How to have a spiritual conversation

30 Minutes to a Shareable Testimony

I was catching up with a friend—a former coworker from a few years back—over drinks one night, when he asked me what I now do for a living. I explained my job is to help college students engage with the big questions of life. He then asked me if I’d always been a Christian. This kind of question is an open invitation to talk about my experience of God, so I told him my story.

You’ve probably been in similar situations. In one sense, sharing the story of your conversion is pretty simple. You were there when it happened after all, so it’s not like you are trying to recount something abstract or theoretical. It’s no more complex than telling someone the plot of a movie you saw last week.

On the other hand, you can learn to tell your story better if you do a little bit of preparation. Peter wrote that we should “always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). One “reason” for your hope is Jesus and what he has done in your life. And Peter says that you need to “prepare” for possible opportunities to speak about him.

Below are some pointers for thinking through and writing your testimony. After you've read through them, set aside 30 minutes to answer the reflective questions and do the actual writing.

15 Minutes: Know Your Before, During, and After

Paul seemed to regularly share his testimony. In the book of Acts alone, he shares it three times. He tells it a little differently each time, but also makes sure to include the same three elements:

  • Before: Paul gives an outline of the situation before he encountered Jesus.
  • During: Paul shares a narrative of the encounter itself.
  • After: Paul describes how life has been different since meeting Jesus.

It’s a pretty simple structure you can easily imitate. Below are some reflection questions (adapted from questions by Evangelism Coach Chris Walker) to help you think through and compile the raw material of your spiritual journey to date. The questions are designed to trigger your thought process, not to restrict you; feel free to add anything else you think is important.

Download the questions as a worksheet (Word).

What Was Your Life Like Before You Encountered Jesus?

  1. Think about each phase of your life. What was your faith like during childhood, during your adolescent years, and now as an adult? Jot down some key points for each of these three phases.
  2. Would you say you had any encounters with God or answered prayers before your conversion? Describe them. How did these influence your understanding of God?
  3. Make a list of the longings and desires that shaped your journey to Christ. What obvious needs did Jesus address? Was it a sense of emptiness, a desire for forgiveness and acceptance, the longing to know God, the need to find significance, or something else? In what ways were you restless before your conversion? Try your best to describe this restlessness in terms others might recognize similarly in their lives.
  4. Who were the key people or groups who influenced you to follow Jesus? How did they help you move toward Jesus? Can you remember anything specific they said or did to overcome misconceptions, help you see your need for Jesus, or unsettle your thinking? What were the pivotal moments and conversations?

How Did You Meet Jesus?

  1. What were the circumstances of your life at the time when your faith became real? Try your best to describe this in terms others might recognize similarly in their lives.
  2. Can you identify a specific moment or period when you welcomed Jesus in? Where did that happen? Describe what you felt and experienced. If it happened over a longer period of time, maybe pick one or two key turning points and focus on them. If your conversion occurred early in your childhood, describe a time when you think your faith became your own, made sense, or came alive.
  3. If you were responding to a sermon or a Bible study, what was it about? What were the circumstances of your life that helped that message make sense?
  4. How did your encounter with Jesus address the longings, desires, and/or restlessness you experienced prior to conversion? How would you describe the central issue or question of your journey? How did God answer this?
  5. What was the role of Christian community in your surrendering to Jesus? How did the people you mentioned above, or perhaps a church, InterVarsity chapter, GIG, Bible study, or Christian friends play a part? How did they influence you? How did they help you understand your need for God?

What Difference Has Following Jesus Made?

  1. If you had to tell someone why you are a Christian, what would you say?
  2. How does knowing Jesus now compare to your previous (childhood, adolescent) faith?
  3. How did/does knowing Jesus address the longings, desires, and restlessness that you identified previously in your life? Is it just beginning to deal with these matters, or have they been completely transformed?
  4. How have you been changed by God? These could be subtle or obvious changes.

15 Minutes: Write Concisely and Conversationally

Once you have some basic notes, the next step is to shape it into a communicable story.

Keep It Short

There are probably a lot of elements to your conversion, but brevity is one of the keys to telling your story well. There’s no need to include everything. If people have questions or want more details, they can always ask you.

You should write no more than 100 words on each phase of your story, so your total length is less than 300 words. This will be about three minutes long when spoken aloud.

Consider Your Audience

Conversion is a process, which means each person you share your testimony with will be at different stages of their own spiritual journey. So the best preparation for sharing your story is to make sure you know it well and are able to relate it to where they are with God. Here's how to do that:

  1. Pick a friend who isn’t following Jesus. Any friend will do; just choose one.
  2. Imagine a place and time where you might be having a conversation with them. Picture that place in your mind.
  3. Take each of the three sections of your story – before, during, and after – and write each section in a form that would be appropriate for you to share with your chosen friend in the specific situation you visualized. Make sure you include the key points of your story that you think will connect with your friend. Don't hesitate to pray and ask God about what will connect with them.
  4. Reread your story and consider whether your language and words will be understandable to your friend. Where necessary, change your mode of expression to remove Christian jargon, such as "saved," "faith," etc.).

Practice Telling Your Story

Now it’s time to share your story with someone else. If you are doing this reflection with a friend or group, split into pairs and take it in turns to sharing your stories with each other.

After a little practice on your own or with Christian friends, why not meet up with a friend who doesn’t yet know Jesus? When you meet, let them know that you have recently been processing your experience with God and ask them if they’d be interested in hearing your story. If they agree, share your story and then ask, “What do you think? Does any of this connect with you at all?”

It’s not exactly rocket science! When my friend asked me if I had always been a Christian, I knew my own story well enough to pick out the most relevant parts and relate them to his life. I had also done some work on writing it out, so I was already prepared to express myself succinctly and not drone on interminably. Because I kept it short and interesting, my friend didn’t feel preached at and therefore had a lot more questions and we talked about knowing Jesus for about 20 minutes.

You can do this too! Grab a pen and paper (or type in the Word worksheet), and spend some time preparing to better tell your own story.

Download the questions above as a worksheet (Word) and take the next 30 minutes (or more) to work through the reflective questions and write your testimony. If you have comments or questions about how to write your testimony, please leave them in the comment box below.

Comments

Thank you. God has used your

Thank you. God has used your work for Eternal good. As a response to Gods love for me I decided it is time to ask that he bring be hurting people who have questions about my hope. This article has made the process easier for me to start.

Hi, I am having a hard time

Hi, I am having a hard time writing my testimony because, I don't know what my life was like before I became a Christian. I was 4, and don't really remember it, I only know about it through what my parents have told me.

Thanks for asking this

Thanks for asking this question, I've had the same question - I became a Christian at the age of 6 in a caring and supportive yet non-Christian home and sure I've stumbled a few times in my Christian walk (esp only going to church from age 16 but even now in smaller ways) but I really don't know what life was like before 6! One day during church worship I had an experience where my life flashed before my eyes and God showed me every area in my life where I encountered Him in a special way, some memories I couldn't remember before that and many of them I didn't even realize He was there. Ask God to remind you. If you go onto Youtube you will see thousands of testimonies and many are similar but I challenge you to find any 2 which are exactly the same (especially if they are detailed). God met you in a unique way and you can trust Him that there is someone who specifically needs to hear YOUR testimony, maybe for example they're a developmental psychologist who believes that a child doesn't have the moralistic or cognitive developmental capacity to make a decision like that at that age, maybe it's someone who noticed that everyone who starts living a new religion initially feels like it brings life and you can say that the life you have had in Christ never stopped growing and deepening in this infinite love... Sorry, writing a bit much but may this be of encouragement to you. God will use your simple testimony in ways you never thought were possible that will blow your understanding of who God is. Take that step. God is good and you are significant :)

I think this can be a great

I think this can be a great honest way to start your testimony. Your testimony may not follow exactly the outline provided. Being honest about being raised in a Christian house is important to state, but you should hit on the realities of when your faith really became your own, where you felt truly alive in Christ. Think of what I like to call catalytic moments in your walk. Catalytic moments are when you are activated, energized, or moved in your walk with Jesus. Everyone has different significant moments in their walk. Our testimonies all have mini-stories within them based on different encounters we have with Christ. If you are an adult it is probably less important for you to talk about what happened before you were 4 because you don't remember it and it most likely is not as relevant as maybe a high school experience was for your walk. If you have any more question please feel free to ask.
Pat

Honestly, I do not know where

Honestly, I do not know where exactly to start my story or what part of it should I say. It is a little bit complicated but I will try to summarize it as much as I can. The ways of God truly are not the ways of man. I had always known about Christ while growing up,however I only became a devoted believer about 5 years ago, which was about when I graduated from the University.
Post graduation, I was fortunate to get a dream job with an international non-governmental organization who are involved in developmental works and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in West Africa. I also met and began dating a most special and wonderful christian lady. We got engaged and everything was looking great.
The government of the country where we were working decided to take over our project from the N.G.O., because they thought we were doing a good job. The government officials misappropriated funds and subsequently we (the workers) were not paid for several months. Life became difficult and I was not paid for eight months of work. This challenging period coincided with the scheduled time for our wedding. I was distraught and almost put off the wedding. However God intervened, He divinely funded the wedding and everything was just perfect.
I always had the dream to pursue a graduate education in a reputable school in the USA. I got the admission but the huge challenge was funding, due to several months of my salary not paid. I miraculously won a scholarship immediately after my wedding. I am now living that dream, doing my masters and married to the love of my life and building a christian family. God has been faithful in all we do. My grades has been excellent and I have been favored in all my endeavors.
I just want you to thank God for me. This is a summary of what happened to me earlier this year, believe me it was more challenging than what I wrote. I can't explain all that happened here but my God saw me through it all. He is ever faithful and never fails, just learn to trust and obey him.

Thank you for this

Thank you for this information. I am teaching a "Reaching Your World Class" which focuses on How to share the Gospel with those far from God... one of the classes focuses on clarifying "your story" and writing it out. Your worksheet is outstanding in aiding someone in this process. Thank you for letting us reap the benefit of your thoughtfulness and hard work!

I'm glad it's been so useful,

I'm glad it's been so useful, Jeff! Do you have any tips from your experience of using this in a group setting? Any ways you've adapted or changed it which you'd be able to share? We'd be happy to learn from you too.

This is helpful, especially

This is helpful, especially since we are planning on having a Testimony night sometime during the semester.