The Power of Your Testimony
A dynamic testimony can open someone up to receiving the message of the Gospel by witnessing to the reality of Christ's active presence in us, His people. Use this article to train yourself or someone else to share a powerful testimony of Christ's work in your life.
Optional Lectio Divina Prayer
- Read 1 Corinthians 2:1–5.
- Meditate on the words.
- Speak to Christ about the passage.
- Rest and listen in God's presence.
- Discuss together.
To start, share with one another about your best friend and the impact that person has had on
Take a few moment to discuss.
Ultimately, what you just did is exactly what you are doing in a testimony. You are simply sharing with others about your truest, best friend, Jesus Christ, and the impact he has had on your life. The Psalmist reflects this experience when he says, “My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day (Ps 71:55, ESV) and “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul” (Ps 66:16). True Christian disciples want to tell others about Christ. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you.”
Having a testimony ready to use is a powerful tool for sharing the faith. As St. Paul VI once said, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witness.”27 A personal testimony—sharing how Christ has made a difference in your life—grabs people’s attention and often touch hearts more than talking about the ideas of the faith in an abstract way.
Sometimes you might give your testimony in a small group you’re leading. Sometimes you might share it with an individual in discipleship. Many times it’s just great to have ready to go for times when an opportunity comes up in conversation and you want to share your faith with someone: a friend when you’re out for coffee, someone at work, a relative during a holiday gathering.
Sometimes we might be tempted to think that our story isn’t exciting enough. But, God has chosen to work in your life in a particular way for a particular reason. Remember, you are testifying to his work, and that is something to be celebrated. Testimonies of many small ways of turning back to God can be just as powerful as more dramatic stories of conversion.
Your task, if you choose to accept it, is to prepare a three to five minute testimony, practice it with your discipler or another Christian and then share it with non-Christians or those who have fallen away from the Faith. Later on, you can find ways to give a longer testimony of ten to twenty minutes, suitable for larger audiences or even a shorter thirty-second testimony to use in brief conversations.
Discuss: What has been your experience with testimonies? Have you
ever shared yours before? Why are testimonies a powerful tool
for sharing Jesus with the world?
YOUR STORY IN FOUR ACTS (ACTS 26)
Let’s look at Paul’s testimony in Acts 26 as a way to prepare for your own testimony. There are four parts, or “acts,” in Paul’s testimony:
- Life before Jesus Christ
- Coming to know Jesus Christ 135
- Life in Jesus Christ Notes
- An invitation
Read Acts 26:1–29.
Discuss: How does St. Paul’s testimony fit into the four acts?
(The answer is outlined below, along with some questions to consider as you think about each act.)
Act 1: My life before I knew Jesus Christ (Acts 26:1–11)
What kind of a person was I socially, spiritually and emotionally? Pick a unifying theme for the testimony (for example, a familiarity with Christ but no personal knowledge of him, loneliness in college, spiritual hunger, sin and emptiness or the Fatherhood of God). Paul’s unifying theme is his devotion to Judaism.
Within this act, avoid giving too much detail about your sins in your past life. Be modest and discrete in what you share. The audience does not need to know details about drunkenness, sexual sin, etc. Simply saying something like, “I was doing things on the weekends I shouldn’t have been doing” or “struggling with purity” or something similar is usually enough to give people a sense of your real struggle without putting a picture in their minds of you in your sin.
Discuss: What were some of the key differences in your life prior to knowing Christ? How do you see other people today struggling with similar things?
Act 2: How I came to know Jesus Christ (Acts 26:12–18)
What happened? Even if the conversion was gradual, the testimony should still have one concrete moment or turning point for the audience to grasp.
If other people were involved in bringing about the conversion, strive to ensure that this section is Christ-centered and not focused on someone else.
Avoid any over-dramatization. God’s work in our lives is not always easy to express. Consider how you can organize your story so that people will understand what you have been through and who God is.
Discuss: What were some of the key moments in your relationship with
Jesus? What did God do to reveal himself to you? How might
elements of your story appeal to others?
Act 3: My life in Jesus Christ (Acts 26:19–23)
What changes have occurred in my life? How am I living my relationship with Jesus? How has a relationship with Jesus allowed you to live a life that is freer, fuller and more joyful? Emphasize this part of your testimony; the listener needs to know the significance of a relationship with Jesus.
That being said, be careful about the language you choose. Avoid using loaded Christian words and phrases that people might not understand and could separate you from people who are not familiar with them, such as “follow the Spirit,” “indwelling of the Trinity,” “vocation,” “sacraments,” or “dark night of the soul.”
Avoid extremes. Try hard not to come across as a perfected saint. At the same time, don’t dwell on struggles and failures.
Discuss: How has a relationship with Jesus allowed you to live a life that is freer, fuller and more joyful? What do you want others to know about having a relationship with Jesus?
Act 4: The challenge and invitation to the audience (Acts 26:27–29)
Ask the audience, either implicitly or explicitly: How will you respond to Jesus Christ? In a casual setting, it could be as easy as saying, “What’s your experience with spirituality or Christianity?” Remember, the purpose of a testimony is to lead someone to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. Allow your testimony to be an opportunity for someone to hear the message of the Gospel through your story.
Discuss: With what message do you want to leave your listener? What
step do you want them to take?
Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.
ELEMENTS OF A GOOD TESTIMONY (CAST)
When telling your story, keep these four important elements in mind:
CONCRETENESS: Give the audience “handles” to the testimony. Describe experiences, places and persons accurately and unambiguously, yet without obsession over detail. Include an identifiable and specific turning point (how one came to know Jesus Christ), even if it is just one of many turning points. Your testimony should come across as real and ordinary.
ACCESSIBILITY: Describe experiences in such a way that the audience can relate and understand. Choose language free of religious jargon and dense terminology that could separate you from the audience, like “sin,” “tabernacle” or “Eucharistic adoration.” Also, ask yourself, “What parts of my story would be especially meaningful to this person?” You will likely emphasize different aspects of your testimony when you are talking to an atheist versus a lukewarm Christian.
Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you.
SIMPLICITY: Include a “plot” or “thread” that is clear and easy to follow, without confusing tangents or elaborate details. Place Jesus Christ at the center of your testimony. He is its hinge. And be sure to keep it short – 3 to 5 minutes. Testimonies that are longer than five minutes usually get into too many details and don’t have that simple focus for people to follow. A long, meandering testimony loses people and may even turn them off.
THEMATIC STRUCTURE: Create a single overarching theme or analogy. Every point of your testimony should in some way be related to this theme.
Discuss: What are some things that might limit the effectiveness of
your testimony? How can you eliminate those elements? What
would make your testimony powerful?
Fill out the Testimony Worksheet (download link above) to develop your story. After you write down your testimony, share it with your discipler or another Christian. Ask them to give you feedback. Then, ask yourself, “Who would benefit from hearing this testimony?” Make a plan to share your testimony with that person.
St. Pope Paul VI: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witness.”
1 Peter 3:15: “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you.”
The Four Parts of an Effective Testimony—Following St. Paul’s Example (Acts 26): 1) My life before I knew Christ, 2) How I came to know Christ, 3) My life in Christ and 4) Challenge/ Invitation to the Audience.
27 Pope Paul VI. (1975). Evangelii Nuntiandi [Apostolic Exhortation], 41. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/ paul-vi/en/apost_exhortations/documents/ hf_p-vi_exh_19751208_evangelii-nuntiandi.html