Why Your Testimony Should Not Be About You

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I want to hear your personal testimony. I do. Honestly. I want to hear how God moved in
your life and called you to follow Jesus, how you accepted, how you converted, how you now
walk in the light. And yours too. And yours. And you, over there sipping the latte. And you in
the back of the class. And you with the weird hair. And you with the six kids reading this at
baseball practice and dance recitals. I want to hear them all.

But here’s the thing. Our culture has turned testimony into commodity. And I’m using
‘testimony’ in the non-Jesus sense here, because everybody’s got something to say, for good
or ill. Everyone’s waving a flag for something. Everyone thinks their story, their post, their reel,
their testimony is worth listening to. Ripped shirtless guy trying to get you to understand your
body type? Yep. How the Libs are destroying America? Yep. How the police are the problem?
Yep. Soap that smells like whiskey barrels and John Hamm. Yep. That latest POV hashtag
trend. Yep. All the things. All of them. The Testimonies. Never. End. And from where I sit, there’s
an awful lot of treble and not much bass.

In very real sense, there are too many chefs in the kitchen of content. The Platforms
have democratized the voices, which sounds good, and it probably is, but consider two points.
First, every voice is vying for the viral. That affects the telling. Even we, altruistic and pastoral-
minded as we are, post something and check it an hour later secretly hoping to see “10.3
million views.” But alas, we can’t all be Dude Perfect. How crushing would it be, then, to tell
the world how Jesus changed our lives, for a mere 14 likes and 2 hearts. Oy. #sadface

Second—and this will be hard to hear—to the world at large, the truth of your Jesus
testimony is 100% subjective. That’s how Jesus spoke to you after all. But that’s not for me, it
is all too easy to dismiss. For better or worse, your story has the most value to you. And in that
milieu, it is so easy for your Jesus story can get diluted at best, ignored at worst. This is tragic,
but it’s where we are. I hate to break it to you, but sharing your personal testimony won’t
convert anyone—not anymore—not when you post it in the same place where your dessert
pics, high-angle selfies, and savage satirical headlines reside. There was a time when you
could share your story and it would lead people to Jesus, back when the world had fewer
pixels. Now? Not a chance. There’s too many other stories competing for attention.

Now, at this point, I should say that your story is valuable, and is worth telling, and can
still help people get to Jesus, but the context should be one-on-one conversations, not from a
stage or in print. Indeed, most conversations about faith pack their real wallop when shared in
small quiet rooms with people who’ve recently begun to trust you. Your ethos, not your
‘followers,’ earn you the hearing. Even then, your story should be the prologue, not the real
prose.

I don’t want—and I don’t think you do either—for our Jesus testimonies to become our
brand, because that makes the power rest in how well you can present the story. But the
power of Jesus is not in how well you can tell it. The power of Jesus is that the tomb was
empty. Period. Which brings me to Acts 4:33.

“With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the
Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all”

The apostles, who by all accounts had some of the most provocative, amazing,
subversive, world-changing lives in history, didn’t start with how God moved in their lives
because they understood there was a far greater story by comparison. No, they started with
exactly this: the Man Who Left the Tomb. The empty tomb is not subjective. It is fact. It is not
opinion. Easter morning was not just someone’s “experience.” It is fact. It doesn’t need your
feedback. The resurrection is a fact. Death was beaten. Fact. Beyond beaten. Humiliated. Fact.
The apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit I might add, started with the fact of the resurrection
because there is no denying it on the basis of subjectivity. Eyewitness accounts are the most
convincing for a reason. Multiple eyewitnesses even more so. Jesus was dead. Until he wasn’t.
And that. Changes. Everything.

I believe that tomb was empty. I believe there is power in the cross but the cross is not
the full story. I believe in the resurrected and enthroned Jesus Christ. He is alive, and he LOVES
beating death. Then. Now. Forever.

Do you know some death? Do you have some death encroaching? How about the
people you know? Or the people you’ll soon meet? I’ll bet they do. I’ll bet a good chunk of
them spend their hours in pixel land to take their mind off the pale horse and its rider galloping
ever forth. But the good news—the GOOD NEWS—is that death does not have the final say.
Perhaps before anything else, this is the testimony our world needs to hear. Perhaps the
Kingdom would be served better if we took our eyes of ourselves and our testimonies and told
instead of the man upon whom death could have no hold. As an already-Christian, I need to
hear that sermon more than I need to hear how Jesus spoke to you. And I’m guessing the not-
yet Christians might be open to that too.

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