Have you been asked to “give your testimony” at church or in a Bible study? Here is the first in a series about how to prepare a more powerful testimony.
So what exactly is a testimony and what makes one more effective? A testimony is a story that illustrates a point. It is about what God has done for you and what God has done in you. It is a personal story, so it has the power to help people see themselves and their own feelings in your experience. A testimony has hit its mark when a listener “gets it” and then finds himself considering his own relationship with God.
Be Clear About Your Purpose
Your concept of a “good testimony” will determine much about how you go about preparing to tell your story. Success, of course, relates to how well a function fulfills its purpose. The purpose of a basketball coach is to recruit and prepare players to win games. Thus, we measure the success of coaches by their won/loss records. There are two purposes of a testimony: first, to give God the credit for coming to our rescue when we were helpless. A testimony’s second purpose is to give others a concrete example of the power of God and His ability to change lives.
Have Jesus Come Out The Star
Since a testimony is telling the story of how God came to rescue us when we were unable to help ourselves, it would seem obvious that Jesus should come out the hero. Yet, we have all heard “testimonies” which are really a tribute to a person’s own grit and determination. I can’t convince you what a clever and charming and good person I am… and glorify Jesus at the same time. Neither is a testimony a tribute to the church nor to some person who has been helpful in our lives. While it is good to describe how God used others to bring His word to us, they should not be the leading characters. One such testimony boiled down to this: “I was lost, but then I joined the youth group.” A testimony is about how we were at the end of our human resourcefulness, at the end of our rope, and how Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves. Either Jesus is the hero or our testimony grades a zero.
Tell One Testimony at a Time
Most anyone who has been a Christian for any time has more than one testimony. He has his salvation testimony, of course, or he isn’t a Christian. However, a Christian should also have growth testimonies. A person may be able to share her testimony about how the Lord taught her the importance of a consistent personal devotional time and one about how God is helping her overcome an unforgiving spirit. Sometimes a person tries to tell all of his testimonies at once and goes on too long for the occasion. Testimony is not a synonym for autobiography. A testimony should be more like a television commercial–one theme, tightly developed and packed into a short time–than a mini-series.
Hammer Out a Theme
Your testimony has a plot. Perhaps, you were searching for something. Maybe, you looked for it in the wrong places. God spoke, you resisted. Finally, you were brought to a point of crisis. Either dramatically or in a quiet and low-key way, you submitted to Jesus Christ. He began to work changes in your life and you found that the deepest needs of your heart were being met. What were you seeking? Why were you so stubbornly resisting God? These are the themes of a salvation testimony. One deacon told how he had been raised in an unchurched home, but which was honest and had the work ethic. He was told growing up that one always had to work and earn everything he had, that one should never expect to be given anything. He traced the theme of how he was brought to realize that salvation was a free gift from God. Growth testimonies have similar themes. They tell how the Lord showed us our need for growth in a specific area and how, as we submitted to His will, He graciously empowered us. An effective testimony traces such a theme through your experiences in life.
Tell the Key Stories
Certain events epitomize whole periods in our lives or entire struggles. As you prepare, think about the key event which pretty much sums up the whole point. How did you come to stop feeling self-sufficient? What was the key turning point for you? Specifically, how did you come to realize your need of Christ? What caused you to take spiritual matters seriously? Name the things which attracted you to Jesus Christ. How were you brought to the point of crisis? What finally clinched it for you?
Some believers need to declassify some of their life experiences. People need them to open up and tell what they were looking for, how they looked for it in the wrong places, how it felt, and what they feared, and how God intervened. People need to hear it because they are now where you were.
To be continued…