I’ve been teaching a Sunday school class entitled “Answering Your Bible Questions.” Each week I answer four or five questions. One of them was this question about testimonies.
Based on my experience of 49 years in the ministry (1974 to presenti), I have found these are three major elements found in most testimonies:
- Before I became a Christian, my works were terrible.
- I became a Christian by giving my life to Christ, asking Him into my heart, praying the sinner’s prayer, surrendering to Him, turning from my sins, etc.
- Since I became a Christian, my works have been excellent.
Now here is what an uncommon testimony looks like:
- Before I came to faith, I lacked assurance of where I’d go when I died and that bothered me.
- Someone (friend/pastor/Cru staff/Young Life staff) shared with me the message of John 3:16 (or X) that whoever believes in Jesus has everlasting life. It seemed too good to be true. But he showed me other verses and I was convinced. I became sure that I had everlasting life that could never be lost.
- Knowing that I’m a part of God’s forever family is very important. I love to share this message with others because of how much it means to me. It truly is good news.
A typical testimony today emphasizes my works, my commitment, my reformation of life, and my desire to persevere so that I might go to heaven when I die. Many testimonies do not mention the words believe or faith. Most do not mention everlasting life, irrevocable salvation, or justification that can’t be lost.
An uncommon testimony emphasizes the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ that all who believe in Him have everlasting life that can never be lost. Nothing is said about the improvement in one’s lifestyle. The testifier quotes Scripture showing what led him to believe in the faith-alone message. The emphasis is on the Lord Jesus Christ and His faithfulness, not him and his faithfulness. He talks about belief, not behavior. The security of the believer is highlighted.
I suggest you pattern your testimony to illustrate Jesus’ promise of life as found in John’s Gospel. If it doesn’t, you should change your testimony. Your testimony is only valid if it corresponds with Scripture.
It is a good thing to have an uncommon testimony. Of course, if you do, other evangelicals will criticize you. They may say that your testimony illustrates a false gospel of easy believism. They may point out that you omitted the cost of discipleship. But suffering for Christ is a good thing. And you might help other evangelicals rethink their view of the saving message.
i I spent seven years in seminary. So 49 is stretching things. However, I pastored a church for three of those years. And during the first four years in seminary, I had various part-time ministries (hospital chaplain, intern in the High School department at First Baptist Dallas, instructor in DTS’s lay institute, and one year in campus ministry at SMU).