Incarnational Truth – The Power of Testimony

by Jayne Ozanne, Editor of ViaMedia.News and Author of Just Love

Jayne Ozanne (3)

I’ve been reflecting recently about the books that most shaped my youth and which helped give me a glimpse of a God who I was so hungry to know and eager to serve.

I think the three that I remember having the greatest impact were “The Cross and the Switchblade” by David Wilkerson, “God’s Smuggler” by Brother Andrew and “Chasing the Dragon” by Jackie Pullinger.  The latter was recommended to me by a friend at Cambridge who had had the privilege of spending time with Jackie in Hong Kong during his gap year, and who had been “blown away” by her faith and ministry.

Her book had caused a bit of a problem for the Church, however.  Here was a woman who clearly had an incredible call on her life, who had decided to follow that call despite the reaction of those around her – senior church leaders who would not allow her to serve in a leadership role in the Church because she was a woman.

I remember Jackie addressing a women’s meeting at Holy Trinity Brompton in the late nineties and explaining that she in fact hated women’s meetings: “Give me the men any day,” she said, “as they are the ones who need to be challenged about their views of women in leadership!”  We had all laughed, but we knew that what she said rang true – many of us had calls on our lives that were being thwarted by a Church that did not allow women into leadership roles.  So, Jackie encouraged us to just get on and do what God was calling us to do anyway.  For her this had meant getting on a boat and ending up in Hong Kong.  The rest is history.

Her powerful testimony of God at work in her life, as set out in her memoir “Chasing the Dragon”, challenged many.  They could not but see the hand of God blessing her ministry – even if it failed to conform to their understanding of what the scripture had to say about women in leadership.

What she carried was incarnational truth – she was a living witness to the power of God at work in her.  No one could deny that, not even those who were most vocal about the “clarity of scripture” on the matter.  Here was a woman who God was clearly using, a woman who had brought many to Christ, who had founded and led various international ministries, and who was overseeing the work of many men.

She was an exception to their rule – and in being so, brought clearly into the light the fallacy of that rule.  It reminded me beautifully of the teaching that I had had under Stephen Hawking – that the way to disprove any scientific theory is to find a counter example….only one is ever needed.  In this case it was a woman – an incarnational woman – who showed through the power of her ministry and her testimony that God was blessing her and those around her.

Incarnational truth is difficult to argue with.  It’s fact, it’s real and it’s raw.

It’s what Jesus demonstrated to us too.  He came, he lived, he died, he rose again.

His own incarnational truth broke the rules – and as such the Pharisees couldn’t get their heads around it.  They were so intent on holding to their strict interpretation of scripture that they failed to understand the core message of God’s love as revealed by scripture.  Their focus on law rather than love is why they could not see the incarnational truth in the person of Jesus who stood right before them – their Messiah, for whom they longed.

Last week I had the privilege of meeting Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in Austin, Texas.  I had wanted to speak to him to thank him for his prophetic role in speaking out for the global LGBTI community, and for his encouragement to us.  Seeing my tears, which appeared from nowhere as I spoke, he climbed over the table that separated us and gave me a huge hug.  Looking me squarely in the eyes he said: “Encourage them to tell their stories, Jayne, for it is that encounter that has the power to challenge and change people.”

I couldn’t have agreed more – what we are each called to do is to share our incarnational truth about who we are, what we are, how we love and how we know that we are loved by God.

It’s what my dear friend Vicky Beeching has done with her book, Undivided, and what I too have endeavored to do with my own recent book, Just Love.  We have dared to tell our stories.  To testify to the work of God in our lives, and the power of His love that has saved us from harmful teachings that have nearly killed both of us.

It’s what we were taught as evangelicals to do – to share our testimony and so witness to the faith that is within us.

It has been interesting to watch people’s reactions.

For many it has encouraged them to tell their stories too, to know that they are not alone, to be reassured that God loves them – just as they are – and that they are beautifully and wonderfully made.

For others it has meant that they have had to defend their rules, to close their eyes to the pain and trauma that these rules have caused, and to negate the truth of those standing right before them saying – this is me, and this is what God has done.

I for one know that the God I serve will take my story, as fallible as it is, and break it (as he did with the offering of five loaves and two small fish) in order to feed many.  He will use it, I pray, to challenge and encourage people, and whether they choose to hear it or damn it, it will be a witness to the power of God at work.

It’s my attempt at telling my story – I wonder, are you able to share yours?

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9 Responses to Incarnational Truth – The Power of Testimony


    Have asked God for opportunities to tell mine. We need to not just encourage you but to join with you.

  2. braddersmk2 says:

    Well thought out blog, Jayne…. I pray that people like you and Vicky Beeching, telling your God Story, will encourage others to do the same, but also challenge the “Scribes and Pharisees” in the Established Church to look deeply into their entrenched beliefs and start to right do many wrongs.

  3. I remember reading “God’s Smuggler” when I was about 14. Curiously I was reminded of it in house group this week. One of the most powerful stories in it, I think, was quite paradoxical. The author (can’t remember if “Andrew” is a pseudonym) worked in a factory, and had an injury from military service that gave him a limp. All the factory girls made fun of him, and one was particularly foul-mouthed. Hearing the voice of God, he invited her to a mission – and to his surprise she accepted. He took her there on the back of his motorcycle, and afterwards, had planned to really hammer her with the Gospel, confront her with her sinfulness and need to repent. But, again, to his surprise, he heard God tell him not to say anything at all, so they drove back in silence. A few days later the girl became a Christian. She had been absolutely prepared for him to evangelize her and had all her defence planned out to answer back. When he said nothing she became afraid that she was beyond redemption. His silence so affected her that it brought her to God.

    In my own journey, my decision to become LGBT affirming was much influenced by reading Benny Hazlehurst’s six part autobiographical memoir “By their fruits” on the Accepting Evangelicals website. The turning point was how Jeffrey John supported him after his wife was nearly killed in a road accident. This also is strong testimony to the work of God in Jeffrey John’s life.

  4. Leslie says:

    Just wait. Somebody will add a story that is contrary to the stories that are cherished and then where are we? Tom Shakespeare said this – “The psychologist, Paul Bloom, writing recently in the New Yorker, suggested that empathy was a poor guide to moral judgement. Rather than using our heads and looking at the evidence, our hearts are moved by emotive stories.

    Reports about individual tragedies close to home have more impact than hundreds of thousands being killed in a far off land. This results in actions that turn out to be parochial, narrow-minded and innumerate. Bloom concluded that “empathy will have to yield to reason if humanity is to have a future”.

    Tom Shakespeare on BBC A Point of View.

    • Pete Jermey says:


      There’s actually remarkable consistency in the testimony of LGB people in the church. Empathy and reason are not, to my mind, enemies. In this case empathy seems to be testing whether the current “reason” is reasonable or not. Empathy rationally leads to three questions for the church to answer

      1. Whether they are invested in ensuring that LGB people are treated better in future or whether the outcomes currently experienced are acceptable.

      2. Whether a theology that neither permits same sex relationships nor harms LGB people is possible.

      3. Whether a practical implementation of theology is possible that opposes same sex relationships without harming LGB people.

      • Leslie says:

        Pete – You have highlighted where the rubber hits the road in the area of sex and people. I’m happy to agree with you here and with your three points.

  5. Stephen says:

    I grew up in a Christian home and in my late teens came out to my parents. It was very painful for us all. I left the church as I felt my faith and sexuality were incompatible.
    After years in same sex relationships, my desire to have a relationship with the Lord grew. I still couldn’t reconcile my sexuality and relationship with God. Something in my heart meant I couldn’t find peace. I appreciate that we all have had different experiences, but I love that like Jayne said, no one can argue with what God has done and is doing in each of our lives. I went through “conversion therapy”. It was a mixture of looking at identity, my view of God (which was no true), renewing my mind, looking at my relationships with males and females, with parents and the Lord.
    It was a painful yet glorious process and for me it helped greatly. I have been able to marry and have children which was not the goal, but the fruit of the change God has worked in me. I’ve been married for over a decade now and i can’t see it ending anytime soon!!!! My wife knows all about my past, and knew when we got together.
    This is my incarnational truth that’s spoken of in the article above.
    I know many people have been through dreadful experiences of extreme conversion therapy approaches and it sounds horrific. But I can honestly say that my experience was wildly different to that. It was my choice, I could walk away at any point, it cost me nothing financially and there was no pressure from anyone I knew.
    I hope it’s ok to post this here, Id just like to share another side to things.

  6. It’s Allport’s classic contact theory: Allport, G. (1954) The Nature of Prejudice. Cambridge, Ma: Addison-Wesley.
    The best way to open people’s minds is to actually meet them, to actually know them in daily life, to actually see them as people, and see past the prejudice.
    To take it beyond abstract argument and dogma. To encounter people, lived and real and personal.
    Further developed by King, M., Winter, S. and Webster, B. (2009) ‘Contact Reduces Transprejudice: A Study on Attitudes towards Transgenderism and Transgender Civil Rights in Hong Kong’. International Journal of Sexual Health, 21, pp. 17-34.
    * * * * *
    I do agree that certain books tend to have profound effects on one’s personal development. For me it was…
    The Book of Common Prayer
    The Bible
    The Spirit of the Hills
    Tess of the d’Urbervilles
    Women in Love
    Poetry of Shelley and Yeats and Eliot
    On the Road
    Meditations, Marcus Aurelius
    Our Mutual Friend
    Love until it Hurts
    The Gentle Breeze of Jesus
    David Watson’s Discipleship, and Be Filled with the Spirit
    The Practice of the Presence of God
    Geoff, by Ronald Ferguson
    She Who Is
    Living in Hope, SSJE
    The Seven Storey Mountain
    Story of a Soul
    Rowan’s book on Teresa of Avila
    Marcelle Auclair’s biography of Teresa de Avila
    and right now, The Third Spiritual Alphabet
    * * * * *
    Jayne, I hope and pray your book touches many hearts, as people read and experience ‘this is what it’s like’.
    Unless we can find empathy for people as people, and draw alongside them, and listen, and share, we risk alienation and objectification.
    Then our dogma (whatever it is) falls in danger of objectifying those who are ‘not like us’.
    So-called liberals and so-called conservatives alike can fall into that trap.
    Love prays for one another’s flourishing, even in diversity. Love prays for each person to open and grow into the whole of who they are (and can become) in Christ.
    Christ invites us to share, in the eternal household, with our loving and triune God. To share compassion if we can. To share joy. To share consciousness with the One who dwells with us. And I think in turn we should share with one another too, for we’re all dressed in rags before God, and the world is full of wounds, and there is so much that is pitiful, and when all’s said and done we need the mercy and the healing of God.
    It is the touch of God that opens hearts, and in meeting people, and encountering their humanity, the God within may stir and reach out, and I think God’s tenderness can sometimes change our hearts.

Any thoughts?