Developing an Effective Testimonyby
Warning: The truths contained in the following teaching are not for the faint of heart, or the lukewarm! You can be sure that haSatan (the adversary) will do all he can to keep you from understanding and applying the concepts and truths contained herein, but it is our prayer that every one who receives these notes will carefully consider and apply the contents to their lives.
So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our G_d, and the power of His Messiah have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our G_d day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death."
(Rev 12:9-11),emphasis and emendation added)
Each of us, who are "in Messiah," are tasked to go into the world and share the Good News of Messiah with all who will listen:
And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned."
The problem with this charge is, like other forms of public speaking, this task can be very intimidating. Most of us simply feel inadequate to share the Good News in a competent and effective manner. Most of us are not theologians, nor are we highly trained in biblical "apologetics." What a relief it will be to discover that we really do not require such training or education. Each of us is already endowed with a ready means of sharing what we surely hunger to share with those we care about. We each have a personal testimony.
Though each of us has a personal testimony, we rarely think about it, unless we are called upon to share it. Then we become intimidated and tend to choke, trying to pull it out of our proverbial hats, on the fly. Discovering this hindrance, can enable us to work to overcome this barrier, so we can be about our Father's business, and that, at any time the opportunity presents itself.
But sanctify the L_rd G_d in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
One of the reasons for the intimidation we feel is that we have failed to adequately prepare ourselves for what we have been called to do. Simply, most of us have failed to take the time to develop our personal testimonies, likely because we do not know what constitutes an "effective" testimony. This teaching is intended to provide what we need, regarding what we should know, and what we should do. Once we have that down, all we will require is experience, learning how, and when, to share our prepared gifts with others.
II. What is a Personal Testimony?
Generally speaking, our "testimonies" are organic accumulations of life experiences, as relating to our relationships and interactions with our Creator, before and after we submitted our lives to Him. We can, and naturally do, appeal to these "stories," as needed, when we want to strengthen our own resolves, exhort or encourage others, share how the Holy One has manifested His presence in our lives, etc. The subject of this teaching involves a specific subset of our accumulated "life" testimonies, that subset being our "personal" testimonies.
In the context of this study, one's "personal" testimony is a self-contained "package" of information, used to share how we came to become a part of the Commonwealth of Believing Israel, or G_d's family of believers.
In order to be effective, this package must contain each and all of the essential elements, or ingredients. If any element is missing, the testimony is defective, simply meaning that it is missing something essential. Therefore, it is likely not going to accomplish its goals. We will list and examine each of the essential elements as we go.
III. The Characteristics of an Effective TestimonyA. 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.C. Conclusive
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.
IV. The Personal Testimony Package
The following illustrates what a concise, effective, and conclusive testimony looks like from outside:
This section should contain information about your life, before your new birth experience. The following lists some suggestions, regarding what should be included. Your testimony may contain several, but does not need to include all of these. What your "Before" section should contain is information that will show significant change in comparison to your "After" section. The tie-in with your "After" section is not required for all entries in your "Before" section, but some tie-in helps with the effectiveness of your testimony.
(Note: Do not do as others have done, and try to impress others with how bad you were "Before." This could be counter-productive, and adds little to the mix. You do not need to be an axe-murderer to need Messiah's gift.)B. The Gospel
This is the beating heart of your personal testimony. For those that may hear your testimony as persuasive, this section should provide them with the essential information and understanding they would require to make an informed decision, regarding their own potential new birth. For those that may be trying to determine if you are a fellow believer, this section should provide enough information to be conclusive for the hearer.
The following lists the essential elements for your "Gospel" section. Your presentation must include each of these elements in some form, or it will be defective (missing something essential), and it will be inconclusive.
While each of the above elements must be included, they should not be stated exactly as stated above. Rather, they need to be incorporated into your life story, and personalized. You do not want your testimony to come across as formulaic, even though it is, somewhat.
This section should contain information about your life, after your new birth experience. The following lists some suggestions, regarding what should be included. Your testimony may contain several, but does not need to include all of these. There should be some kind of tie-in with at least some of the information contained in your "Before" section. This is to provide a compare/contrast perspective, to show that G_d actually did make essential changes in you.
As you can see, you will not be able to slap together an effective, conclusive personal testimony on the fly. You will need to apply yourself diligently to develop your own. Once you have developed your testimony, and gained experience with sharing it, you will find that you are more relaxed and willing to share it. You will also be able to tweak it slightly, depending on the specific circumstances surrounding the opportunity to share it. Fear not, the Divine Presence is always there to guide you, and present opportunities to you, if you will only say to Him, "Hineni" (Here I am. I am available. Send me.).
1 All Scripture references are from the New King James version, unless otherwise specified.