The Cure for the Boring Testimony

It’s pretty standard in Christian small groups to share a personal testimony about your life and the events surrounding your conversion to Christianity. For many people, sharing their personal testimony is—if they were to be honest—a little bit dreadful, in the sense that there isn’t much of a story to be told. They weren’t drug dealers, prostitutes, or murderers before their conversion to Christianity. Frankly, most of them were children.

I once heard the story about a woman who was in the porn industry before she was converted to Christianity. Since her experiences enabled her to know first-hand the kind of conditions that surround other men and women in the industry, she was able to use her testimony as a way of reaching out to others who may be trapped or recovering from being in the pornography business. Now married, her husband has helped her establish a ministry for the sole purpose of aiding those who are still dealing with the repercussions that follow. I was encouraged to see that someone who had been in the same awful place as many men and women around the world, was using her experiences to help spread the gospel and minister to the hurting and to the broken. Who could nominate a better person to reach that people group, than someone who had been part of that group themselves?

A slight danger

Christians might hear a story like this and think, “This is how God takes a broken life and uses it for something incredible.” It’s true, God is capable and often does use people’s experiences to reach the hurting for his glory. Think of the story of Joseph in Genesis. Joseph is despised and betrayed by his brothers; he is sold into slavery; he is forgotten in prison. But at the end of story, when the broken bones are mending and tears of reconciliation are falling, Joseph says to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”[1] God is fully capable of bringing good from evil, which is precisely what has happened in the story of Joseph. In a similar fashion, God is able to take the horror of our circumstances and turn them around for the purpose of good—if it is his will. However, there is a problem when we begin to think that we must have an ‘interesting’ testimony in order for this to happen. While trying not to be too critical, the problem that I began to notice as I listened to the woman who was a former porn star was that her entire life was still built on the porn industry—not in the sense that her ministry was geared towards the porn industry (it was), but in the sense that she identified herself as the ex-porn star. Everything would rise and fall on that.

There is absolutely nothing wrong using our testimonies to reach those who have living through similar experiences. Stories can be instrumentally used for this purpose. But a story of a person’s life is not the point of a testimony. Take a brief look at part of Paul’s story:

“Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”[2]

Whatever achievements Paul had in Judaism were nothing compared to the riches of knowing Christ. Paul would have trumped any testimony you or I could give, and yet his focus is razor sharp: It’s all about the power of the gospel.

You are not your testimony

There is the danger of a person’s testimony overshadowing the purpose of the testimony. The purpose of the testimony is to point to Christ; regardless of the content. That does not mean that we cannot use our stories for God’s glory; it means that our aim is to make Christ the central figure of the story, not us. I’ve come to realize that almost every time I’ve had the opportunity to share my own testimony that I tend to place the emphasis on me instead of Christ. I forget that my past, present and future should be arrows pointing to the cross.

Whether you’ve grown up in the church or lived a life worthy of its own movie script, the purpose of your story, and the central figure of the narrative, is always Christ. Paul was no longer Paul, persecutor of the Church. I am no longer Zack, Prisoner of ________. We are all free through Christ[3], new creations[4], and sons and daughters of God[5]. The cure for the boring testimony is to set the focus onto Christ. What your life may or may-have-not been is simply a build up for the climax of the story: the power of Christ in your life. Remember that entertainment is not the purpose of a testimony, Christ is. Remember that you are not your testimony, you are Christ’s.

[1] Gen 50:20

[2] Phil 3:4-8

[3] Rom 8:2

[4] 2 Cor 5:17

[5] 1 Jon 3:1

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