The Danger of the “Amazing Testimony”

imprrh@gmail.com —  January 3, 2015

We have all heard the story. A guest speaker/singer comes to share a testimony of his/her former life. They share an interesting and spectacular story of sexual exploits, drug abuse and running from the law. The audience is spell bound. The presentation finishes by sharing how Christ conquered his/her heart. The people leave impressed.

I don’t want to discount the value of such testimonies. They have their place. My only concern is that we become more balanced in our approach to sharing these types of stories. They are BUT ONE part of the kaleidoscope of experiences God used to rescue us.

So, here is my shout out to the “boring” ones. You are not. Your experience is valued by God. Consider with me the following three points:

  1. Real heroes.

In my eyes, it takes a lot more determination, willpower and spiritual fortitude to STAY in church all your life than to slip into a life of sin. You, the one who never left, the one who participated in church, who said yes when they needed volunteers, who raised your hand first when the bible question was asked and who took criticism for being to “churchy” from people both INSIDE and outside the church, you are my biggest hero. It’s a title you have never sought. You just served God because you loved him. That’s why you have earned it.

  1. Undue glamor.

I find it problematic to try to scare people straight. You don’t eradicate evil with evil. You don’t eliminate sinful tendencies by sharing how someone succumbed to it. In my teenage years I was a metal head. Do you know who introduced me to heavy metal? A pastor. We had an AYS meeting where the evils of rock and roll were presented, complete with clips of videos and parts of the music playing. The more I heard, the more I wanted to hear. It proves a principle that I have come to believe. Preaching focused on Christ produces Christians. Preaching focused on sin produces sinners. Your choice.

  1. Past identity.

I am not defined by my past. I can’t hide it. That would be dishonest. I also won’t glamorize it. That would be discouraging to the ones in the audience that do not have a special testimony like mine. Am I saying not to use these types of testimonies ever? No. Am I suggesting that people that have been rescued from the depths of sin have nothing to contribute? Nope. What I am suggesting is this:

  1. Use both types of testimonies. Intentionally
  2. Use the 33% method:

33% your life before Jesus

33% how you encountered Him

33% how he has made a difference

1% the book/dvd/cd you just finished.

Thoughts? Questions? Leave your respectful and honest comments here.

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4 responses to The Danger of the “Amazing Testimony”

  1. I agree….maybe more like 10 per cent on your life before christ

  2. Yes! I’ve been preaching this from the beginning. So much of the time those bad girl/guy testimonies are 90/10 – 90% all the things I explored and experimented with and 10% how Jesus changed me. The most damaging factor to this, I believe, is that the testimony acts as though Jesus wasn’t present through their entire journey, but only showed up once they were done partying, drinking, sexting or whatever. If these kinds of testimonies, still very vital to our understanding of God and of one another in community, were expressed and told differently (under the breakdown that you suggest) the we find balance. Anyways, isn’t the goal to share how Jesus has changed our lives and not how we sustained ourselves through sin until we met him?!

  3. Name-I won’t say. February 2, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    I respectfully disagree

    1. “Real heroes” “In my eyes, it takes a lot more determination, willpower and spiritual fortitude to STAY in church all your life than to slip into a life of sin.” I think it takes a lot more of God’s power to bring someone to a relationship with God from a very dysfunctional environment who has no concept of basic human rights, boundaries, or enough common sense to even understand love than for God to work with someone who was in the church and least knows what normal is and has the basic foundation of normal human behavior is that is needed for relationships and pretty much knows what is right and wrong in the first place. This does not make someone who does know much a hero for learning about God and it doesn’t make someone who was always in the church a hero for staying out of apparently worse sins. It makes God the hero for saving us. If someone thinks he/she are a hero for being saved I think he/she needs to question if he/she is saved at all.

    2. “Undue glamor.” If you find any glamour in hearing how messed up someone was I think that is a personal problem. I don’t see glamour in how messed up I was. As for your next point, “I find it problematic to try to scare people straight. You don’t eradicate evil with evil. You don’t eliminate sinful tendencies by sharing how someone succumbed to it.” Isn’t the Bible full of the sins of others in order to warn us not to do the same stupid stuff? Yes, yes it is. “Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’ Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”
    1 Corinthians 10:6-11 “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”Romans 15:4 By your logic that God is eradicating evil with evil by sharing the sins of His own people. It is not evil to point out foolishness. It is evil not to.

    3. “Past identity.”
    “I am not defined by my past. I can’t hide it. That would be dishonest. I also won’t glamorize it.” Again, what exactly do you find so glamorous about someone else being missed up? “Am I suggesting that people that have been rescued from the depths of sin have nothing to contribute? Nope. What I am suggesting is this: Use both types of testimonies. Intentionally Use the 33% method: 33% your life before Jesus 33% how you encountered Him 33% how he has made a difference 1% the book/dvd/cd you just finished.” I suggest one should follow the Holy Spirit method and let people pray for themselves and share what they feel impressed by God to share.

    I have been very blessed by people who were willing to share their stories. Someone said she spent years getting help and that encouraged me knowing that I may not be failing just because I may not be “done” growing all at once after a single prayer. God walks with us though our mess. I noticed those who cannot relate to a very bad past seem to have a tendency to try to limit or shut people down who do as if they are wallowing in it by talking about it. They don’t seem to realize that for others even hearing very ugly uncomfortable stuff can be helpful for healing and encouraging and it helps to know that even if it takes a long time to heal you can get better. So I would recommend questioning yourself as to why you feel the need to control someone else’s testimony. I heard a lady complaining after hearing a testimony that was meaningful to me about a lady who was abused because she felt uncomfortable and thought the lady should not have spoken about the bad parts of her life so much. How are you really helping others by dedicating how much bad people should share? You don’t know everyone’s need. Not everyone had a sunny life and if everyone pushed the bad under the rug and minimized it by limited how much people can share I would probably have far less hope in God than I do.

    Christians should not be like the brother of the prodigal son who seemed to think he was the biggest hero for staying and doing good things for the father and tried to play down the greatness of God’s deliverance of someone else who did a lot wrong just because the experience does not obviously apply to them. “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15:28-32.

    Rather than trying to control how much other’s share and about what God did for them or point out so how stupid they were to sin in the first place compared to how much will power they think long term believers think they have Christians with more experience should be all the more willing to rejoice that God is even able save people to from deepest pits of sin because they know sin is not glamorous since they had more time to understand and adopt God’s character and leave the how God uses others with God. And they should keep in mind they need the Father (God) too, not just their sinful brothers and sisters. You didn’t save yourself, “You, the one who never left, the one who participated in church, who said yes when they needed volunteers, who raised your hand first when the bible question was asked and who took criticism for being to ‘churchy’ from people both INSIDE and outside the church, you are my biggest hero. It’s a title you have never sought. You just served God because you loved him. That’s why you have earned it.” God is the only true hero in anyone’s salvation story, if we don’t understand that we don’t really understand God, and if we don’t really understand God, we can’t really love God or the people God wants to save as we should because God is love (1 John 4:8) and the source of it. We need to acknowledge it is God Who earned salvation for all of us and that is the only reason why we can love Him in the first place, it is not because of our own will power and goodness regardless of our past.

    • imprrh@gmail.com February 3, 2015 at 12:33 am

      Thanks for your well thought out, spiritual reply. I appreciate your perspective and have learned from it. Please feel free to comment anytime.