Part of the art of post-modern evangelism is story telling, in particular, telling your own story of how you came to discover your faith.
The Christian Testimony
Shortly after I became a Christian in the late 80s, I learned a phrase “Your Testimony.”
Your Christian testimony describes
- How you came to start following Christ in a conversion experience,
- The process of your faith in Christ becoming your own.
- The life transformation God worked in your life.
- How you came to recognize your personal need for Jesus.
- How you responded to an invitation or nudging or calling
- Story of how you met Jesus
One story ingredient
A good story would also share your process or the mechanics of how you became a Christian. What did you do (the mechanics)?
- Pray to receive Jesus?
- Make a commitment?
- Answer an altar call?
- Pray in the middle of the night?
I’ve encountered lots of people that want to know what they need to do. How does one surrender a life to Jesus?
A second story
But a second story is about God’s current activity in your life. What is God doing in your life today that still makes the gospel good news? How has he brought healing, restoration, forgiveness to your life this year? How has he answered prayer this year?
Telling your story turns the information into experience.
Telling your story shows your experience with God and people may question it, dismiss it, but not argue with it.
I became a Christian while I was a teenager in the late 1980s.
I grew up in an irrelgious home, didn’t attend church. My family of origin was stable, loving, and clearly middle class. No trauma, no abuse, no drug use, etc. I lived with might be a typical clean and moral suburban life.
As a teenager, I began to feel a yearning to know God, if God even existed.
The extent of my Christian knowledge was that Jesus was born in December, died in April, and did again every year.
I didn’t even have a Bible.
I discovered the reality of God through an answered prayer. I won’t take the time to write it out here, but after taking a risk and praying, and then seeing the answer to that prayer a few hours later, was enough to convince me that God was real.
The Lord even spoke to me (though I didn’t hear audible words).
That was enough to convince me that God existed.
But I didn’t know what to do with that.
A few months later, after listening to some people talk about knowing God better through a relationship with Christ, it was simple for me to make the connection:
To know God personally,
I need to start following Jesus.
Therefore, I will.
That evening I made a commitment in my heart that I still live out this day. That was the extent of my conversion experience.
Two major movements that started with a quest to know who God is: discovery that He existed, and a commitment to follow Jesus.
Other pieces associated with conversion came later, like understanding repentance, beginning to read the Bible, attending church.
Over the past 20 years, I’ve discovered more of God’s faithfulness, the power of the Holy Spirit using me, and the faithfulness of his word.
I can’t really say how my life is dramatically different. After all, I was only 15. I wasn’t addicted to anything, no major change in lifestyle.
What was different is that I began a discovery of the love of God found for me in Christ Jesus that has captured me these last 25 years. That is how my life is different.
Developing Your Testimony
There are two types of story for conversion testimonies:
Your conversion experience
Your gradual acceptance of it as your own (grew up in the faith).
Think about your life before you met the Lord or before you knew that the faith of your parents was now yours.
- What was going on in your life leading up to your conversion?
- What problems or needs were you facing at the time?
- How did your life change after that?
- What was the spiritual need that propelled you to seek after God?
- What made the offer of salvation attractive enough to repent?
You may not have had a conversion experience like mine or the Apostle Paul’s.
You may have always grown up knowing that you were a follower of Christ, but perhaps there was a season where you tried to set that faith aside and it didn’t work. This is how my friend describes owning his own faith.
He grew up in a Christian family, lots of Christian influences, and always remembers having a relationship with Christ. But in college, he tried to set aside that part of his life and it became a mess. He saw the descent that he was making and put a stop to it. He evaluated that experience and decided that life with Christ is much better.
Action 1: If you haven’t done so already, set aside a few moments to think back to how you became a Christian or owned your own faith. Spend some time journaling your story so that you can get very familiar with it.
The goal is not to tell every aspect of your story every time. Rather the goal is to get familiar with it so that you can share the appropriate details at the right time.
Action 2: Ask permission of a non-Christian friend to have a listen to your story. Ask them what they didn’t understand so that you know where you need to clarify. They may point out some wholes that you need to fill in.
- 8 Steps to Use Your Personal Testimony
- The power of personal testimony
- Personal Evangelism Testimony Questionnaire
- Evangelism as Storytelling
- The power of testimony