The Power of a Testimony
Testimony can be such a powerful element to include in the liturgy of a worship service. It connects the worshiping congregation with the story of God as witnessed through a particular person’s experience.
Testimony invites all people into the redemptive story of God, reminding believers of the power of grace in their own lives, calling seekers to respond to the Lord, and giving hope to those who have not yet received the seed of the good news in their heart.
But Testimony does not necessarily need to be a conversion story or to tell your full life story. It can really be any opportunity to share how God has manifested his grace and love in your life, of a real and personal encounter with the divine.
When preparing to give a testimony, or when coaching someone to give their testimony in a worship service, there are three main questions we can use to help frame the testimony:
Where were you?
What was the state you were in prior to the grace of God to which you are testifying? Give testimony to how your life had been, how whatever brokenness or sin or state was affecting you. This is the general backstory.
What did God do?
How did the grace of God manifest in your life to bring you from the broken state you were in to the restored state you experienced? Again, this can be referring to freedom from sin, oppression, abuse, addiction, depression, etc. – how did God act? What means, people, or circumstances did God use in your life to be instruments of grace to you? This is the pivot point of the story and can vary from a specific moment to a range of circumstances.
Where are you now?
Based on what God has done, talk about the restoration and freedom from that you are now living into. It can be helpful to reiterate where things aren’t perfect and where struggles and temptations may still exist, yet highlight the grace of God to stand against sin and to resist temptation and flee the devil’s snares. This is the celebration of what God has done in and through you.
When coaching others in their testimony, there are a few other things to consider. First it is important to discern whether or not the testimony would edify the worshiping body. Ask yourself “Does it proclaim God’s goodness and elicit praise from the hearts of those gathered?”, and “Does it point hearers to God, or does it only draw attention to the person sharing?”
After listening to the testimony and discerning that it would be edifying to share, offer constructive feedback. Here are a few areas to consider giving feedback in:
- Content – Give guidance into how much background information is necessary to help hearers follow along with the story without being overwhelmed with irrelevant details. It is difficult for some people to speak both genuinely and concisely; the role of a testimony coach is to help people find a balance here.
- Language – Encourage people to use personal language, first-person pronouns rather than the general “you”. A testimony is a personal experience rather than a proclamation.
- Presentation – Give feedback to people on their speaking ability and graciously point out areas of growth. Whether it may be enunciation, volume, speed, or pronunciation of certain words, positive feedback will help people both to grow personally and to deliver their testimony powerfully.
- Length – It can be difficult to share a story concisely, but in a worship service there is always a limit of time for such a testimony. Furthermore, even 5 minutes can be too long for the attention span of most people nowadays. Coach people to work out their testimony to 3-4 minutes and highlight the main points of content.
- Logistics – Walk through the service with people before they give their testimony live. Give as many details about the service as possible. Let them know exactly what will be happening beforehand and to have a queue for when they are to get up and give their testimony. Let them practice giving their testimony in the actual space they will be giving it. Let them work out exactly how they will begin and exactly how they plan to end, and to know what will come immediately after. Combat anxiety with preparation.
Throughout the entire process, as Christian leaders it is our duty to exhort and build up others, and not to criticize or tear down. In everything you do through coaching and leading, be encouraging. Present suggestions with gentleness; speaking in front of a crowd is a significant stretch for many people, and sharing personal experiences only increases their feelings of vulnerability. A non-anxious pastoral presence will go a long way.
Be affirming, and thank people for taking the bold step of sharing their testimony. Many people are attacked with feelings of insecurity after sharing from the heart, so reaffirm that God has worked mightily in through their story and in their present sharing. God honors our faithful witness.
And of course pray with people. Pray with them after your coaching session. Pray with them before the service. And remind them that you will be praying for them during the service and as they share.
Thanks to Emily Bingham, Chapel Intern at Asbury Theological Seminary, for sharing such great wisdom with our team!
About the Author
Kevin Cook is a 4th year student at Asbury Theological Seminary and an Aspirant for Ordination in the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). After graduating, Kevin hopes to plant a contemporary three-streams Anglican Church. He and his wife Nicole attend Wilmore Anglican Church in Kentucky.
Kevin holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Master of Business Administration from Florida State University. Kevin enjoys playing music and leading worship, reading fiction and spiritual classics, drinking coffee, and spending time with family and friends.
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