Webster’s online dictionary contends the first-known appearance of selfie in written form occurred in 2002 on an Australian news website, but didn’t really catch on until 2012. By November 2013, selfie was so common in print and electronic media that the venerable Oxford English Dictionary chose the word as its Word of the Year. Many social commentarians, I believe too simplistically, cite the ubiquitous selfie as evidence of a new radically self-centred culture. I am not convinced that this is showing anything new in human nature, but undeniably the popularity and variety of social media platforms has made it easy and attractive for us to get our story out there for the world to consume, or at least our “friends” and “followers”.
And certainly one thing our culture readily affirms is that we all have a story worthy to tell! What does this mean for us as Christians? Given that people are generally willing to hear about your “story” or “journey” perhaps this gives us a great opportunity to share what evangelicals have typically called a “personal testimony”. How can we do this faithfully, such that our testimony is authentically personal, yet still places Jesus and his gospel in the centre of the picture?
A common and helpful framework for personal testimonies is as follows:
“Before” is an opportunity to describe your life before coming to faith in Christ. Be honest, but there is no need to make past sin the star of the show. You can be specific without all the gory detail! You could focus, for instance, on the false hopes you had in life that led to various vain pursuits of meaning and purpose.
“How” gives you a chance to say what faith in Christ is, and how you came to it. Were there events or circumstances that caused you to reflect upon God more seriously? How about people or books that influenced you? Ask the Lord to help you see his hand in your salvation. One question we ask of our baptism candidates is, “Why do you believe you have eternal life?” Learning how to answer this personally and clearly is a great start to a faithful, gospel-centred testimony. If you were blessed to be raised in a Christian home you may not have a singular event or moment of faith, but it is still helpful to reflect upon what brought you to a personal faith in Christ.
Finally, “After” gives you a great chance to glorify Christ by acknowledging the difference he makes in your values and priorities. Focus upon what Christ has done, not what you have done. The early church said of Paul: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” Paul then comments, “And they praised God because of me.(Galatians 1:23,24)” Our goal is not to have people praise us because of God, but to praise God because of us. That happens when we make much of him, and his faithful work in our lives.
Ideally, learn to share this kind of testimony in less than five minutes, so keep things simple and moving. People like to hear stories because they can often identify with the journeys of others. Why not learn how to tell your gospel story! We will have a chance to look at this more closely when we see how Paul shares his personal testimony in Acts 26 two Sundays from now, but in the meantime sign up for our evangelism training seminar with Cory McKenna coming up on Saturday, November 3rd. Details in the e-bulletin below, or see me.
As we gather for Sunday worship, we want you to meet with God and be transformed by the Word. Prepare your heart by reading the passage and listening to the songs for Sunday.