This post is the second in a 3-part series about sharing your personal testimony.
If we are going to be able to communicate through our testimonies, really communicate, then we are going to need to open up, declassify some of our stories, and let people see our hearts. So…
Relate Human Emotion
No one has had your exact experience, but we have all tasted of the same basic emotions:
love, hate, fear, hurt, confusion, confidence, embarrassment… One mark of an
effective testimony presentation is that it tells your unique story in such a way that others
can relate to your feelings. They imagine how it must have been for you and identify with
you. For example, a man whose wife came to the Lord before he did, might tell how at
first he felt threatened by his wife’s faith and how he feared it would cause her and the
children to lose respect for him.
Use Thought-provoking Sentences
In thinking through your life and preparing your testimony, develop succinct sentences
which sum up the main points of your story. Fine-tune these sentences. Word them in
such a way they will help others to get the picture and will cause them to think. These
sentences will prove helpful, not only when you use them in presenting your testimony to
a group, but they will also enable you to quickly make your point in personal
conversations. In conversations you won’t have the time to tell your entire life story. Nor
can you say, “Hold on a minute and let me think of a good response to that.” So have a
few one-sentence testimonies in your “tackle box,” ready to use when needed. The
point isn’t to have everything written out and memorized, but rather to give your listeners
a few “handles” with which to get a better grip on what you are saying. Some examples
might include: “I used to feel like I was my own God until the heart attack,” or “Growing
up, I was always the kid who had ‘cooties’; my self-esteem suffered a lot until I came to
know Jesus Christ.”
Have a Plan to Land the Plane
Sometimes people have trouble knowing how to conclude their testimonies. Usually, because how to stop is the one part they haven’t thought about. When you ride the wild horses, it’s hard to know how to get off. So, here is one place where a good thought provoking sentence can be a big help–to you as the speaker, as well as a way to help your listeners continue thinking about what you have said.
We know that a person ought to be a Christian. We know that a person ought to be a member of a good church. We know that a person ought to want to profess faith in Christ before others. However, people who were not raised in church do not even know what we are talking about, much less feel that they ought to do it. Working on the assumption that your listeners share that “sense of oughtness” is kind of like starting in the middle. So explain how you came to realize what you ought to do. You might even share some initial misconceptions you might have had. Tell your story in such a way that listeners without a church background will begin to consider, “Maybe that’s the answer,” instead of, “What is she talking about?”
Weave the Truths of the Gospel into Your Story
When sharing a salvation testimony, weave into your presentation truths of the gospel as they naturally fit into your experience (“I thought, ‘Good grief; it is a gift!'”). Lose the lingo and describe what you’re talking about. Saying something like, “So finally on Friday night of the revival I walked the aisle and was saved” doesn’t communicate enough information. Explain how, “What I heard the preacher say that night brought my previous thoughts about God into focus. I put my trust in Jesus Christ to forgive me and to change my life. The effect was so powerful that I didn’t care who knew. As my first step of obedience, I joined the church that very night!” Key parts like this ought to be adequately explained and not put into “Christian shorthand” with terms like “walked the aisle.” (Is that anything like walking the plank? Do we really want to give people the idea that walking the aisle will save them?)
Which Time Were You Saved?
Make clear, also, the distinction between your salvation experience and subsequent growth
experiences. I’ve heard testimonies and found myself wondering, “Was he saved the first time or the second time?”
Cut to the Chase
Unless a date or place is an interesting and important part of the story, don’t tell it. Get to
the point. Don’t bore your listeners with extra details that do not help to move the plot
forward. Ask yourself: Is this part of the theme I need to hammer out or not?
To be continued…