Most Pentecostal churches have the tradition of inviting members of the congregation up to the front to share their testimonies. A testimony is a story of trials and triumphs. It is shared to encourage and inspire other members of the congregation going through similar trials. The premise of testimonies is that God is good and He is willing to help those who have faith in Him. Testimonies are usually a few minutes long. It is the testimony narrator’s responsibility to condense his rather long personal narrative into a short, meaningful and inspiring story.
I have witnessed a number of potentially good testimonies have limited impact because the narrator rambled on and on until it got so painful that the testimony went from inspiring to boring. This is because the testimony narrator failed to stick to a typical story structure. Every story, no matter how short, must have a story structure. Every interesting story you have ever heard or watched on a screen had a structural skeleton which held it together. You probably didn’t notice the structure because you were engrossed with the story. An effective structure shouldn’t draw attention to itself; it should be invisible.
Like all good stories, a good testimony has a structure. This is what separates the testimonies which have an impact on the congregation from those which have little or no impact.
I would like to show the typical structure of a testimony which is applicable to other types of stories. I hope you will use this structure to help you tell better stories and testimonies. There are four basic elements of a given testimony or story: the opening, the complication, the crisis and the resolution.
The opening establishes the narrative voice and introduces the main characters of the testimony. The testimony narrator is usually the main character or the protagonist.
The complication of the testimony is the conflict or problem which the testimony narrator or main character encounters and seeks to overcome.
The crisis is the most dramatic part of the testimony when the narrator or main character is overwhelmed and powerless against the force of the trials and obstacles. This is the turning point of the testimony.
The resolution is where the narrator states how God stepped in to remove the trials. The testimony narrator is transformed at the end of his trials. He is a different person from the person he was before the trials. A testimony is really a transformative story about an ordinary person and his extraordinary God.