In my ministry, I often hear well-intentioned men and women give their testimony. Is there a better way? How is it possible to improve upon one’s personal experience with Jesus? We live in a time when people are complimented for even sharing their faith! But what happens when we spend too much time on the "before Christ" part and the moment of salvation is unfortunately muted, stunted, and offers no handles that a lost person can grab?
Have you told someone your personal salvation story in a while? Your testimony should model how someone can be saved. We all want to glorify God in what we say to others. And so here’s your opportunity to re-examine how what you say can present God’s plan of salvation. Helping others have a clear path to Christ is the ultimate way to honor God with your testimony.
Make your personal story more powerful. We'll address a typical three-part testimony – before, during, and after.
Before: A life before Christ is typically self-centered, but there should also be acknowledgement of the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin. There’s a point of recognizing that we all stand guilty before God. Many people in America’s post-modern society think sin is what happens when you get caught. Saying how you knew what sin was should be based upon biblical concepts of knowing what to do, but not doing it (James 4:17). Shorten your experiences before Christ. You certainly don’t want to give them new ideas that Satan will tempt them to try later.
During: Providing a model for a lost person should be your priority. A friend of mine once said he made a fact-based decision without much of a change of heart. He described it similar to “buying fire insurance.” Be very clear about the need to repent of your sins as well as surrendering yourself to Christ. That’s the brass ring the lost need to hang onto in your testimony. Describe how your personal relationship with Jesus began. Don’t rush it. Be thorough and know why you are saying what you’re saying. How you say it will likely become the model that a new believer will use in their own life. If you present a dozen Bible verses in random order, so will they. Since most people are oral learners, presenting the gospel in the form of your story is powerful when it includes key Bible truths. These can be conveyed in summary versions of Bible stories and it may be necessary to convey this part of your testimony in multiple meetings depending on the time you have available.
After: Practice explaining that your spiritual transformation was by God’s grace, not any effort of your own. Describe the difference your life has been because you have the Holy Spirit of God to guide you (John 16:13). It’s okay to describe a few good works you’ve done since, but they should convey more than accepting a new set of rules, making different moral choices, and even efforts you’ve made at changing certain behaviors. These can come off as man-centered. Work hard to humbly give God the glory for allowing you to experience life according to what the Bible says. Just like the “before” section, this should be brief, too.
In a three-minute testimony, consider these parts: 30 seconds before decision, two minutes describing the decision, and 30 seconds after the decision.
It helps to immediately follow-up to giving your testimony by asking questions. Ask them if they would like to make a similar decision to follow Christ! If your “during the decision” part was presented carefully, then the lost person will know exactly what they should do—and how they will share their own personal salvation story to others one day. When used by the Lord, it's more powerful!
--Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership, Cincinnati Area Baptist Association