About ten years ago in New Zealand we updated our student evangelism training. One of the updates was a renaming of the testimony workshop to “Telling Your Story“. I think it is a great name, as it encapsulates what we want our testimonies to do.
However, the actual content of the training hardly changed, and if you are familiar with Campus Crusade for Christ, you will know the pattern:
- What was my life like before I met Christ
- How did I meet Christ
- How did my life change after I met Christ
At the most rudimentary level this is a good start, but this pattern often doesn’t help us or our students to be able to tell their story well, which, after all, is what we want.
Two years ago I went on a training course in making short films and a large part of that course was devoted to the concept of story and how to write a good story (A good story is essential for a good film.) This training understandably borrowed a lot from film school understanding of story and scriptwriting. In it, there were five elements to a story that were identified:
- A character
- Who has a desire
- Who encounters conflict
- Building to a climax
- And a resolution
When I encountered this idea of story I immediately thought of the application to testimonies (telling our stories). Some of the advantages to this approach to a story are:
- It creates drama in the story
The current pattern for writing a testimony lends itself to a primary school style of story writing. If you have read a story by a primary school child you will see lots of “and then” which lets people know in what order things happened but it doesn’t help to create the drama that engages an audience.
- It helps us to find a theme to our story
A lot of testimonies can end up as a disconnected series of events where even at the end we don’t know how some of them fit in. Looking at this structure for telling our stories can help us decide which events are really relevant to the story. It can also help when choosing a testimony to go with an evangelistic event because we can know how the events fit in to the story and whether they connect with the theme of the event.
- It works for everyone’s stories
A lot of the time the focus of our testimonies is on the point of time when we receive Christ which can make things difficult for someone who became a Christian at a young age. “How exactly did God turn my life around at age seven?” Using the second pattern gives these people the freedom to focus on the story that God is working in their lives, the desires, problems and difficulties they have experienced.
So, what do you think? Can you see any advantages or disadvantages to telling our stories in this way?