It doesn’t happen often, but a few times I’ve received pushback from Christians who think that personal salvation testimonies aren’t the best idea. The main complaint is that our salvation stories require a fair amount of talking about ourselves, and offering details about our lives can have a tendency to draw attention to us rather than God and his grace. For this reason testimonies should be avoided: better to just share the gospel.
Biblical Precedent for Testimonies
While it’s legitimate to express concern that Christians not place themselves at the center of their testimony, the truth is that Scripture not only provides precedent for offering salvation testimonies, it actually commands that we do so. Consider these Old Testament examples:
Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day.1 Chronicles 16:23
I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.Psalm 40:9-10
Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.Psalm. 66:16
Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.Psalm. 96:2
Two of these examples command us to tell of God’s salvation (1 Chr 16:23; Ps 96:2). The other two recount the exuberance with which the psalmists shared their own story of God’s salvation (Ps 40:9-10; Ps 66:16). Indeed, David resists the temptation to suppress his testimony: “I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation” (Ps 40:10). The implication is that a refusal to share his testimony would have kept the congregation from an opportunity for edification, assurance, and worship. But because he hasn’t silenced himself, the people of God can praise the Lord for this particular kindness to David and experience some blessing themselves.
In the New Testament there is ample precedent for sharing one’s personal testimony. For example, immediately after Jesus healed a demon possessed man, he told him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you (Mark 5:19; cf. Luke 8:39). The apostle Paul shares his testimony four times, all of which were given for evangelistic and instructional purposes (Acts 22:3-21; 24:10-11; 26:4-23; Phil 3:8-11).
Real Salvation, Real People
The complaint that testimonies tend to focus too much on ourselves is well taken. The point of our salvation story is to highlight the glory of God’s mercy, not our worthiness, wisdom, or winsomeness, nor should we ever glorify sin by the way we explain the life out of which we were saved (Eph 5:12). I have heard a few testimonies that have been guilty of showcasing oneself and one’s sin, and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of yielding to this temptation in the past.
But the reason we have a testimony is because God has been gracious to us, in our lives, in specific ways, and it only amplifies his glory to our listeners when we recount the particular mercies God has shown us: “I will tell what he has done for my soul” (Ps 66:16); “tell them how much the Lord has done for you” (Mark 5:19). Unless we are only going to talk in generalities about the goodness of God, we will, by necessity, say a few things about ourselves when offering our testimony.
Even when Peter instructs his listeners to be ready with their apologetic, they are to give an account for the hope that is in them (1 Pet 3:15). Apparently, the apostle wasn’t concerned that the vessel carrying the treasure would draw attention away from the treasure itself. Christ is saving real people with real sin and real backgrounds, and each testimony will bear the marks of real life.
Beyond these examples, Scripture provides even more reasons for why we should be ready to share our testimony with others.
Your Testimony is a Stewardship
Your testimony of God’s salvation is a story with which God has entrusted you so that you might “proclaim his excellencies” to those who are presently in darkness (1 Pet 2:9). God shows us mercy so that he might be glorified in the retelling of that mercy. Our testimony is a personalized iteration of the saving gospel of Christ (Rom 1:16). Through our testimony we edify and encourage the saints and share the gospel with unbelievers. Rather than hide our salvation story out of a fear we might talk too much about ourselves, we should consider our testimony a stewardship Jesus intends for us to multiply (Matt 25:14-30).
Your Testimony Renews Your Assurance
Your testimony also serves to renew your assurance as you recount for others how God providentially aligned the events and people in your life to draw you to Jesus. As you share your story, you are reminded afresh of the gospel truths that saved you and your heart is re-established in the goodness and grace of God. Sharing your testimony can clear away legalistic clutter you’ve allowed to accumulate over time or exhort you to repentance if you’ve drifted from Jesus.
Your Testimony Demonstrates the Diversity of God’s Work
God is saving people from different ethnicities, religious backgrounds, educational settings, and family circumstances. Your testimony is likely different than many people in your local church. Your Savior is the same, but the path by which God brought you to Jesus is different. This diversity can serve to encourage fellow Christians to evangelize (see below) because they are again reminded that God can save anybody, from any background and any situation. Whether you were saved at a young age, in college after growing up in the church, out of a life of gross immorality or deep-seated self-righteousness, your story is evidence that God can save that kind of person. Your Christian listeners may have a sibling or parent or fellow employee who is presently in a situation similar to you prior to your conversion. Knowing that you were saved out of such a situation breeds hope that their loved one can be saved as well.
Your Testimony Encourages Christians to Evangelize
By showcasing the reality of salvation in your own life, you encourage Christian listeners anew to take up the call to evangelize their neighbors and family members. Each time a Christian beholds the power of God in the life of another believer, they are reminded again that God is still saving people from all walks of life. Your fellow Christians are reminded of the joy that comes with proclaiming the gospel and the exhilaration of sharing their own salvation testimony with an unbelieving neighbor.
Your Testimony Can Be Used to Save Sinners
Finally, God can use your testimony to save sinners. As we weave the gospel throughout our salvation story, we provide listeners with the knowledge they need to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. The reality of God’s work in your life combined with biblical truth can create both interest (through your personal testimony) leading to faith (through the gospel).
So, should a Christian object to sharing their testimony? Certainly not. Our testimony is one of the ways we fulfill Christ’s call to serve as his witnesses (Acts 1:8). Indeed, the words “testimony” and “witness” are closely related: they each refer to evidence offered to validate a claim. By sharing your testimony, you proclaim to a listening world that Christ is real, his words are true, and nothing can thwart his promise to build his church (Matt 16:18).