How To Write A Testimony
Try and sing in the night, Christian, for that is one of the best arguments in the entire world in favor of your religion … I tell you, we may preach fifty thousand sermons to prove the gospel, but we will not prove it half as well as you will by singing in the night.
— Charles Spurgeon
When you give a testimony of how God has healed you, saved you, encouraged, uplifted, taught or delivered you, then many times your friends, neighbors, coworkers, family members and others will give more thought to examining the claims of Christianity, attending a worship service or turning to God in prayer. A simply told Christian testimony can provide a more effective witness for Christ than the most skillful rhetoric or the most intelligent apologetic.
The key phrase to remember when delivering a testimony is the same key phrase of any story: but then ….
- I was hopeless, but then …
- I didn’t care who I hurt or which bridges I burned, but then …
- I was strung out on drugs, heading for the grave. But then …
This phrase and the story that immediately follows will grip your audience. We all want to know how and why someone changes. But often, testimonies skip over the “but then.” We go from “I was lost” immediately to “I am found. I have peace. I’m assured of heaven.”
Maybe this is because few of us have a Damascus Road experience – a dramatic voice from heaven or miraculous encounter that changes everything in one instant. More often, we give our lives to Christ after many conversations with a Christian who demonstrates the love of Christ in our lives, and after a series of setbacks. Maybe we don’t think this is interesting to others.
But this is interesting. It is valuable, and it is helpful. Don’t think that your testimony isn’t worth telling if it doesn’t contain a miraculous game-changing event. To many people – especially those who are hurting – the miracle is that there is even one person who will invest time, energy and emotion into the life of another.
Tell your but then story, and be specific. Do not move to but now until you’ve covered but then. If you’ll do that, and follow these few, quick suggestions, then you’ll have a solid Christian testimony that you can share with the world, regardless of your command of grammar, syntax, wit or rhetoric:
1. Read A Testimony From The Bible
You’ll find the apostle Paul’s in Acts 26. My church, Sojourn, asks people to write a half-page testimony for their baptism. You can download the Baptism Testimony guidelines here – they include specific prompts for modeling your testimony based on the movements of Paul’s in Acts 26.
2. Pray For The Spirit’s Help
Sometimes our thoughts get so jumbled we don’t even know what we should ask for when we pray. But the Bible says the Spirit prays for us. (Romans 8:26). In the same way, God knows our story better than we do. He can help us tell it well.
Before writing your Christian testimony, think about your life prior to Christ. What obstacles were you facing? How did you feel whenever you were alone with your thoughts? Why did you need to change?
4. Outline It In Three Steps: Before, But Then, After
There is a reason why the three-point outline is so effective for a wide range of writing – it’s clear and it works. Stories traditionally have a beginning, middle and end. In the first point, tell us what life was like before, and why you needed to change. In the second point, tell us what brought about that change, and how the change occurred. In the third point, tell us where you are now – how you feel, and what you expect in the future.
5. Be specific.
Make your testimony concrete by including details. Obviously you need to exercise wisdom as your testimony relates to other people – especially if it casts them in a bad light. There is a time to refrain from naming names. But in general, include specific events, places and people. This will make your testimony more concrete to others. For instance:
“At Starbucks I ran into my old friend Carla, whom I hadn’t seen in ten years. As we talked I could tell there was something different about her. When she invited me to come to Sojourn Church with her, it surprised me.”
“I ran into someone I used to know. She invited me to church.”
The power of specificity even makes fictional events seem real — how much more so, a story that is true? In her book Whoever Tells The Best Story Wins, Annette Simmons demonstrates the power of specificity in spreading urban legends, by examining the “Spiders Under The Toilet Seat” legend:
The author of this hoax used sensory details that are so vivid they feel true. The first bites “happened” at an Olive Garden restaurant (specific — a place you know, even if you haven’t been there) from a two-striped Telamonia (Telamonia dimidiate) spider (such a scientific name creates validity). A realistic sounding history provides a plausible back story: A lawyer from Jacksonville returned from Indonesia (familiar sensory details: lawyer, Jacksonville, Indonesia) …
6. Most importantly, remember it’s all about Christ.
You didn’t save yourself, heal yourself, or become more like Jesus on your own effort. The gulf between sinners and our holy, perfect God is only surmountable through the cross of Christ. Keep the focus where it should be, on God’s work in You through His Son, by His Spirit, rather than on your own self-help plans.
Whether you’re a pastor, church communications ministry worker or a new Christian, we’ll post many articles on how to share testimonies and how to encourage your church family members to tell their stories in a variety of ways. Follow our Testimony Tips category of blog posts here at My Song In The Night for more.
“And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony.”
— Revelation 12:11
“If you are a Christian you have experienced God’s power. You might say, “I don’t have one of those crazy stories, like from drug lord to ‘Jesus is Lord.’ But that’s lame. Shame on you for not believing that you have a testimony.
Every testimony is a tribute to God’s power. It’s only by God’s power that we step out of death into life, that we are transfered out of darkness into the kingdom of light, with God’s son Jesus Christ. We need to pray for the wisdom to communicate that. People will see.”
— Sojourn Lead Pastor Daniel Montgomery
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