There are many significant practices within Christianity that encourage the masses to come to faith and grow in their relationship with the Lord. From constant and persistent prayer to connecting with people and supporting spiritual development, knowing the living God is an essential part in growing and pursuing one’s faith.
In a world that is focused on providing proof and solidifying one’s salvation, testimonies present the opportunity to experience real encounters with Jesus and tell stories of the ways in which God has worked in one’s life.
Tamara Shelton, AU’s campus pastor, says, “When I think of testimonies, I think of people telling honest stories about their life, particularly as it pertains to the intersection of life with the love and grace of God. Testimonies often point to the faithfulness of God, draw us closer to one another, help us to not feel alone, and can provide healing and build courage within the person sharing.”
The intersections of life and God also often accomplish the task of relating a transformation or enlightening experience.
Rev. Dr. Todd Faulkner, assistant professor of Christian ministry, says that “Christian testimonies tell stories of transformative encounters with the living Jesus.”
Focusing on transformative experiences, testimonies relate and connect faith to real life. Providing examples of truth and understanding, the act of speaking of one’s personal encounters with Christ enables others to comprehend God in an authentic manner.
“Christian testimonies necessarily turn the spotlight onto Jesus, who makes these life-changing experiences possible in the first place,” says Faulkner. “These kinds of stories can also invite those who hear them to consider their own lives in the light of God’s transformative love.”
As an explanation of significant and often powerful circumstances, testimonies encourage and enlighten, allowing others to experience the Lord in new ways, possibly even connecting for the first time.
“It is beautiful when we realize and share with one another that our relationship with Christ is not based upon a single moment or story, but that our lives are a journey,” says Shelton.
“When we choose to keep Christ at the center, many stories emerge of God’s faithfulness, and we can eventually point to countless times that God has led has through, stretched us and called us deeper.”
Within the Bible, there are many instances in which testimonies are told and stories of transformation are displayed.
Dr. Nathan Willowby, assistant professor of theology and ethics, says that the gospels are, in a sense, testimonies of Jesus himself, relaying his “significance, identity and ministry.”
The testimonies of Christ are told in a way that persuades, allowing humanity to become aware of Jesus’ importance and conscious of his loving, encouraging spirit and being.
“Testimonies are shaped by the teller in order to convey events to particular contexts,” says Willowby. “Therefore, I may shape my own personal testimony to my audience. I share about my faith experiences in one way when preaching, another way to my closest friends and perhaps a third way to classes that I teach.”
In a similar way, the differences within the gospels and within the telling of Jesus’ life can be associated with diverse audiences and backgrounds.
Testimonies typically are told and manifested in a way that reach people of all kinds, touching the hearts of many and encouraging relatability.
In general, testimonies envelop a sense of a sovereign story, manifesting their way into the church and into society, providing diverse contexts and taking off in different directions.
“I’ve seen testimony used as part of baptismal services, special times of testimony, ways of expressing one’s credentials to serve or in evangelistic moments to make others aware of the possibility of life change and conversion,” says Willowby. “Testimonies serve a purpose of both confession of conversion, as well as encouragement to those struggling, and enticement to those who haven’t chosen to respond to God’s invitation.”
So often, culture is attracted to what is tangible and available, recognizing significance, and at best, truth. Society longs for examples and real life illustrations. Presented in a way that encourages both the believer and the non-believer, testimonies call those who are faithful to service and prepare those who are unfaithful for discovery.
Communal influences often impact the masses more regularly and consistently than those who operate alone with no context to do so.
“This is a place that has considered having a testimony about Christ’s work in one’s life as an integral part of fitness to serve,” says Willowby. “I think we as a community should take testimony seriously, but not expect more of testimony than it is made to accomplish.”
“Testimony has the temptation to be made into anecdotal evidence of various normative claims in a way that may not be true in a broad sense,” says Willowby. “I think it is fair and wise for church congregations to utilize testimony investigation as part of discernment of service in congregational life.”