This is part 3 (of 3) in a series on preparing your personal testimony…
Don’t underestimate the power of your story. Everybody has a story. Many of our stories intersect and we often relate to the stories of others… if they will just tell them. The temptation when asked to share our testimony is to replace our story with a devotional. But don’t do it!
Prepare a Testimony, Not a Devotional
Don’t preach. Sermons and devotionals are both good things. However, they are different from a testimony. Your testimony is the story of how God worked in your life. So tell what God has done for you, not what we should let Him do in us. Your story, rightly told, will be challenging in and of itself. Sometimes, people recommend that we always include at
least one scripture passage in our testimony. I would amend that to specify passages that
are part of your story. Don’t just throw a verse in there because you are “supposed” to
use one. I heard a great example where a man told about the time he fell asleep at the
wheel only to wake up under a billboard saying, “The wages of sin is death.” He went on
to tell how it made him think about his spiritual condition and then how God later used
his familiarity with the first half of that verse to show him the meaning of the second half,
“But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Come Across as “In Progress”
Folks relate better to our weaknesses and struggles than to our successes. Celebrities may
draw bigger crowds, but people often get more out of hearing an honest person with
whom they have more in common. Humility and honesty grace a testimony. When you
are able to say, “It is hard, but God is making a difference,” they hear the reality of their
own world. They perceive that where you are now is within striking distance for them,
too. They may not feel that way about the pro football player who makes a couple of a
million dollars a year.
Put in Enough Prayer Time and “Think” Time
God can and does put words in our mouths spontaneously. As a pastor, sometimes find
myself listening to some really neat sentences flowing from my own lips, knowing that
they came from the Holy Spirit. I refer to those times when He adds to or subtracts from
what I’ve prepared as “Divine editorship”. However, it seems that God has done this most
and used me most when I have spent the most time praying and meditating on what He
would have me to say and what would be most helpful for my listeners to hear.
Improve on Your Presentation
Look for ways to better tell your story. Do your listeners seem to be hearing what you are trying to say? You may be surprised to discover the parts of your story to which people relate. If it seems to enlighten and encourage, make a point to always include it. Eliminate those things, which upon reflection, were not necessary. Smooth out the wording of the parts you had trouble explaining. Ask God to guide you.
A testimony is a story that illustrates a point. An effective testimony tells your God story in such a way that your hearers understand it, relate to it, and then continue to think about it. It is about what God has done for you and what God has done in you. It has the purpose of giving people a mental picture of what it would be like to come to know Christ or to grow in a specific area of life. It makes the hearer think, “So that is what it looks like!” It is a personal story, so it has the power to help people see themselves and their own feelings in your experience. A testimony is for those who need it; it isn’t for the purpose of entertaining a church “audience.” A testimony has hit its mark when a listener “gets it” and then finds himself considering his own relationship with God.