Preparing and Giving Your Testimony
by Dr. Case Thorp, Associate Pastor of Mission & Evangelism
“…sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…” 1 Peter 3:15
There are usually two types of testimonies that convey how God found us and called us in to a faith relationship. There is the, “Horse who grew up in the corral” work of God or the “Wild stallion brought in from the plains” storyline that can be more sensational.
God clearly works slowly and subtly bringing people to faith in the same way that a horse growing up on a farm knows his owner well and is comfortable in the confines of the corral. As well, God sometimes moves very clearly and dramatically and we can often name the time and place it occurred. This is akin to that wild stallion who comes in to the corral suddenly and over time learns the ways of the farm. Either way is legitimate, and either way is understandable.
Some ‘corral horses’ are jealous of the stories offered by ‘wild stallions’ because they are more sensational and exciting. However, the wild stallions often long for the experiences of the corral horse because that path is often less bumpy and painful. The corral horses need to know their journey with God is valid and wild stallions need to share the parts of their stories that help others draw closer to the Lord rather than seek undue attention.
Where to Begin
One structure for framing your personal testimony is as follows:
- 3 sentences describing, “My life before Christ…”
- 3 sentences describing, “My encounter with Christ…”
- 3 sentences describing, “My life since being in relationship with Christ…”
As an exercise, write these 9 sentences out and, boom, you have an articulated testimony that others can understand and appreciate.
Key points to remember:
Keep your regular testimony to no more than 5-7 minutes, and prepare a 3-minute version for those with short attention spans.
Watch your words carefully such that they reflect Reformed theology.
Jesus did His “saving” work 2000 years ago on the cross. Rather than using the phrase “When I was saved,” say, “When God opened my eyes and ears to His saving grace and I responded...” Notice the action in the later sentence rests with God, as does our salvation. You didn’t “find Jesus.” God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit finds you.
Rather than saying, “At the age of 10 I asked Jesus into my heart,” since it implies you are the active agent, rephrase the sentence to say, “At the age of 10 God revealed His love and grace to me and I accepted it.”
Mention and summarize sinful encounters and mistakes along the way. However, make sure they add to the power of Christ’s presence now in your life rather than acting as sensational attention grabbers. Strong stories of authenticity and brokenness are often appreciated by others who can identify, for we are all broken, sinful people.
Have two people review your testimony for flow, clarity, and theological appropriateness. I would be honored to review and comment on your testimony if you email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Practice, practice, practice. Good verbal communication only happens with intense preparation and repeated performance. Get your testimony to the point that it flows naturally from your heart rather than a rehearsed paragraph.
An Example: Case Thorp’s Testimony
3 sentences describing, “My life before Christ…”
My life before Christ was rooted in a church going home, but one without a true relationship with God. My parents felt it was the proper thing for the children to be in church to receive a moral foundation. Also, we went because it was the appropriate social thing to do in Southern culture.
Main message here: I was a corralled horse who had to be awakened to the Spirit’s presence. Just because one attends church functions it doesn’t mean they are in relationship with Christ.
3 sentences describing, “My encounter with Christ…”
It was through the friendship and influence of our Director of Christian Education that God’s love and message of grace began to emerge in our family. I encountered Christ during Vacation Bible School at the age of 10 and I opened my heart to the presence of the Holy Spirit, thus securing the salvation Christ offers me from the cross. While I didn’t feel anything physically and there weren’t any major fireworks in that classroom, God began a good work in the young life of a child who honestly clung to the Gospel’s message of hope.
Main message here: I encountered the message of salvation through a discipleship type relationship. My entire family was affected by the DCE’s discipleship. Accepting Christ as one’s Lord and Savior is not necessarily a physical encounter, although it may be.
3 sentences describing, “My life since being in relationship with Christ…”
Since being in relationship with Christ at such an early age, I was able to avoid many of the pitfalls that teenagers and college students encounter. Sure, I wasn’t perfect, but I feel as if my motive to keep my relationship with God good and pure allowed me to avoid a great deal of sin and further dedicate my gifts and time to His service. He called me into ministry during my college years. Seeing my life’s work as a reflection of His glory gives me such joy, peace, and fulfillment.
Main message here: Relationship with God allows for purity from relationship and fulfillment (joy, peace, hope) from service.
Pray that God would give you opportunities to share your testimony, that God would send His Holy Spirit to prepare the hearts of your hearers, and that your faith would be nurtured by seeing the fruit of your testimony.
Questions? Contact Case Thorp at email@example.com.