The Characteristics of an Effective Testimony
A. Personal and Interesting
In order to be effective, a personal testimony must be, in fact, personal.
It cannot come out of a can, or some kind of generally prepared book or other
source. It must be "your" story, not the story of someone else. Folks
will want to know what all this means to you, and what effect it has had on
you, and your life. Remember that you have, in your possession, the greatest
gift ever given, to anybody. Keep that in mind as you tell your
"story." Bored hearers are soon lost. Humans have short attention
spans, unless you are able to bring them along with you.
B. Clear, Concise, and Complete
A second requirement for effectiveness is that your personal testimony must
be clear, concise, and complete. You must be able to convey the essential
information in a comparatively brief amount of time, with little superfluous
information. Superfluous information will tend to muddy the water and distract
your hearer. Essentially, you need to be able to get to the point, without
meandering, rambling or drifting. This is also essential at the time of
delivery, in that you will need to be able to keep the conversation on course.
If your testimony is effective, you will likely have later opportunities to
share all kinds of things from your "life" testimonies, but do save
them for later.
Next, you must be able to share your testimony in a language and manner that
the hearer can readily understand. Christianese (religious jargon) should be
eliminated as much as possible. Where it cannot be eliminated, terms must be
defined, so understanding will be conveyed. You must meet your hearer where he
or she is. They will likely be unwilling to come to where you are.
Next, your personal testimony must be conclusive. Sometimes, you will be
sharing your testimony with fellow believers. They will want to know if, in
fact, you are a fellow believer. Your understanding, acceptance, and conveyance
of the Good News of Messiah must be clear and complete, or your fellows will
not otherwise know what to make of you. This is especially true if you are
seeking membership in a congregation. The leadership will want to know if you
qualify for that membership.
D. Consistent and Credible
Sometimes, your personal testimony will need to be delivered in different
parts, at different times, rather than all in one sitting. This is fine, as
long as context can be retained, and all elements have been included once you
have finished. In this way, your hearer will "accumulate" your
personal testimony as your relationship develops.
You must always, first let the hearer know "who's" you are, so
they will have the context necessary to interpret what they see and hear in
you. My mentor put it this way, "When you enter a room for the first time,
come in singing the song -- with the words. Thereafter, whenever you
enter the room, hum the tune, when they hear the tune, they will remember the
words." This means, let your hearers/observers know who's you are, and
they will then know where your words and deeds are coming from.
Trust me. You will be carefully observed. Remember, your life and responses
to it, are part of your testimony. Make sure that your life lines up with your
words, or you will be dismissed, due to a lack of credibility.
E. Impeccably Honest
While it is very important to us, and to the Holy One, for those we care for
to receive the gift that we have received, we must make certain that the Holy
One can bless what we are saying and doing. The ends never justify the means is
this regard. There must never be any hint of embellishment or deceit in our
personal testimony. The consequences could be disastrous.
F. A Privilege Granted
Finally, remember that the opportunity to share your personal testimony is a
privilege that you "earn." It is not a right. Your hearer must grant
a hearing. You cannot effectively force that hearing. Ears that are closed,
will not receive what is pressed upon them. Also, a question asked is not a
request for the recitation of "War and Peace." Answer the question,
clearly and concisely. Do not try to fill an extended shot glass with a fire
hose. Be sensitive to your hearer, and to the Divine Presence within.