When you’re talking with a friend, and you sense you the need to share about how your relationship with God has changed your life, what do you say? How do you start?
One of the most powerful ways to share the love of God with someone is to simply tell your own story – or in “Christianese,” share your testimony.
I love what Shelby Abbott says on the topic in his book, Jacked, “Your story is authentically and uniquely ‘you.’ It’s not a debate, it’s not pushy, it’s not fake, and it doesn’t feel like religious propaganda because it’s coming from your heart. Very rarely will someone argue with you about your own story. In fact, they are more likely to engage you and ask clarifying questions, which in turn pushes the dialogue about Jesus to another, more personal, level.”
I’ve been on two missions trips and been a counselor at a Christian camp. Because of these events, I’ve had to think about and write my story. I’ve read lots of different guidelines on how to best present your spiritual life to someone in a ten minute conversation; I’ve listened to people gives talks on the subject; and I’ve had my own story edited and re-written multiple times. However, the best advice or example I’ve read of sharing your story can be found in the book of Galatians. In the first chapter, Paul shares his story. What better guideline than the testimony of one of the greatest’s missionaries ever?
The first thing to note about Paul’s story is his organization. He first talks about his life before he met God, then how he met God, and finally what his life looked like after having met God. Pretty simple: before, how, after.
Today, I want to focus on the before. Let’s look at what Paul’s life was like before He met God:
“For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.”
After reading Paul’s testimony, here are three things to think about when crafting your own:
- Don’t sugar-coat it. Paul plainly tells his audience that he actually persecuted Christians before he became one. Be honest and open about what your life used to be like. And it’s ok if you’re still struggling with some of the things you used to struggle with. The more real you are with someone, the more they will want to be real in return.
- Don’t glorify your sin. Paul talks openly about his sin, but he doesn’t make it sound like he was really cool or rebellious because of his sin. I remember hearing someone’s testimony and he talked about how, before starting a relationship with God, he was addicted to drugs and alcohol. In fact, most of his talk centered around this and it almost seemed like he was bragging. That is ridiculous. Don’t brag about your sin or try to glorify yourself. Be real about your sin, but make sure you get the point across that what you were doing was sin.
- Think of a theme. Paul focuses on his role in Judaism and his zealousness in following the law. I’m sure there are plenty of other things he struggled with, but he chose one specific topic. When telling your story, think of one specific sin that you really struggled with before God entered your life. I don’t know enough about the Galatians to say this confidently, but maybe they were struggling with something similar. It’s always great if you can relate to someone in your story. Maybe your friend is having a hard time accepting her body and struggles with self-image. If you’ve struggled in the past with the same thing, talk about it. Let her know she’s not alone in her battles.
On an unrelated note: check out this really good, Bible-centered approach to Halloween by Lies Young Women Believe. I always struggle with whether celebrating the spooky holiday is ok or not and this article contains some great points addressing that. Read it here.