"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)
God has provided an open door. A conversation with a friend, an acquaintance, or a family member turns to spiritual questions, and suddenly you find yourself with an opportunity to explain what having a relationship with God really means.
What should you do now?
If you've ever been in this situation, you may have:
- Eagerly explained the gospel using the "Romans Road" or the Four Spiritual Laws.
- Offered a watered-down, cliché-filled explanation of the gospel so as not to offend their beliefs.
- Told them that you'd ask your pastor to call them at his earliest convenience.
No matter where your comfort level rests in terms of personal evangelism, the reality is that God has opened this door of opportunity and He desires to use you to change someone's life. Incredible thought, isn't it? How can you do that? Formulas, techniques, and strategies aside, perhaps the most valuable way for you to share the best thing that's ever happened to you is to tell your own story. Share candidly and personally with your friend or family member how your life has changed since you gave your life to Christ.
TELL YOUR PERSONAL STORY
A testimony is simply a firsthand account. When you tell someone your testimony, you open your life to them in a non-threatening way—you explain who Jesus Christ is and the personal difference He has made in your life. When you give evidence as to how the power of God has transformed your life, you illustrate one instance of the miracle of salvation. Even if your testimony isn't filled with fireworks and tragedy, it's a miracle.
People are looking for evidence that God exists and that He is personally involved in individual lives. Your story proves that God wants to know you . . . and them. More than a formula or technique, evangelism is a way of living—of being available to God in the opportunities He gives us.
PREPARING YOUR STORY
When the time comes to share your personal testimony with your friend, you can be certain that the Holy Spirit will be working in your mind and heart, giving you discernment in what to say. However, long before that conversation begins, you need to organize your thoughts. Just as a lawyer would not walk into a courtroom unprepared, you shouldn't approach your testimony on a "wing and a prayer." Plan your story with these three points in mind:
- Remember your purpose. You want to let others know what Christ has done in your life. Edit out personal details that nudge your audience in ways you think they need to change or that offer pat answers to life's critical questions. Focus on how God changed you and what He's done.
- Build common bridges. Explain your story so that the person can identify with your past and present experiences. Give examples of how God has fulfilled His promise that "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:1 NIV) Admit openly that God is still working in your life, still changing your life for good.
- Keep it simple. You might tell your story by sharing about three life moments—before Christ, the birth of Christ in your life, and after Christ. The last thing you'd want to do is make a simple message unclear or difficult—a person's attention span usually lasts about three minutes. So, keep it short and focused.
LESSONS FROM YOUR STORY
Even if an opportunity to share your testimony doesn't present itself soon, the practice of reflecting on how God has been at work in your life will yield wonderful benefits. It's easy to forget how faithful God has been, isn't it? Too often we forget that God's story is continuing to unfold in our lives. When you remember His goodness in directing your life path, you'll be moved to a lifestyle of gratitude, worship, greater intimacy with God, and greater trust in God. People are bound to notice how different you are, and they'll be drawn to ask you, "What's your secret?"
The New Testament describes the ministry of evangelism in a number of ways. When you share your faith with others, you are "telling [them] the way to be saved" (Acts 16:17 NIV), and that you've come "to preach good news" (Luke 4:18 NIV), "to give the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15 NIV), and to "do the work of an evangelist" (2 Timothy 4:5 NIV).