Over this last month, we’ve taken the time to explore “What it Really Means” to give a testimony, taken a look at both “One Liners” (short testimonies to God’s character and value in our lives) and “Deeper Dialogues”, and addressed the fears which must be overcome if we’re to effectively “Get the Ball Rolling”. While it’s true that most of the time our testimonies will be spontaneous, every now and then we’ll encounter a situation that calls for a prepared testimony. It may be in an evening church service or over coffee with a friend, but you can guarantee that at some point, someone is going to ask you to explain exactly how you came to faith in Christ and why you continue to walk in His paths. And when this happens, you don’t wants to find yourself staring blankly into space! Over the next two weeks, we’ll take a closer look at what goes into preparing a testimony and share some tips that will help you ensure that yours accurately and concisely reflects God’s work in your own life.
So why should we bother to prepare a formal testimony? Well, to begin with, if you’ve already anticipated a question, you’re less likely to be caught off guard by it. None of us like to be put on the spot, especially when it comes to issues as personal as those which surround our deepest beliefs and convictions. If you have already taken the time to prepare your testimony, you probably won’t find yourself muttering a string of meaningless mumble jumble as you try to craft one under pressure.
Secondly, a prepared testimony helps to ensure that you don’t stumble around with useless details while everyone else is waiting for you to get to the point! You may not have much time to share, so you want to make the best use of it that you can. Most people only have a three minute attention span, so unless you’re a particularly riveting speaker, you’ll want to limit what you say to those facts (and only those facts) which clearly convey the message.
Remember that not every Christian has had the same experiences, so your testimony will probably sound a bit different from everyone else’s. That’s O.K. God uses each of us to reach different people. That said, there are four basic types of testimony and we’ll be addressing the first of these (How You Came to Know Christ) this week.
To be entirely honest, conversion stories tend to be easier to tell if you were saved as a teen or adult, since in many ways such accounts resemble the before and after pictures on a TV makeover show. (Those of us who were privileged to encounter Christ at an early age, often have very little memory of what life was like before that encounter, so the preparation of this type of testimony may be difficult, if not impossible.) One of the primary features of such a story is an element of empathy for how a lost person feels. It’s important to note that there is a big difference between “sympathy” (being with someone in their trials) and “empathy” (having gone through those trials yourself) and people tend to make a more genuine connection with those who understand their struggles from the inside than with those who think that they comprehend from without!
Generally, this type of testimony highlights three points:
1. What life was like before you knew Christ? How did you feel about the world around you? How did you relate to your co-workers, family, and friends? How did you view yourself? Were you lonely and depressed? Smug and overconfident? Caught somewhere between? What things did you turn to in order to fix the problems you encountered? Did they seem to work?
2. How did God intervene? At what point did you realize that the way you were living just wasn’t working? How did God drive the point home? What events or thoughts effected your decision to seek Him… or did it seem that He was the One seeking you?
3. What is life like now? How has knowing God changed your perspective on the people and events which influenced your life before you knew him? How have your relationships changed? How are your thoughts and goals different from before? What new desires have developed within you since you handed your life over to Him?
These questions are just seeds – a place to start as you consider God’s influence on and activity within your life. You may not be able to answer each of them, but I’m willing to bet that at least a few will get your thought processes rolling. Let the Spirit guide you as you begin to formalize you testimony, then (if you’re feeling bold), share your story in the comment box below!
Before we wrap, one final word of caution: While this particular formula is quite common, it’s important to note that it only works if God takes center stage throughout the story. Like the Apostle Paul, we don’t want to focus our testimony upon all the gory details of the “bad life” we lived before we encountered Jesus or even upon the many “good” things that we have done since, but upon the transforming power of Christ. Make sure that what you say keeps the focus on what God has done for you, not what you have done for or against God! Christianity is about Christ being formed in us and about His power to effect that same transformation in others. Everything else is peripheral.