God is the author of all authors: writing the beginning, the end, and all the pages in-between. We see in the Old Testament that God is partial to stories. In the story of the Exodus, God could have made Pharaoh offer Israel’s freedom with minimal fanfare. But he didn’t. God prolonged Pharaoh’s hard heart so that he might manifest his might in the salvation of his people. All of the story: the burning bush, the plagues, the red sea, the Passover…all of it happened so that we would hear the story and remember the power, might, and salvation of the Lord (Exodus10:1-2, 12:17-27, 13:3-16).
Redemption has made us all story tellers. Our stories are not just our stories. They are stories of an all mighty-God redeeming dead, rebellious and broken vessels. No one salvation story is un-amazing, no story the same. God redeemed you, and he gave you a story so that you may testify, to the generations yet to come, that Christ has redeemed you. Testimonies are unique because they are relational and theological. It is a subtle message of salvation shrouded in the warmth of a personal conversation.
So when it comes to sharing our testimonies, we should not view it as the snooze fest it might have been at summer camp. We should view our stories as stories bathed in grace and held by the cross. Testimonies are the easiest road to evangelism. They share the might and wonder of our salvation. Yet so often we can downplay testimonies, or we can emphasize the wrong things in them. Here are five tips to using your testimony evangelistically:
1. It’s About Jesus
God redeemed Israel from slavery not so Israel would worship Moses, but so Israel would worship God. In fact in Genesis 32 we see what happened when Israel thought too much of Moses. When Moses was gone for too long, the people became afraid and made fake god’s attributing to them what God alone deserved.
Our testimonies, this side of redemptive history, should scream the weight and worth of Christ. No one should come away from your testimony and think: “Man, that guy is a hero.” Jesus is the hero, and you don’t even have to work hard to make him one. He died for your sins. He breathed life into your dead lungs. He gave you life. Give him credit. You didn’t “find God.” God died on a cross, and his redemption found you. We respond to a proactive and heroic Jesus. A great way to make sure he comes out as the hero is to use his name in our testimonies. Sound obvious, but often times it is neglected our stories.
2. Emphasize the Weight of Conversion
The Israelites were brought out of slavery and into a better piece of real estate. You, Christian, have been redeemed from so much more. You have been brought from death to life (Col 2:13). You were in darkness, now you are in light (Col 1:13). You were far off, and you have been brought near (Eph 2:13). You were an enemy, and now you are a son (Rom 5:10-11). Point being, if there is not a difference between your life pre-Christ and post-Christ, you might have a problem.
In your testimony emphasize the change. Christ has given us a new heart, redeemed motives, and a capacity for more joy, service, worship and thanksgiving. The Christian life is a life of joy. May your testimony show the shallow and hollow shell of sin, and reveal the life giving all-satisfying thrill of the cross.
3. Show the Power of Belief
How were you saved? Christ worked. You believed. We are recipients of Christ’s grace. It is a gift, and a message to which we respond in belief (Rom 10:9, Acts 16:31). Remember you are not the hero of your testimony. We accept the gift of Christ in faith. What did we do to avoid the wrath of God? To be made a friend of Christ? A blood bought child of God? We believed. The power of the gospel is in the sin killing power of Christ which has enabled our hearts to believe. We believe and it is counted to us as righteousness.
John 20:31 says that the gospels were written: “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Tell the people you believed. You didn’t become a Christian because you quit the drugs, the gangs, or the sex. You became a Christian because Christ gave you the grace necessary to believe (and that belief helped you do that other stuff). Kill legalism: preach the power of belief in your own life.
4. Use Biblical Language
You weren’t just a good person. You weren’t just a bad person. You were dead in your sin. You were dead in your unbelief. These are all words which the Bible uses to describe our circumstance pre-Christ. I’m not saying that you lead the discussion with, “I was a son of disobedience following the power of the air….” But you should be able to communicate that you were a sinner, who sinned against a righteous God, who justly stood under the judgment of God’s wrath.
Christ didn’t just “die for me.” That message really communicates little to an unbeliever. Christ died for your sins. He took the wrath that you deserved. Through Christ you are able to repent, believe, confess and have true salvation. Words are important. Nouns are important. Use them. If you need a place to start for some redemptive language, check out Ephesians 2:1-10 or Colossians 2:8-14.
5. Be Merciful Towards People and Hostile Towards Sin
Often our testimonies can victimize us, and demonize others. The road to redemption is often paved with real people who have been sinned against in real ways. But remember, it is not because of your circumstances (abuse, a death, bad parents…etc) that you didn’t believe, it was because your heart was dead, and you were being ruled by your sin (James 1:13-15).
Share the pain that God has redeemed you from, but your parents/boyfriend/husband/abuser didn’t damn you, your heart did. We don’t demonize others, we demonize sin. We don’t play the victim, we were our own masters, we slept in the bed of unbelief we made. Christ saved you from you. Now he has given you over to the ministry of reconciliation. We make peace, and we proclaim Christ.
People love stories, and God is the God of stories. Use the unique one God gave you, and proclaim the excellencies of Christ. Do this, and help others write their own story of redemption. Working at a church, you run across testimonies that people have written. Here is a PDF of three testimonies from Sovereign Hope which help frame and offer examples of Biblical, evangelical testimonies.
This blog also is also published here.