One of the hardest things a Christian can do is present a testimony. Why is this? I Peter 3:15 states that we should be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you”. We are commanded to be ready and yet so often we are at a loss for words when the moment presents itself. I believe our problem lies in a lack of training in how to present a testimony along with a lack of practice….and quite possibly a fear of rejection.
Years ago, I had the privilege of sitting in on a class which taught how to give a testimony. As I worked on my testimony for class, the instructor came by and told me that I needed to find a way to connect with people rather than just spout off my life history. He suggested that my lack of self-esteem prior to becoming a Christian should be the focus of my testimony. With that in mind, I began to tailor my testimony to be a story of how I grew in confidence through knowing Christ. I have since used that story many times to connect with people who question how I have become so confident once they learn about my past.
Galatians 1:11-24 is a great example of how to give a testimony. In these few verses, Paul is presenting his testimony to the church in Galatia to justify why he had the authority to tell the Galatians what they needed to believe. They were being misguided by a distortion of the Gospel of Christ. Paul begins with a summary of his past persecution of the church followed by a brief accounting of Christ revealed to him. Much of his testimony is then focused on his training and education, finally ending with evidence of people seeing a change in his character. The rest of the book goes on to explain his ministry, authority and instruction to the Galatians.
Paul tailored his testimony to the Galatians. They did not need to hear all about his past training as a Pharisee prior to his conversion like the Jews did in Acts 22. They needed to hear about his education and credentials after his conversion for why he had authority to teach them. We need to learn how to quickly assess the conversation and tailor our testimony to the hearer of the message. For example, if I am conversing with a woman who is struggling with low self-esteem, I will tell her how God changed my life and built my confidence. If I need to explain why I have authority to teach against misguided doctrine (like The Shack), I can focus my testimony on how I was ignorant of Christ before He was revealed to me, gained a desire to learn more about him, and pursued an education through personal study and obtaining degrees.
Having a testimony ready to present should not be feared. Time spent in analyzing how God has changed your life and what you have done since to grow in Him can prepare you to speak with nearly anyone who asks you why you are “different” or “changed” or even why you think you have the right to speak with authority on a topic. A fear of rejection is lessened once your story becomes part of who you are rather than just a tool for evangelism.