Don't Just Share Your Testimony
by Randy Newman
I can't remember anyone ever asking me for the evidences for the resurrection or a list of prophecies fulfilled by Jesus or examples of intelligent design in our physical universe. But I can remember several instances when someone inquired about "how I became religious." People want to hear about my experiences more than my convictions. Perhaps that's due to our experience-obsessed culture. Or maybe it's always been the case that people like to compare their lives with others.
I think, at one point, I stopped presenting evidences, arguments, and proofs and only offered experiences. That was, after all, what people had asked for. I was even told by older Christians, "People might reject your arguments, but they can never deny your testimony." Remarkably, however, they did deny my testimony---quite regularly. They dismissed it with the imbibed mantra, "What is true for you is not true for me."
Apostle Paul Model
Is there another way to think about sharing my testimony? Should I have given up on that evangelistic tactic altogether? Are there better ways to "make the most of every opportunity" (Col. 4:5)?
As is so often the case, when all else failed, I resorted to the Bible. It's amazing how much that book has to offer about living the Christian life.
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I recalled several evangelism training seminars that pointed me to Acts 26 where Paul "shared his testimony." I was encouraged (and I think I've used this passage to encourage others) to craft a testimony that described what my life was like before coming to faith, the circumstances through which I came to faith, and how my life is different now that I have come to faith. But that is exactly what people dismissed with the "true for you but not for me" speech.
So I read the text a bit more carefully. Indeed, Acts 26 records Paul sharing his testimony. But it's more than the three-fold model I was instructed to follow. Paul wove together a tapestry of his experiences, pre-evangelistic prompters, doctrinal elements, apologetic arguments, and even a call for a decision. While Agrippa did not respond as Paul had hoped (and prayed!---see his comment in verse 29), and accused Paul of losing his mind (v. 24), the king didn't offer any dismissive, relativistic gibberish about "true for you but not for me."
Note that the text calls Paul's speech a "defense" (v. 1). That's probably a better description than a "testimony," and offering a defense is probably a better goal for us than merely sharing our story…
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