Share your story in a compelling way.
The Apostle Paul was on trial for his life. The charges against him were telling people that Jesus is King and calling everyone to trust and follow Him. However in a day when Caesar demanded ultimate loyalty, Paul’s message was a dangerous one. Standing in chains before King Agrippa, Paul launched into a clear defense against these charges and also explained how he had come to believe in Jesus.
This dramatic story unfolds in (Acts 26.1-29 ESV). In this courtroom setting, Paul gives a great picture of how to share your personal testimony. An effective testimony can be broken down into three stages:
The first stage is what your life was like BEFORE you met Christ.
Paul told about how he was very religious and how he followed the laws of Moses, practicing the strictest form of Judaism. He also spoke about his past hatred for Christians, even to the point of murdering some and throwing others in prison (Acts 26.4-11 ESV). This was Paul before he met Jesus. Your testimony needs to begin with what your life was like before you met Jesus. What was your life like? Did you grow up in an irreligious or religious home? How did that background shape your thinking? How did you live your life at that time? Were you searching for God or living for yourself? Be careful not to glorify your sin at this point. The goal is not to brag about how bad you were, but to explain how badly you needed Jesus. Your story begins with your life before Jesus.
The second stage is HOW you met Christ.
Paul continued; telling how he set out to Damascus to persecute Christians, and along the way, had an encounter with Jesus that knocked him to his feet leaving him blind. It was then that Jesus spoke to Him saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Jesus also told Paul that from now on he was going to carry the message of the Gospel around the world, telling people everywhere to turn to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation (Acts 26.12-18 ESV). This is how Paul met Jesus. Your story needs to move from what your life was like before Christ to how you came to hear the Gospel and believe in Jesus. You may tell what circumstances led you to hear the Gospel. Who shared it with you? What caused you to be open to the Gospel? What crisis or problems were you facing at the time? Share how you actually came to pray to receive Christ and believe in Him.
The final stage is the difference in your life AFTER you met Christ.
Paul told Agrippa that his whole life changed after he met Jesus. Before that, Paul persecuted Christians; afterward he was a passionate missionary, telling people how to know Jesus and planting churches everywhere he went. This stage is where you want to share the difference Jesus has made in your life. Maybe you were an angry person before, but Jesus gave you peace in your heart. Maybe you were driven for earthly success, but now you live with an eternal perspective. Maybe you were tied up with guilt, but you found forgiveness and freedom. At this point, your story shouldn’t focus as much on you as it does on the power of Jesus to change a life.
As you work on your story, here are some things to consider. First, keep it short and simple. You should be able to share your testimony in two minutes or less. Work on keeping it short and to the point for maximum impact.
Second, think about the overarching theme of your story and then tie the three stages to that theme. For example, maybe your theme is hope. Before Christ you didn’t have any hope, but then you heard about how Jesus could make your life new and give you hope. Now you are living with tremendous hope. Think about what theme ties your story together.
Finally, be honest about your present struggles. Just because you know Jesus doesn’t mean that everything is perfect in your life. Admitting that Jesus continues to help you and grow you only adds credibility to your story.
Written by Craig Etheredge
This blog was originally posted on discipleFIRST’s blog, which you can access here. Used by permission.
Craig is a gifted communicator, author, and Bible teacher. Craig and his family moved to Colleyville, Texas in July 2007 to serve as lead pastor of First Baptist Church where he currently serves. In addition to leading the local church, Craig is involved in the local community serving on the Board of Directors for Baylor Hospital, Grapevine, Board of Directors of Christian Counseling Associates, Mission Board SBTC, Chaplain for the Colleyville Police Department, and football chaplain for Birdville High School. He has a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Craig met his wife, Liz, in the fifth grade and they have two daughters, Leah Beth and Abbie.