Stories are incredibly powerful. There is a reason why novels outsell instruction manuals, why Jesus taught in parables, and why a company that is trying to sell beer would spend millions of dollars to show a TV ad about a horse.
You don’t have to be good at sharing your testimony for it to be effective, because God can work with anything. But being good at it doesn’t hurt, either. If nothing else, knowing how to share your story will make you more confident and comfortable in doing so, so you will do it more often.
To help, here are 10 tips on how to tell your story:
Have a story to tell. You can’t really be a witness to something you haven’t seen. If you have never heard or understood the gospel, don’t know what will happen after you die, or think that you can get into heaven by being good enough: stop reading right here and call or email me now.
Divide it into three parts. Almost all stories use a three-act structure. For your testimony, the three acts are:
Your life before Christ. This sets up the problem, which is that you are sinful and need saving.
Christ. Explains how and why you came to trust in Jesus for salvation.
Your life since Christ. This explains how things are different as a result.
Be open. There is a huge power in talking openly about your past mistakes, especially major ones. The person you are talking to has issues just as big as yours and needs to know that anyone can be saved regardless of what they have done.
Be honest. After being saved, you now live life perfectly, right? Of course not. Don’t give the impression that being a Christian is about being perfect and never again sinning. They might miss the point and think that they just have to go behave themselves, or think that they could never be saved because they can never be as perfect as you.
Make sure Jesus is the hero. Every good story has a hero. You are not the hero; you are the damsel in distress. Don’t turn it into “I overcame” or “I figured it out.” Even your strength and abilities are gifts from God.
Share the gospel. In act two of your story, you hear and accept the gospel. Make sure you include what that good news was in your retelling.
Avoid Christianese. Were you washed in the blood of the lamb? I hope not, because that would be disgusting. It is a metaphor that only works with people who know the meaning behind it. And the propitiatory atonement—just stop. Use CNN language, not church-speak.
Keep it short. Or shortish. Your life story is really long, and you don’t have to tell them everything. Different situations call for different levels of detail, and your testimony could be as long as War and Peace or as short as 132 characters. But most of the time it needs to be 3 minutes or less.
Make it relevant. Part of keeping it short is choosing what to cut out and what to leave in. Leave in the parts that your audience will be most likely to relate with personally.
Pray. Do this now, before you ever tell your story. Pray that God will give you the words to say when that time comes and that He will use your story to change someone’s eternity. Only He can do that; our job is just to be faithful in the telling.
If you have any testimony tips of your own, I’d love to hear them. Please post them in the comments below.