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Writing Your Personal Testimony

In the past 45 years, my wife and I have worked with college students, high school students and international students. And in every case we would say the most important tool in your toolbox of ministry is a well-prepared personal testimony. That’s what I’m going to talk with you about today. Many people try to build their testimony over a tight chronology, but building it around a theme is a much more sensible and powerful way to move forward.

So we want to talk about, what is your theme and don’t think only about the externals in your life. Don’t only think of the habits Christ has changed, and I’m sure there are many. But we want to burrow down more into the motivations. We want you to think about your inner life, the longings you have, the unmet and unfulfilled aspects of your life before you knew Christ. The nagging questions that bothered you. Problems with relationships, whatever it might be.

Think broadly about really what it meant to be living in a fallen world. And think more about your inner attitudes, feelings and desires than about the external issues. One reason we want to do this, it can connect with every single person you talk with, because we all can relate on that level. But it also creates a story that is compelling because when people see the change Christ has produced in your life, it makes a strong witness.

But not only that, as you reflect on these things, it’ll warm your heart, and remind you of the wonderful work of Christ in you. The biggest benefit is that you’re ready almost at a moment’s notice. The other day at a dinner party, a young man leaned over to me and said, “My wife has a question for you.” I said, “Yeah, what’s that?” She said, “How did you get into religion?” And I was so glad to have that question because I knew how I was going to answer her. I told her my testimony.

When it’s thought through and prepared, you’re able to be clear and you’re able to be concise. Most people cannot listen for a long time. A three-minute testimony is considered optimum. If you can bring it down to three minutes, you’ll be able to expand it to five or 10 or even 20. The last benefit I can think of is you’re the expert. There are skeptics out there, but you’re the expert on your own life. You know what God has done in your life, and you can speak about it with confidence.

In 1 Peter 3:15, it says, “But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for the reason, for the hope that is in you.” So Peter’s exercitation to us as a good reason for us to prepare a well thought through personal testimony. If you read Acts, you’ll see that the apostle Paul gave his testimony at least three times first in chapter nine, then in chapter 22, and finally in Chapter 26, before King Agrippa and Bernice.

In each case, it’s almost identical. In the last case, if you read it out loud, it takes almost three minutes to read. What’s interesting about his outline is, it follows a very common sensical flow. He talks about his life before he met Christ. Then he talks about how he met Christ on the road to Damascus. Then he begins to talk about his life afterwards. We’d like to follow the same outline as we construct our personal testimonies.

I’d like you to take a three by five card right now, and a pencil because we’re going to have you construct your testimony around its basic theme. And I have a really intriguing question for you. What is the main difference Christ has made in your life? You might think of it in terms of the front of the card. I once was, blank and on the back of the card, but now I’m, blank. This could take a while to think over. I encourage you, pray over it. Think about it.

I’m going to give you time to work on it. And when you’re done, you can come back and we’ll continue the workshop. I’d like you to write out on the front, what is the main theme that you see and the change that Christ has produced in your life. And on the back, how have you seen that change worked out? So I’ll let you work on that.

Well, it might have been easy for you. Some find this very challenging. We’re going to jump ahead to the middle part of your testimony now. How you came to Christ and for some this will be very easy. Very few of us will have as dramatic a testimony as the apostle Paul, but all of us will have a testimony. We want to think back, how did I come to Christ? But don’t get hung up on the chronology of it. You want to think there might be a moment in time where you’re sure that’s when you became a Christian.

For me, I know exactly when it was. It was one night, the end of my freshman year at Penn state. That was the night I invited Christ in is my savior and Lord. But some of you may have received Christ as a child and then maybe even made a recommitment later in life. Or for some of us it’s really unclear. There probably was a moment where you came to actual faith, but you may not know exactly when it was. Don’t get hung up by that.

Let me talk further with you about how to handle those situations. When you’re sharing how you came to Christ, you want to set the scene. So for me, I could say I was in the snack bar at Penn state, April of my freshman year and I was talking with a friend about what it meant to be a Christian. I can even remember I had just finished eating a cheeseburger. Afterwards, I noticed immediate change in my life. So for me it was a very clear point in time.

But for some of us you might say, I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but I know over a period of time I began to understand that God loved me, that I was a sinner, that Christ died for me and rose from the dead, and that I could respond in faith to him and receive him as my savior and Lord. You don’t have to get all hung up on the exact moment. Some of you will say, I know I’ve received Christ as a child, but it wasn’t until junior high or high school that it really became real to me, and I began to realize the real importance of the Gospel.

But when you’re sharing this part of your story, how you came to Christ, you want to be sure to include the basic elements of the Gospel. So for me, I would say that my friend shared with me that God loves me, that I’ve sinned, that Christ died and rose again, and then I had to receive him. But for me personally, the fourth point was the one that I never had understood before. So when I understood I could receive Christ by faith, then it all came together for me.

You want to do this in a way that any of your listeners would be available to receive Christ if they were ready. And in a large audience, you never know who the Lord has prepared. So I would actually say, I came to point where I invited Christ into my life. I actually prayed a prayer like this, “Lord Jesus, I need you. I open the door of my life; I receive you as my savior and Lord, thank you for dying on the cross for me. Take control of my life and make me the kind of person you want me to be.”

I only go through that so that for any seekers out there who might be primed and ready, they’ll have a clear idea what it really means to receive Christ. Now, let’s go to your outline. I’ve just covered the center section of your outline, how you came to Christ. We want to talk about explaining your life before and explaining your life after. This is where if you’re working with internationals, you want to think about how your point will sound to someone from another culture, someone who may be very different from you.

And frankly, all of us probably could write several testimonies because there’s so many different aspects to our life, as we came to Christ and saw him changes. For me, the three that I have would be how Christ totally transformed my relationship with my mother. Another one is growing up in the 60s and 70s. And, drugs and alcohol. And how they influenced my life. And the third one is my search for meaning and purpose. Now, if I’m going to talk to an old lady’s group, a prayer group at Church, I probably use the first one.

I found that with teenagers, the drug and alcohol testimony was very effective. I’ve found with internationals, they’re much more interested in hearing about my search for truth, my search for meaning and purpose in life. This is a topic and a concept they can embrace and understand. So you want to think about your main point and ask, is this really relevant to an international student? I’ve written a blog where I share my testimony. It’s called Legend of the Seeker.

A curious thing happened. At first, mostly Americans were reading the blog, but over time now the majority have been from India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Russia, and other places around the globe. That testimony resonates more with an international audience than some of my other testimonies would have. Now, what you want to do is make your main point, but then illustrate it. And so if I’m going to say, my main point was that I was seeking for truth, that I felt that there was a hole in my heart, that I needed more.

That life was meant to be more. The way I would illustrate it is, my senior year in high school, I began to try to read the Bible and I couldn’t get all the way through. So I decided, well, I’ll just read the New Testament, but I couldn’t get all the way through that either. So I thought I’ll read the red printing in my family Bible. So that’s what I did. And I vividly remember summer of my senior year, I lean back and thought, “Now what’s my conclusion from reading the Red Printing?”

And I concluded, I would like to follow Christ, but I don’t know how. That’s my illustration of where I was as a young person. And I just told you a quick little story, probably took one minute to tell. This is how I’m recommending you tell your testimony. Give the point and then illustrate it. Your illustration should be clear and very pointed. And it should be easy to understand. Be careful of certain terminology that would be easily understood by a Christian, but would be confusing to non-Christians.

Several come to mind immediately. I hate to say them because I don’t want to sound disrespectful. Many of our Christian terms are loaded with meaning, but to a non-Christian they can sound very strange. Other thing is be careful of denominations and religions. You don’t want to talk about others in a negative or pejorative way. It could ruin the testimony that you’re trying to have. And so just be careful of, any of those things that would be a distraction to your listener.

A few years ago I was training a young lady about how to prepare her testimony. And her theme was she felt alienated. She didn’t have many friends, adorable teenage girl with loads of leadership ability. I couldn’t understand how she actually felt. And I was trying to help her come up with an illustration that would prove her point. So after she thought about it a while, she said, “I think I have my illustration.

For homecoming, I got all dressed up, I was ready to go, sitting in the living room, and after about 15 minutes, my date never showed up. After about 30 minutes, my date never showed up. After an hour, he still hadn’t shown up. After two hours, I called him and he said he changed his mind. He wasn’t going.” I’ve never forgotten that illustration. It just showed in about a 22nd timeframe how she really felt and she went onto share how Christ has changed her life.

It’s a powerful testimony, but your illustration should be brief. This is where we tend to really burn up the clock. And so think about it. You can tell a very vivid illustration very quickly. They should be easy to picture. It’s one thing to say, “I was looking for meaning and purpose.” You know, it’s another thing to say, “I climbed to the top of Mount Jumonville where there’s a huge cross and I prayed and said, “God, you’ve got to show me the way.” And that is what actually happened in my life.

So think about your illustrations. They should connect well with your points. The other cool thing about a good illustration is, they’ll really help the listener understand you as a person. And it makes your story very personal. And then of course you want to allow the listener to see the change Christ has made. So whatever points you make in the before, you want to be sure and go back to and the after. In many testimonies I’ve listened in and heard they’ll have an interesting before and an interesting after, but they don’t always connect.

And it always makes you wonder, did they quit the drugs and alcohol or not? You know. Sure, now they have more friends, but what happened to their other issue? You know. So always ask the question, do they really connect?

So in conclusion, you’re going to see that you have some work to do. This is just a short workshop, but your testimony is really yours to produce. And so here’s a simple outline you can follow. First, construct that outline, before, how you received Christ, and after.

And again, don’t get hung up on the chronology of things. Just get to the fact that Christ has changed my life. Write your testimony out word for word; include an introduction and a conclusion. Probably take two or three pages, and after you’ve done that, let a close friend read over it and give you feedback. I think it’d be great to have an international person read over it and give you their honest feedback. Does it make sense?

I recently shared my testimony at an Easter event and I talked to a Hindu afterwards. He said he loved my talk, but he couldn’t understand much of it. And I said, “Oh, what was hard to understand?” And he smiled and said, “Well, you’re a monotheist, I’m a polytheist. You know, it’s hard for the two of us to connect.” Well, I didn’t know exactly how to respond to that, but it was helpful for me to be reminded that a lot of the things we say are not easily understood by people from far away cultures.

So get honest feedback on your testimony. And then rewrite it, correct the things that come out, and then practice reading or saying it out loud. In front of a mirror often helps and make further adjustments. Be sure and time it. See if you can get it in around three minutes, and if you can go present it. That’s where the rubber is really going to hit the road. So this has been fun being with you. I hope these tips help. Like I said, this is up to you to produce this wonderful tool, but I think these guidelines will serve you well.

Writing Your Personal Testimony


Do you remember your life before Christ? The longings and nagging questions and problems you had? What is the main difference Christ has made in your life? How was your inner life changed? By exploring and detailing your own personal transformation, Zeke teaches how you can have a powerful evangelism tool that’s with you at all times.

Do you remember your life before Christ? The longings and nagging questions and problems you had? What is the main difference Christ has made in your life? How was your inner life changed? By exploring and detailing your own personal transformation, Zeke teaches how you can have a powerful evangelism tool that’s with you at all times.