The Bible teaches that when someone becomes a believer, he or she also becomes God’s messenger (2 Corinthians 2:17). One of the ways we help our members at Saddleback to understand this is we teach them how to prepare a testimony.
I tell people, “You may feel you don’t have anything to share, but that’s the Devil trying to keep you silent. You have a storehouse of experiences that God wants to use to bring others into his family.” The Bible says, “Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony of God in them.” (1 John 5:10 GW)
This is what we tell people as they prepare a testimony –
Your testimony is the story of how Christ has made a difference in your life. Peter tells us that we were chosen by God “to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you.”
This is the essence of witnessing—simply sharing your personal experiences regarding the Lord. In a courtroom, a witness isn’t expected to argue the case, prove the truth, or press for a verdict; that is the job of attorneys. Witnesses simply report what happened to them or what they saw.
Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses,” not “You will be my attorney.” He wants you to share your story with others. Sharing your testimony is an essential part of your mission on earth because it is unique. There is no other story just like yours, so only you can share it. If you don’t share it, it will be lost forever. You may not be a Bible scholar, but you are the authority on your life, and it’s hard to argue with personal experience.
In truth, your personal testimony is more effective than a sermon, because unbelievers see pastors as professional salesmen, but see you as a “satisfied customer,” so they give you more credibility.
Personal stories are also easier to relate to than principles, and people love to hear them. They capture our attention, and we remember them longer. Unbelievers would probably lose interest if you started quoting theologians, but they have a natural curiosity about experiences they’ve never had. Shared stories build a relational bridge that Jesus can walk across from your heart to theirs.
Another value of your testimony is that it bypasses intellectual defenses. Many people who won’t accept the authority of the Bible will listen to a humble, personal story. That is why on six different occasions Paul used his testimony to share the gospel instead of quoting Scripture.
The Bible says, “Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect.” The best way to “be ready” is to write out your testimony and then memorize the main points. Divide it into four parts:
- What my life was like before I met Jesus.
- How I realized I needed Jesus.
- How I committed my life to Jesus.
- The difference Jesus has made in my life.
Of course, you have many other testimonies besides your salvation story. You have a story for every experience in which God has helped you. You should make a list of all the problems, circumstances, and crises that God has brought you through. Then be sensitive and use the story that your unbelieving friend will relate to best. Different situations call for different testimonies.
Work with your member to help them develop a testimony that they can share with friends, neighbors, and co-workers.