When we become followers of Jesus we begin a great journey of discipleship, the process of becoming more like Jesus. Jesus came on mission to bring glory to God by seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10), and we are called to do the same.
For some reason, we often think people who are followers of Jesus naturally know how to share Jesus with others and lead them to salvation. This isn’t true. It’s likely that people who have been followers of Jesus for a long time are not in the habit of sharing the good news and don’t know how to share Jesus.
It’s also true that when people come into a personal relationship with Jesus they are ready and passionate to share their newfound life and freedom with their friends, most of whom do not know Jesus. However, people who have just said yes to Jesus are not always sure how to gracefully share about the Jesus they have just met.
Focus on four words
At Mountain View Community Church, we work at equipping the saints to share their story of salvation. We begin that process by encouraging people to prepare a two to three-minute Gospel-centered testimony that is understandable to a non-Christian and will present them with the opportunity to choose to also follow Jesus.
The framework of this testimony is a four-part salvation story contained in four words and corresponding verses.
God: God loves you and has created you to know him personally. He has a wonderful plan for your life (John 3:16-17).
Sin: People are sinful and separated from God, so we cannot know him personally or experience his love and plan (Romans 3:23, 6:23).
Jesus: Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our sin. Through him alone, we can know God personally and experience God’s love and his plan (John 14:6).
Individual: We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know God personally and experience his love and plan (John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8,9).
These four words and verses make up the core of our salvation story and are combined with our personal narrative to create a testimony that is clear and to the point. We should be able to present our salvation testimony in such a way that the person we are sharing it with can easily figure out how we came to salvation and how they can do the same.
This is not your life story. It is not detailed or long. This is your salvation testimony that includes a clear presentation of the good news for the purpose of this person finding Jesus. It is critical to keep it simple by just telling what happened to you.
Who can say no to a story?
Imagine someone says to you, “You seem really different, like way more peaceful than a lot of people I know. What’s up with that?” You can respond in one of the following ways, depending on your personal story.
If you came to Christ as an adult, respond by saying, “I wasn’t always like this. I had a life-changing encounter with God. May I tell you my story?”
If you came to Christ as a child, respond by saying, “I came to know God as a child, and it has affected my life ever since. May I tell you my story?”
Who can say “no” to you sharing your story? The key is that it is short and focused on Jesus so they stay engaged and focused. I know it’s surprising—but people are not as interested in our life stories as we think they are! But in our salvation testimony we are presenting Jesus the Savior and telling people what he has done for us, and this is far more interesting and engaging. We are speaking under the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, who is drawing people to himself.
As you prepare your salvation testimony, it should include seven points:
- the main thing that caused you to look to God.
- how you first heard of God’s love and his plan for your life.
- a description of how you were trapped in sin and had no means of freedom from it.
- how you heard about Jesus and his death on the cross.
- how God prepared your heart in bringing you to a place where you desired to be in right relationship with him. This is when you share the four points and corresponding Scriptures centered on the words God, sin, Jesus and individual.
- the salvation prayer that changed your life and how you surrendered to God’s desire for your life. How you repented—turned intentionally away—from your life of sin and independence from God. How you asked Jesus to become your Savior and leader and how you began to let him lead your life according to his will.
- a few examples of how you yielded to God, including what it looks like to submit your life to God’s will.
Practice your two- to three-minute testimony until it feels comfortable and until you can do it in less than three minutes.
Prepare person-specific testimonies
It is important for this testimony to be person-specific. Think of examples that relate to your friend who is a teacher that are different from the ones you would share with your friend in the gym. We should take the time to change the examples and think it through for all of our lost friends. We should have as many testimonies prepared in our tool box as we have lost friends.
We don’t try to hammer a nail with a wrench or undo a bolt with a saw when we are building something. We need the right tool at the right time to effectively get the job done. It is the same with leading people into a life-changing salvation encounter with Jesus. My basketball friends understand basketball analogies, but I wouldn’t use those same analogies with my book club friends.
More so, we need to have a purpose for sharing our salvation testimonies. If all we do is simply tell a story, then we are just that—storytellers. That’s why we should follow up our testimonies by saying, “He did all this for me, and he will do it for you, too. Would you like to ask Jesus Christ into your life now?” You should also pose the following questions to diagnose their spiritual destiny.
- If you were to die today, would you go to heaven?
- Why would God let you into his heaven?
- Would you like to know for sure?
If your friend says “yes,” then this is where you shift gears and walk him through a salvation encounter. This critical moment is where we become more than storytellers. This moment is where we allow Jesus to use us in an incredibly powerful way.
Salvation encounters are life-changing, eternity-shifting moments. It’s important to take the time to make sure your friends understand clearly the decision they’re making: Jesus Christ is their Savior and they are turning leadership of their lives over to him. Be prepared to lead them in a prayer of surrendering themselves to Christ, repenting of their sin, asking Jesus to be the Lord and leader of their lives and yielding their lives to his will.
As a believer in the body of Christ, it is an incredible privilege to lead somebody into the kingdom. A well-prepared, brief salvation testimony is an important tool to this end. Be ready.
Fred Leonard is the lead pastor at Mountain View Community Church in Fresno, California. He wants to see God’s kingdom come and to be a world-changing, risk-taker for Jesus. He loves serving Jesus and the church with his wife, Esther, and their four children. Leonard has a doctorate of ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary and continues to have a passion to learn and is always reading, meeting people, asking questions and pushing the envelope.