How to Write a Testimony: Gospel Storytelling

How to Write a Testimony: Gospel Storytelling

June 27, 2016 by

Every story has a structure, typically, the three-act one learned in grade school literature classes.

  1. Act One
    1. Setting and Character
    2. Conflict
  2. Act Two
    1. Rising Action
    2. Climax
  3. Act Three
    1. Falling Action
    2. Resolution

Biblical Storytelling

It’s a timeless and enduring form. Those words are chosen purposely for the heart—and art—of storytelling begins in the heart of God. He spoke story into existence with “in the beginning.” Jesus taught through stories while on earth.

The Bible, already brimming with three-act stories, employs the structure, too.

  1. Act One
    1. Setting and Character: Creation
    2. Conflict: Fall
  2. Act Two
    1. Rising Action: Incarnation
    2. Climax: Crucifixion and Resurrection
  3. Act Three
    1. Falling Action: The Already But Not Yet
    2. Resolution: New Creation

The Bible is the type, and everything that follows echos it. David, Elijah, Peter, Paul… their stories are gospel stories. They illustrate falls from grace and God’s work in their heads, hearts, and hands. They give hope of transformation, not only in the life to come but also in the here and now.

Modern-Day Bezalels

We might use the word “testimony,” but what we’re talking about is story.

But gospel stories aren’t found only in the Bible. They’re found in the lives of everyday believers, people like you and me. We might use the word “testimony,” but what we’re talking about is story. We are telling a story about who we were before and after Christ.

These are stories that should be shared in the church. And, while everyone is called to proclaim who Jesus is and what he has done, some people have been gifted with unique abilities to shape pain and beauty into stories that reflect the gospel. They can listen to a story, untangle its threads, and weave them into a narrative that blesses the individual and the church.

They are modern-day Bezalels weaving a story that more often than not relies on the three-act structure. Its timelessness means almost anybody, in any culture, can follow the plot.

They journey with the character, empathize with the fall, rejoice in redemption and transformation, and long for the hope of glory of the future.

Act One

Stories tend to find their way to the right structure and length if you will only get out of the way.

In act one, you introduce the character, setting and conflict quickly—though this is by no means a rule set in stone. Stories tend to find their way to the right structure and length if you will only get out of the way.

Regardless, you likely won’t be able to write a novel when authoring stories for the church. The best advice is to start in the middle of things and, during the editing phase, scrutinize the first paragraph. Many times, it needs to be cut. It’s the second paragraph that gets the story going, not the first.

Another idea is to use concrete verbs and nouns and metaphors. If the person being interviewed says they were in a desert, your story is made. Find ways to insert desert imagery and related verbiage to convey how the person felt.

Act Two

Gospel stories are true stories. They show the dark and light.

The second act is like a storm brewing. A decision is about to be made, whether it’s one of conversion, an act of obedience in being baptized, or maintaining hope despite a chronic illness.

All of these stories should be told. The “small” stories and the large, light-on-Damascus ones show the gospel in motion and build up the body.

The second act may be the most dangerous one; it’s tempting to begin the story with it and edit out the “dark matter.” Run the other way when the temptation comes. Gospel stories are true stories. They show the dark and light.

They must. Without the two elements, you don’t have a composition. You have a feel-good, watered-down story that nobody can relate to.

A good story combines the dark and the light without ever getting lost in one or the other.

Think of the woman at the well. No one would have paid her any heed if she hadn’t said that Jesus knew all about her and her shady past and still gave her living water to drink.

Act Three

Examples give hope and motivation to press on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The third act shows the believer in the present. It shares how encountering God has changed their lives forever. They feel, think and act differently because of what God has done and is continuing to do.

This act, then, models the sort of life every believer is called to as a disciple of Christ. It shows the person investing in personal Bible reading and prayer; fellowshipping with other believers regularly; going to church; serving the church and the community; and sharing their story with others.

While it may not be possible to showcase all of the aforementioned elements in a single story, some of them should always be included.

Believers need living examples to follow, not only the great—and dead—cloud of witnesses found in Hebrews. Examples give hope and motivation to press on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Storytelling Stewardship

It’s a high calling to cherish and steward people’s stories.

Gospel storytelling seems like a huge undertaking, and it is in certain respects. It’s a high calling to cherish and steward people’s stories and turn them into narratives that can bless others. It’s also a delight.

Joy is found in writing these stories, for they don’t only impact the life of the church. They affect you, too. They make your heart glad and stir you to complete the good works God has set before you.

And, he’s given us help in that regard. His three-act structure can be our structure. We can use it to craft stories that proclaim the gospel, that show the excellencies of the one who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light.

Post By:

Erin Feldman


Erin Feldman is a marketing consultant and copywriter based in Austin, Texas. When she isn't helping clients tell their stories, she reads, writes essays and poetry, draws, and takes boxing classes. Her first coloring book, Write Right Colors Shakespeare, is available for purchase on Amazon.
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