by Rob Lundberg
I was radically converted in 1980, in a time when “the Bible says” evangelism wasn’t really challenged. When I first started in doing evangelism, I was coached by those in our denomination, who were doing the training to “give the person your personal testimony.” This was supposed to convince the credibility of our message to one with whom we were sharing . The thinking then was by sharing our testimony, it would show the person how God changes lives. But looking back to the 90’s when I graduated from a very evangelistic minded seminary, up and to the present day, there is one challenging thing I have noticed. Our culture has changed and becoming more secular.
Because of this cultural shift, I am afraid that using our personal testimony of faith in Christ, in modern evangelism, has to take a whole new role in evangelism in post-Christian culture. This article is going to share with you the pro’s and the cons of using our personal testimony in present day evangelism settings. I am sure for some, this posting may be a head scratcher, particularly for those set on a certain approach to presenting the gospel.
Before I share those pro’s and cons, let me remind us what evangelism and pre-evangelism are all about.
“Evangelism involves the presenting of Jesus Christ to men and women that under the conviction and leadership of the Holy Spirit, they will confess their need for the Savior, repent of sin, and trust Christ as Lord and serve Him in one of His churches.” (Gray Allison, Winsome Words for Willing Witnesses).
John Stott, at the Lausanne Convention in 1974 confirms Allison’s definition with the following, “To evangelize. . . does not mean to win converts. . .but simply to announce the good news irrespective of the results.” The gospel is good news! What is that good news? What is the gospel? The gospel is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5,
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the Twelve. . .”
So now that we are reminded about the discipline of evangelism and have a fresh reminder of the message of the gospel, let’s move now to the pro’s and cons of using our Christian testimony in an evangelism encounter. First let’s look at the pro’s; let me give you three of them.
Pro #1: Your personal testimony is yours and no one else’s. It is your story of your life before you met Christ, where you were and what was going on when Christ invaded your life, and your life now as a result of Christ changing your life.
Pro 2: Your personal testimony is based upon propositional biblical truth. No matter whether it was a Four Spiritual Laws tract, or the Eternal Life tract, or the approach of the Roman Road or Got Life, you were presented with Romans 3:23; 6:23; John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 3:18 and anything else. Upon hearing these passages, the Holy Spirit worked in your heart and mind and drew you to belief.
Pro 3: Because your testimony is your own, you can always go back. You can go back to the point in your life when you recall the work of the Holy Spirit drawing you to faith in Christ.
If you can think of any others, let me invite you to post them in the comment section below. But let’s look at why our testimony is not the final argument in an evangelism encounter.
Before I move to those reasons (cons), let me say that we have seen the rise of some trends. Around the time prior to 9/11 we were in a postmodern culture. This action was an act of religious terrorism which stirred the likes of skeptical writers like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and others to lash out at religion in general and Christianity in particular (even though Christianity had nothing to do with the action. Let us be reminded that skepticism had already been on the rise since the 18th century, but it took a sharp incline with a vengeance with the terrorist action.
If you don’t believe me let me ask you a question: How many of you, reading this right now, have tried to share your faith with a family member who is skeptical, and you share Scripture with them only to shut you down? You tried sharing Scripture, and when asked how you know what you believe is true, you responded with your testimony, only to get a response like, “that’s true for you!” Why did that happen?
Con #1: The personal testimony is based upon a personal experience. We live in a culture where experiences are the norm for truth testing. Even those experiences are relative to the person, the one hearing your testimony sees it that way.
Con #2: The personal testimony does not share with the person “why” you believe.
Before I expound on this one, allow me to share with you from the Amplified Bible 1 Peter 3:15,
“15 But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord. Always be ready to give a [logical] defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance [elicited by faith] that is within you, yet [do it] with gentleness and respect.”
In all actuality, your personal testimony tells “how” you got saved. For someone, who is an embracer of another religion, there is no difference in their mind how they became a Buddhist or a member another religion. Sure both are based on experience; one one propositional truth and the other on subjective experience. The person, skeptical as they may be, sees no difference.
Con #3: The personal testimony is only good once trust from the person is earned. We need to understand that our personal testimony is not a ‘knock out argument” but there will be times when in the exchange, when credibility has been earned, that you may be able to give your testimony, but it will be AFTER you’re conversing with the person and perhaps asking a question of the objection to find out what the real issue is keeping them from seeing Jesus clearly and the beauty of the gospel.
Having a testimony of faith in Christ has not lost importance for us as believers. Evangelism approaches need to reflect and share the unchanging gospel in a changing world.
Tell us what you think. Leave your thoughts and comments in the comment section below.
 They may even interpret your testimony as a way of having been brain washed or forced into believing without “free thinking.” Remember we are living in a growing skeptical culture.
 Remember that giving the right answer to the wrong question is always wrong. A lot of evangelism today has to be conversational, and not outline driven. Listening to, thinking with, and loving the person you talking to is a something we all need to remember. We are dealing with souls, and minds.
Rob is a blogger, writer and public speaker on a mission to equip the believer to think and articulate what they believe and to communicate the message of the gospel to a confused culture in a confused, chaotic, “brave new world.” He is available to come and speak to your church, college club, or group. Find out what people are saying.
If you would like to book Rob for a speaking event, you can do so by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org If you have other questions about apologetics or doing apologetics, or if you are looking for apologetics resources, contact our ministry by email.