"It is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the Kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn." Pope Paul VI
We all have a story. Whether we are a cradle Catholic or a convert, we have a story of how God draws us to Himself. In our daily lives we testify to our redemption in Jesus Christ. There may be an occasion, however, when people will ask us to give words to our witness and we find ourselves needing to give a testimony to why we believe and how we came to know God’s saving love.
Sharing our testimony is a powerful way to evangelise, as it is not a scholarly and instructive preaching of the Kerygma (the Gospel message), but a personal experience of it. It is a concrete witness to how Jesus is active and involved in our lives and is not dead but alive. The listener is more open to receiving the message as it is a personal witness and irrefutable experience.
It is useful to prepare your testimony. St Peter writes, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." (1 Pet 3:15) Although it is a story from our own life it can be difficult to be succinct, find the right words or know which part of your life to share. Preparing a testimony is a good exercise to undertake, not only because it decreases these difficulties but also because it allows us to reflect and remember the goodness of God in our lives. As Pope Francis has said, “The joy of evangelising always arises from grateful remembrance: it is a grace we constantly need to implore... The believer is essentially “one who remembers”” (Evangelii Gaudium 13)
A testimony is centred on Jesus and glorifies God. A testimony, much like a story, can be divided into 3 parts, oriented about the central event of encountering and being transformed by Christ.
- What it was like before this transformation?
- How you encountered Christ?
- What happened after this encounter and how have you changed?
You can see how St Paul gives his testimony in Acts 26:1-23. Or you can visit this link to read some examples of testimonies.
Tips for Preparing a Testimony
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal parts of your life, to make known the presence of God, to give you the words to speak and to open the hearts of those who will hear it.
Life is full of highs and lows. Look back on these parts of your life. It may be helpful to ask these questions:
- How did I feel?
- What was happening around me?
- Why was I there?
- What changed?
- How did it change?
It may be helpful to draw a time line and graph key high and low points of your life to visualise the process.
Write it down. Writing everything down is a good process, although initially lengthy, it helps to clarify thoughts, feelings, sequences of events and what is key to the testimony. It is also a good memory tool.
Reread and polish, taking out non-essentials so that it is succinct and simple. It is good to prepare a 3 minute, 5 minute and 15 minute version so you are ready for the variety of opportunities that may arise.
Do not fear the opportunities to share the good news. Your testimony creates an environment for people to respond to the question of Jesus’ existence. When the news is this good, you just have to share it! Pope Benedict XVI wrote “At the root of all evangelisation lies not a human plan of expansion, but rather the desire to share the inestimable gift that God has wished to give us, making us sharers in his own life”.
|Keep it simple||Use church vocabulary
|Make it personal and honest||Be Preachy|
|Glorify God||Focus on sin|