Your testimony is a powerful tool to contextualize the gospel for people who don’t yet know Christ.
One of the most effective tools in your evangelism tool belt is your testimony, the story of how the gospel shapes your life. There are times that your testimony serves as a real-life illustration. Other times, it serves as the main content of the conversation. If you end with a question like, “Has anything like this ever happened to you?” It invites others to trust Christ too.
Before we go farther, a few words of warning:
• Your testimonies do not prove the truthfulness of the gospel. It is true because it is God’s story.
• Guide others to place their faith in Jesus, not in you. The gospel, not your testimony, is the power unto salvation.
• When possible, use Scripture. Remember, faith comes by hearing the Word of God.
• Fill your story with everyday language.
Consider two types of testimonies:
YOUR SALVATION STORY: HOW YOU TRUSTED JESUS AS SAVIOR
This story usually has four parts:
1. Your life before you were a Christian. Be brief, but take time to show the struggles you faced as an unbeliever. Talk about the penalty of sin in your life. Here, you’re answering the questions “Have you been a Christian your whole life?” or “Do you know what my life is like?”
2. How did you realize that you needed to become a Christian? What happened to cause you to question your lifestyle? Was there an internal change? Did something happen in your life? How did God reveal your need for him?
This is a critical moment in your testimony. It is the experience that the other person may be dealing with right now. Your story can help them understand what is happening and provide hope.
3. What steps did you take to become a Christian? Provide a clear presentation of the gospel. Tell them how to become a Christian. Use biblical language: “When I realized I was a sinner, I prayed and asked Jesus to save me.” Use Scripture passages that explain what it means to become a Christian.
You might say, “For my whole life I thought that I had to be good for God to love me. But I finally realized this was not true. Instead, the Bible says that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. When I realized this, I bowed my head, and I called out in prayer. I asked God to save me.”
4. How has your faith improved your life? Usually, the answer to this question can be found in the brokenness you mentioned earlier with your struggles. We cannot promise what God will do for others. But we can talk about the blessings of salvation.
YOUR SITUATIONAL STORY: HOW YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS HELPED YOU THROUGH A DIFFICULT SEASON
Has your child walked away from the faith? Did you get a bad diagnosis from a doctor?
Have you felt like a failure? Have you been afraid of failure … or success? Did you achieve a life goal or dream job?
Have you fallen into sin? Are you suffering because of stupid/sinful decisions? Are you suffering because of the sin of others?
The power of this type of storytelling is that it enables you to identify with others. You give a personal witness about how Jesus can help right now. It is not necessary for your situation to be identical; it is enough for you to be experiencing similar emotions.
Your situational story usually consists of three points:
1. Describe the situation. Imagine a friend talking with you about a crisis or asking advice on how you handle certain situations in your life. Share about a time you experienced similar emotions. There is no need to go into great detail. The other person is already living it. Your goal is to help them understand that Jesus is alive, and the gospel impacts real-life crises.
2. How did Jesus help you survive (even thrive) in that specific situation? This is your testimony of the present, living power of the gospel. How did your relationship with Jesus help? Did you gain strength, patience, wisdom, companionship? Did God’s forgiveness supply hope? Did God’s presence help you endure failure?
Keep these points in mind:
• Don’t promise that God will do the exact same thing in the exact same way.
• Point them to the Bible, not your experience, as the source of hope.
Your goal is to answer the question, “Does the Christian message only apply to life after death? Is there any real hope in this broken world?”
3. How does the gospel give you hope in other situations? When David faced Goliath, he was confident because he had experienced God’s protection in other situations in life. “The Lord who rescued me from the paws of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Sam 17:37).
Our relationship with Jesus affects every area of our lives. People who are not Christians do not understand how powerful and dynamic the gospel is. Your story puts the message in terms they understand.
Take a few minutes and jot down your salvation testimony and several situational testimonies. Get comfortable by practicing with a friend or family member.
This article originally appeared on LifeWayVoices.com.