It’s true that people can argue with most points you may raise in defense of the Christian faith, but it is hard to argue with someone’s personal, life-changing encounter with the living God. God has crafted a unique story for each of us. These personal testimonies, however, are actually His stories and are ones that He wants us to share with those around us.
Check out the examples of Paul (Acts 22), Stephen (Acts 7), the man born blind (John 9), and the disciples (all throughout the New Testament). In sharing their stories, the gospel spread and people responded in faith. Furthermore, their life-changing encounters with Jesus not only made them want to share with others but also gave them the willingness to endure great trials, ridicule, even death.
So, how do you share yours? Testimonies have several main components. In developing and articulating your own personal testimony, you can think of it as having three main parts:
Who were you before Christ?
Isaiah 53:6 says that “all of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” The main point of this section is to explain your life before knowing Christ. You could explain your upbringing, sins, additional hardships or barriers to the gospel you experienced. What functioned as your savior before knowing Jesus? Relationships, accomplishments, morality, or substances? Your testimony could include thoughts such as, “I was searching for meaning in everything else, but it only left me depressed and hopeless.” Or, “While I was a good kid and obeyed my parents, excelled in school and sports, inside my heart I was filled with pride. I looked down on other people and thought that I had position to boast before man and God. I thought no one could hold any charge against me.” The emphasis should be on what ways you were separated from Christ, even if you were ignorant to it at that time.
What was the turning point/how did the gospel become real to you?
The most important point here is a clear presentation of the gospel to the listener. Include the following elements:
- Your former life separated you from a God who is holy and demands perfection, not only outwardly but in inward motivations as well.
- God created man and has the right to judge according to His perfect judgment and because of sin in your life, you realized that you could not stand up to His holy judgments. You were in grave spiritual trouble and deserved His wrath (hell)!
- But, Jesus Christ, who was fully God and fully man, left heaven to come live a perfect life and die a death undeserved.
- Through his death on the cross, He paid the penalty of sin that we deserved, and through His perfect life (righteousness), those who place their trust in Him for salvation are now seen as faultless before God.
You could mention how God opened your heart to understand in a way you never had before, even if you had grown up in the church or had heard bits and pieces of the truth. Perhaps God used someone profoundly in your life to demonstrate His love and forgiveness to you so vividly that it took root in your heart. Only you know your story, but your explanation of how the gospel became real to you could be a powerful appeal to your listener as they realize that God’s grace is accessible for them as well!
How has your life changed since?
Although the Bible is clear that forgiveness comes at the moment of repentance and faith in Jesus for salvation, we will continue to struggle with sin until we die. At times the Lord offers instantaneous deliverance for certain strongholds, and other times, God gives us strength over time to free us from the things that keep us from fully following Him. It is okay to be transparent with your listener by acknowledging that you are still not perfect and that you still struggle with sin! The important part here is that you emphasize that God has changed your desire to put sin to death and that He has been faithful to bring about growth in whatever area you want to share. Other points to include could be the freedom and hope that you have now in Christ, new longings for heaven, wanting others to know Him, too, and even the ways following Jesus has cost you.People may argue with Christian faith but it's hard to discount someone’s personal encounter with the living God.Click To Tweet
Some Additional Tips for Sharing:
- Allow the Spirit to lead. Pray for opportunities to share your testimony and look for these opportunities. If there is an opening in a conversation, silently pray and rely on God to direct you in conversation. He will open up doors, and He alone can convict and convince someone of His power and love. It is our job to share but not to make converts. Relax knowing that you can freely share your story and the outcome is ultimately not up to you.
- Know your audience. Are you talking to someone who is “churched” but seems to really lack true faith? Or are you talking to someone who doesn’t even know what the Bible is? Depending on who you are talking to, you will have to adjust certain phrases and content to help his or her understanding. Emphasize things that you know you have in common with that person. For example, “I, too, had a really bad experience with someone who claimed to be a Christian. What made the difference for me was….”
- Read your audience as you speak. Expand or condense depending on the interest of the person listening. Do you get the sense they are only politely listening? Perhaps it is best to be brief. Or are they engaged and asking questions? If so, perhaps you can expand many of the sections of your testimony based on their background and their questions.
- Avoid “churchy” terms. In other words, would someone outside the church know what you are talking about with certain words you use? If not, avoid them and explain things in the simplest of terms. For instance, “got saved,” “salvation,” “justification,” “sanctification,” “righteousness” may all be terms that seasoned believers understand and use with one another but may be completely lost on someone else.
- Ask for feedback and/or ask follow up questions at the end to further conversation and interest. Asking questions like, “Can you relate to anything I said?” or “Have you ever heard these things before?” or “Have you had a similar experience in your life?” can be huge for allowing that person room for self disclosure and vulnerability as well.
Share your story knowing that God is pleased with your efforts and that He is with you!