Long ago and far away, in a land before the Internet was born, I did volunteer work with a college-campus missionary association. Each volunteer was trained in the Evangelical art of the testimony, where, in three minutes or less, we described our life before meeting Jesus, how we met Jesus, and ended with verse from the scripture. We wrote our testimony, we memorized our testimony, and we testified, all in three minutes or less.
I’m sure this method has helped thousands of people meet Jesus, but for me the process was more test than testimony. They wanted me to present a tidy package: my life, pre and post conversion. Problem was my conversion to Christ was not the apex of my story; it was the beginning of the trail. My spiritual formation had taken a turn—a conversion—but the new story was just under way.
Leaders within this organization had written, memorized, and delivered their testimony over and over. Some of their stories were ten years old, or more. In addition to the message they intended to share was the unspoken message that coming to Jesus was the finish line. It’s a strange finish line indeed that the scripture describes as a “new birth.”
The Biblical metaphor extends a challenge we don’t often see: the good news of being born again is actually an invitation to new growth. We become a new creation, not a three-minute YouTube video. The Apostle Paul had a life-long vision for each person (and each church) he planted: “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.“ The work of God, which had been below the surface prior to conversion, was just breaking through the soil. The tree was just a sprout.
Some people have never formulated their personal faith story. Not their conversion story, their personal faith development—the formation of their lives, the richness of life with God, the comfort of his on-going presence.
In the decades since my college missionary days, I’ve wondered about that testimony. No one (to my knowledge) turned to Jesus because of it, yet I imagine God nudged a few people down their path based on my rehearsed speech. What if I shared a testimony of an on-going presence? What if the story I shared included the notion that the very one who said, “I will never leave you or forsake you” is the very one still living and active in my life today? What if I shared the good news that in 45+ years, I’ve never been alone?
Of course, it’s not too late. I’m sharing it now. My testimony, which began in my teenage years, is fuller, deeper, and richer as I approach my sixtieth year. I’d like to think this testimony has more weight—and the light of truth. It’s a testimony not only of saving grace, but also of sustaining grace.
“Through many dangers, toils and snares. I have already come; ‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home.”
How about you? What’s your story? Give yourself more than three minutes. Declare the goodness of God.