It’s likely many of us have shared our testimony at some point. Perhaps at a baptism service or a similar event. This usually involves telling a captive audience all the wrongs and mistakes we made along the way before we discovered Jesus for ourselves. As good and worthy of celebration that is, this kind of testimony is too often focussed on self and is presented as a monologue to the listeners. What’s more useful is to think of how we can share snippets of our testimony within the flow of everyday conversation. This can be a simplified version of how you got saved, or an example of something God has done in your life recently. The method I have found useful in helping create a succinct yet relevant and often intriguing version of our story is to use the ‘six words’ principle for any story we tell.
The six words story is a way to help you fine-tune, sharpen, and memorise your story. It both creates an easy hook for you to draw from when in conversation, as well as allowing you to craft dozens of stories so you can have something to share on many different subjects or situations.
Any good story teller will tell you a story needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end. In many cases this is also broken into three acts – the set-up, the conflict, and the resolution. Think of any book or film and you can see this pattern at work. If we apply this pattern to our story of what God has done or is doing in our lives, is creates a helpful structure that ensures the focus stays on God. The better labels to apply when thinking about our story in this context are simple – before, Jesus, and after. The before section is the set-up. What is the context for the story? What was happening or what were you like? The Jesus section is the conflict (in a good way). When Jesus got involved in your story, what happened? What did he do? How did things change or how did you feel? The final part is the after – the resolution. Put simply, how did things look after Jesus got involved in the story. What was different about the circumstances, your perspective, how you felt? What impact did it have on your life? This final part is important because it is easy to say Jesus is the answer. But remember that people don’t just want to know the truth, they want to know how the truth affects reality. So, your ‘after’ is vital in showing how trusting in God (for example) is not just a good idea, but how doing that affected the situation. The tricky part, then, is thinking through how you can summarise those three sections of your story into six words. Two for before, two for Jesus, two for after.
Example One – How I got saved
If you’ve been a Christian all of your life, or you got saved a long time ago, you may struggle with this example (though the second one will make more sense to you). For those who can point to a clear moment when you gave your life to Jesus and it is still a key moment in your walk with God, being able to summarise your salvation experience is a great story to share using the six words model.
Now that we have the structure and the six words, memorise these words. How you use them will vary from conversation to conversation, but as a general rule, less is usually best. The idea is to be active in listening when you might be able to share this short testimony in everyday conversation. What words, or topics, set off a bell in your mind that reminds you of something from your story? For this example, whenever someone talks negatively about another person or gives you praise for showing kindness, you can reply with this six word story. Most often when someone says they don’t believe in God (a seemingly closed door to sharing the gospel), you can respond with ‘that’s interesting because I used to not believe in God, and I was….’ (insert the start of your six word story from here).
The point is, that having a six word story ready, allows you to insert personal experience of God into almost any conversation. Once you have crafted your own, figure out what hooks or bells should go off when conversations are about certain things you can relate your story to. Then, when they say those things, be ready to jump in with your story and see where the conversation goes. At worst, you just contribute to the overall discussion. But often you will find that it opens further comments or questions as people want to find out more about your experience. Quickly a seemingly ordinary conversation can become a God conversation, but in a way that those you a speaking with are inviting you to share more.
Using the example above, ask each person to come up with their own version of a six word story that takes in how they became a Christian, or a significant moment in their understanding and relationship with God. Share (in pairs or to the whole group) first your six words, then have a go at putting it into a short and to the point sentence. (People often find it hard to not start going into detail. If they do, encourage them to try again but even shorter and more to the point). With each example, ask each other what bells they could attach to their story.
Example Two – What has God done lately/is doing now?
The second example is possibly even more powerful and even more relevant. Simply think of an example where you have seen the goodness of God outworked in your life. It might be an answer to prayer, a healing, financial provision. It might be a recent struggle you have faced where your faith has helped you deal with things in a certain way. Once you have picked an example, apply the same six words structure to your story as before. Two words to describe the set-up, two words to describe what God did, and two words that describe what God being involved did to that situation. Did anything change? Did you change? What do things look like now? The following example is one based on Philippians 4:6-7.
Having these six words ready means that whenever the topic of worry or stress comes up it doesn’t have to be a simple ‘there there, it will be ok’ but instead you could say something along the lines of this:
‘Whenever I’m worried or feel like I’m getting stressed, I know that the Bible says we can take anything to God in prayer and that he can give us a peace in our hearts when we do. Which is great because instead of worrying about (the situation) I can handle it with confidence and I know I don’t have to face it alone.’
The six words become a sentence, not necessarily the same sentence every time, but they are the building blocks to remember what to say, have a good order to say them in and a structure that helps it make sense. The same story can be shared in ten seconds, two minutes or longer if needed. The story and structure never change, but it can adapt, shorten or lengthen to fit with the flow.
Using this new example, ask people to come up with their own version answering the question, what has God done this week or where have I seen God at work in my life recently? Go through sharing the six words and then example sentences as before.
One final tip when sharing a story like this is that when it’s possible, it’s a great idea to end your story with a question. You don’t want what you say to feel like a closed statement with no room for other people’s opinion. You want it to open conversation, not close it down. Sometimes the question might be as simple as saying ‘what do you think?’ Inviting them to engage with what you have shared, question you further, or even disagree with you.
It’s important to remember that just because we include an after part to our story, that doesn’t always mean everything is sorted in our lives or in that particular area. Sharing a story for example of how you used to struggle with depression or an eating disorder and if you’re now free from those things that’s great. But if it is something you still struggle with in some way, sharing how God has helped you with that can be just as powerful. Remember the aim of storytelling is not to shine a spotlight on us, but on how God is at work in our everyday experience and that the truth of who he is impacts us in every aspect of our lives.