I once heard a youth evangelist talk about his earlier preaching days when he would share his testimony at almost every speaking event. He grew up in church, but strayed during his late teen and college years and got into drinking, drugs, sex and partying all the time. He would recount all the gory details of hitting rock bottom. He admitted to us that through telling his testimony over and over, the details were almost glorified and he was tempted to go back to his sinful lifestyle.
Many people spend 95% of their testimony giving us all the juicy details, and then rush the end: “Then I came to church and found God and I don’t do those things anymore.” The end. The specifics of our story are useful to connect and relate with others, but we have to make sure the focus of the testimony is on God, not our sin.
Aside from the details, everyone’s testimony is the same: we are sinners who were lost until we came to Jesus. The Gospel isn’t about the list of sins we committed B.C. (Before Christ). The Gospel is The Good News — about Jesus, not us. Our testimony is that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Obviously, when we tell our story we’re going to share our past. It’s a part of who we are, where we came from and things that have shaped our lives. But I’ve seen far too many testimonies that drone on about all the horrible things from their past, and then not have much to say about Jesus and their new life. Many people also present it in a very depressing way, recounting how ugly sin is but not matching that intensity with the joy and peace found in Christ.
Early in my Christian life while hanging out with friends, my friend Sam and I were talking about our past and being thankful we found Jesus. One girl in the group seemed down, and said that she had a boring testimony because she grew up in church and hasn’t “lived in the world.” I told her that she does have a powerful testimony: of faithfulness. I would see solid Christians and doubt that I could ever be that strong a believer. I had people telling me it was a fad that would pass, that I would slip up or that my faith wouldn’t last. But seeing a Christian like her gave me hope and encouragement that I can walk with God and have a lasting faith as well. She picked her head up with tears welling up in her eyes and a smile on her face and thanked me.
Sharing specifics can be helpful to connect with someone who may be in a similar situation, but the main focus should be on the powerful, life-changing encounter we’ve had with Christ, and how our lives are different because of Him. The growth in our spiritual lives, attitudes, relationships, and other aspects of life are just as important as the rugged path to get here. I was once lost, but now I am found. I was blind, but now I can see. I was dead, but am alive again in Christ.