Reader Question 7
Was wondering if you could help me? I’m speaking at my home church in a couple of weeks and they want me to share my story/testimony. All of my story.
I have my message outlined but I’m not sure how to make it fit within the ME-YOU-GOD-WE-YOU model. It feels like it would end up being a lot of ME and less of the others.
Do you have any suggestions for this type of message? ~Zahary
Thanks for the great question! Zahary is one of my former clients who did message development with me, and we used Andy Stanley’s book Communicating for a Change as a foundation for our work. He is the one who gives the model she mentions in her question. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it! Click here to buy it on sale from the Proverbs 31 Ministries bookstore.
The answer to Zahary’s question really goes back to balance, just like this post. Just as different settings demand different balance to the elements of our talks, different kinds of talks demand different balance. Let’s look at how a testimony talk works.
Here’s a thumbnail sketch of the Andy Stanley’s outline:
- Me–Tell a personal story to allow the audience to connect to you and your problem (which is your topic).
- We– Create tension by revealing the problem/struggle in such a way that each audience member sees that they have a need for a solution in this area too.
- God– Teach God’s Word as the ultimate solution to the problem.
- You– Give a concrete action step/application to the problem.
- We– End with the inspiration of living out the solution to the problem. This paints a picture of a better life through change/obedience.
I hope everybody can follow that even though it’s a little confusing without the whole book.
The problem with the way most people give testimonies is that most people only complete the “Me” and hopefully a little “God”. That’s a problem because it leaves most listeners impressed with our story but unchanged personally. It’s a problem because it makes our message all about us instead of about our audience.
We want our messages to be an act of service, so our main goal as speakers should be personal transformation in the life of our listeners, not impressing our listeners. Although I’m encouraged with comments like “You’re a great speaker!” after a session, the kind of comments I’m looking for are, “When you talked about ________, it made me realize I needed to ________.” See the difference between the two?
When you’re asked to give your testimony, people want to hear your story, so the “Me” section is going to take up more of your talk than other kinds of messages, but don’t leave out the other sections. Ultimately,we want our audience to see that they have the same need we had even if the circumstances are different. We always want to point to God as the hero of our story (so there should be more about the healing process than the original problem or crisis) and scripture as the highest Truth. We want to give our audience insight into practical steps we took toward healing so they can take them too. And we want to paint a picture of how our lives have changed since walking in God’s Truth so that they’ll want to do the same.
Each of the sections of Stanley’s outline are needed in a message that’s transformative even though the “Me” section will be the largest in a testimony talk.
Zohary, you’re going to be great! Does anybody else want to weigh in with something you’ve learned while giving your testimony? We’d love to hear!
Note: I’ve heard from many of you that you’ve signed up for She Speaks this year. I can’t wait to meet you in person! If you’ve been thinking about going this year, but you haven’t registered, do it today. Seriously. The spots are filling up fast, and we had a waiting list of almost 800 last year. It breaks my heart to think of anyone missing out if you want to go this year, so don’t wait any longer to take the plunge. I promise you’ll never regret attending this incredible conference! (I brag all the time about She Speaks because it’s our amazing staff that puts it together. I just show up to teach a few breakouts and to soak up the rest. :))
Your testimony is different than a typical message. It’s your God story. My husband died of cancer a year ago at age 47. I remember telling a friend, “our story was never about cancer, it’s about the faithfulness of God.” The very next day I heard the Big Daddy Weave song for the first time – “to tell you my story is to tell of him.” I felt like it was written for me.
Several months later I had the opportunity to share our story with a group of ladies. God had me share our struggles, our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities, our brokenness. How I took them to Jesus, what he had to say through his Word and the Holy Spirit, and how it impacted us moving forward. The Holy Spirit had me give a special Word to these precious ladies but the bulk of it was ME and GOD. Every time I tried to bring in an action point it fell apart. In this particular case God wanted me to “just tell your story.”
I had a speaker friend read my message and recommend cuts. I weeded judiciously. Every paragraph had to have a purpose. It had to point to Jesus. It had to be true. In other words, everything I shared was something that actually happened. The only additions were scripture and a few observations and an action point at the end – be intentional with God. Because he is faithful.
Each struggle I shared became its own call to action. Don’t screw it up like I did. Keep bringing it to Jesus. The response was incredible. Some of the ladies breathed a sigh of relief. “You struggle too?” Yes. Let’s take it to Jesus.
Thanks for sharing, Jen!