Project Theses. 8.