Two Reasons Not To Use The Word "Testimony"

In my latest podcast I tell the story of my conversion to Christianity. I also explain why I am reluctant to use the word “Testimony” when I talk with people about my convictions.  I try to use the term “conversion” instead. There are two reasons for this.

What If You Have A Boring Testimony?

The first reason I don’t describe my conversion as a testimony is because it simply isn’t that interesting. I had to search for anything I could find to lend a sense of irony to my story.  The truth is I came to trust in Jesus through lots and lots of reading.  Now I obviously believe the Holy Spirit was working to bring me to that point, because prior to that I just wasn’t interested in the subject at all. But by Christian testimony standards, my story is a real clunker.

I am willing to bet that many of you are like me in this respect.  Maybe you were raised in a Christian home and can’t ever remember a time when you weren’t a Christian.  Maybe you quietly converted after hearing particular sermon that touched you. There are more of these types of Christians than we realize.  I sometimes feel like we as Christians can “Testimony Shame” people into thinking they must tell this amazing story to get others to convert. To me this discounts the small, graceful ways in which God can quietly slip into someone’s life and profoundly change it.  God doesn’t always need a wrecking ball to get our attention.  Sometimes all it takes it a gently, loving nudge.

Have A Great Testimony? Use It!

Now, if you do happen to be one of those people with an amazing conversion story, you should absolutely use it! You may not be familiar with a man named Jerry Schemmel.  He’s the play by play announcer for the Colorado Rockies and a Christian.  He’s also a survivor of the crash-landing of United Airlines Flight 232 on July 19, 1989.  After escaping the initial crash, he went back into the burning wreckage to rescue a 11-month-old baby. 

He wrote a book about the crash called Chosen to Live.  In it he describes all of the incredible events that took place that allowed him to survive the crash.  One of these was switching seats at the last minute with another passenger that died in the seat he should have been sitting in.  Now if this is your story, you should use it! You will get someone’s attention and keep it with a story like that.  But for us average everyday Christians that don’t have the amazing story to tell, there is another way to go with these conversations.

Testimonies Aren’t Unique To Christianity

The second reason I don’t use testimony’s in general when evangelizing is a practical one. I was told when I first converted that I needed to work on and come up with my testimony.  As I was struggling through this process an interesting thing happened. I was approached by some Mormon missionaries.  We talked for a few weeks and then they began sharing their testimony with me.  Not only did they have a testimony, but they had a “Burning in the bosom” that confirmed for them that their religion was true.  This gave me pause.  If we as Christians are giving testimonies as evidence that the God we believe in exists, then why should I believe that the testimonies from people of other religions weren’t equally as valid?  This problem is what has led me to be a evidentialist when it come to my convictions.

I would always rather give the evidence for the truth of Christianity than my feelings about it.  To steal a line from J. Warner Wallace:

“I’m not a Christian because it “works” for me. I had a life prior to Christianity that seemed to be working just fine, and my life as a Christian hasn’t always been easy. I’m a Christian because it is true. I’m a Christian because I want to live in a way that reflects the truth. I’m a Christian because my high regard for the truth leaves me no alternative.”

Evidence Vs. Testimony

This is one of the most powerful testimonies we can give.  Christians often undervalue the luxury we have of being able to offer evidence for the truth of what we believe.  As our culture continues to increase its regard of science and hard facts, how wonderful is it to know that the Christian worldview can actually thrive in this environment!  It’s going to take some adjustment to the way we think about our conversations with non-believers, but I want to offer the suggestion that it’s worth it.

In these first few blog posts I’ve introduced myself to you, told you what makes me tick, and have also laid out some of this issues I see facing Tent Making Christians. I’d now like to begin laying out a solution to the problems I have raised.  I hope this will be as exciting a journey for you as it is for me!

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