The Beauty of ‘Boring’ Testimonies

Many Christians struggle with their own testimonies. Our stories are boring, uninteresting, and mundane—or so it often seems to us. Who would listen to us even if we did share?

What often qualifies as “interesting” is the sort of thing someone would write (and read) a book about: ex-felons, ex-addicts, ex-something-or-others. We are all sinners saved by grace, and yet, as unclean and broken as we may be, many of us haven’t gone a day in our lives not knowing about God. Often we describe our testimonies in terms of reshaping or renewing our current faith: we are reminded of the sin we have, or convicted of the sin we didn’t see, and now we can return to the gospel we’ve known all our lives. It isn’t so much a 180° change as a couple of degrees at a time.

Always Amazing

We’re suckers for big and loud stories—look at the film industry for evidence—and so we tend to write off anything that doesn’t fit that pattern. We don’t volunteer to tell people we grew up in the church and asked Jesus into our hearts as soon as we learned to speak. Who would find that story anything but boring?

The solution isn’t to seek a more powerful testimony—let’s not sin that grace may abound—but to expand our understanding of what constitutes a beautiful testimony. We can describe those who grew up in the church as spared from the horrors of the criminal life, but this story feels empty. The negation isn’t nearly so powerful as the positive expression: we are saved from the damnation we earned by the great grace of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Of course we desire to be remembered, to be seen as moving examples of the grace God can provide. The examples trumpeted stand out in the wide course of history, especially those saved through harrowing circumstances: Paul’s persecution of Christians, Augustine’s many sexual sins, right on up to the teenage-atheist-turned-30-something-Christian C. S. Lewis. We see that great Christians of the past have often come from broken places.

No Ordinary Christians

This emphasis on dramatic testimonies can be harmful, though, despite the intention to inspire us. While these testimonies can encourage us to look and see the greatness of God, we tend to only see God’s grace manifest in those who have been saved from what appears to be much. If we took for our role models “ordinary” Christians—local pastors and elders, our parents and professors, our peers—perhaps we’d be more capable of seeing God’s explicit and awesome grace in our “ordinary” lives.

I don’t recommend removing the historical “greats” from our studies, nor should we discount the explosive testimonies we so often hear. Rather, we ought to broaden our understanding of what makes for a compelling story of grace.

Every Christian has a redemption story. Whether you are saved from cocaine addiction or a prideful heart, from deep in a prison cell or the comfort of your suburban home, your story is filled with grace. If we can’t see the beauty of a redemption story, the problem isn’t with the story: the problem is with us.

After all, every story of redemption is one so powerful that Christ died to fulfill it.

  • EricP

    Our first babysitter had the most boring conversion story every. She was basically born with her heart on fire for Jesus. She taught us to pray with our kids and babysat for essentially free. We learned to clean the house before we left or she would do that too. She wanted to marry a missionary or pastor and homeschool a lot of children, which is what she did. She lamented that she didn’t have a better conversion story.

    What she missed is that she has an incredible testimony. God used her and continues to use her in amazing ways. Our testimony doesn’t end with the day we get saved. It should grow richer and deeper as we grow more Christ-like.

    The most interesting parts of my testimony happened 18 years after I was saved.

  • Ashley Williams

    Thank you for this article. This was a source of great anxiety for me for so long. I grew up in a Christian home, a believing dad and unbelieving mom, but she still went along with “Christian” things, probably to a fault and to a erroneous idea that she is a Christian, but I digress. I had huge problems with assurance as my conversion was more like a recognization that Christ was my Lord instead of my dad’s Lord. Even a recognization that He had been my Lord from birth. I don’t believe in salvation by birth or anything but I’ve learned there is an advantage in being raised Christian. It does cause a faith crisis later in terms of assurance but friends with these types of dramatic conversions tell me the grass always is greener on the other side.

  • Chelsea Bucci

    “We’re suckers for big and loud stories—look at the film industry for evidence—and so we tend to write off anything that doesn’t fit that pattern. We don’t volunteer to tell people we grew up in the church and asked Jesus into our hearts as soon as we learned to speak. Who would find that story anything but boring?”

    I would find that story enthralling and deeply comforting at once. As someone who was saved (thank God!) out of the utter depths of worldliness, filth, and despair as a young adult, the “average” Christian who was raised from cradle to grave in the church is anything but average to me. It is inspiring, it is comforting, it is a beautiful and bright testimony of God’s hand keeping His own from the stain and sin of the world. It gives me bright hope that I can raise my own young children that way, and see our family tree planted firmly in God’s grace. These testimonies, to me, are some of the most compelling.

  • Kelly

    I’m thankful for my “boring” testimony: Christ didn’t save me out of a life of sin and consequences, He saved me *from* it.

    • Susan C.

      I agree!

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  • Laura

    Thank you, Mr. Arnold! This is exactly what I needed. I was recently asked to give my testimony during a special service and hesitated because I didn’t have any big thing to tell about how God saved me from the pits. Then, by God’s grace, I realized that I don’t have to come from a horrific background into salvation to have a “good” testimony. It should be awesome enough that I was saved!

  • John Harris

    Such a good article and very true. I was once in a men’s group and we went around the circle and most told tragic or someone tragic stories of our testimonies. Then we got to one guy who said he didn’t have much drama to share. I told him, that’s great cause we need role models and we need to know those who did it right.

  • http://Identityfulfilled Identityfulfilled

    Your article makes some very good points no doubt. I used to be the boring testimony guy. An elder, teacher and counseler at church. Of course I had my fair share of minor struggles but certainly not the story of as you said, ” the ex” . However, in May of last year I was diagnosed with cancer and went through the most difficult period in my life for 8 months. Add to that hurricane Sandy last October and I have some stories now that’s for sure. The uneventful testimony is a blessing but I think it is safe to say that some pain, suffering, trials, and tribulation serve to mature, grow, and equip you better. I believe I am now a better elder and teacher.

  • Mickey Klink

    Well done, James!

  • Marissa

    Thank you for this post! I am sharing my testimony next week at my discipleship group and I was giving into the temptation to believe the lie that my testimony is boring in comparison to the girl who shared last week who had many tragic events occur in her life. This was a blessing to me to remind myself that all stories are powerful and wonderful, Not because of us who share, but because of our Father who saved us and called us to Himself.

  • Jacob McMillen

    Any salvation testimony can be powerful, but ultimately, if you’re half way through a book, and the only thing keeping you reading is memories of that amazing intro, it’s a stupid book.

    We spend too much time on salvation testimonies, because few of us have learned how to actually live powerful Christian lives, so all we can offer is a description of chapter 1.

    • Darcy Lynne

      Good point.

  • Ryan Wilder

    Great Article! I’m glad this is communicated so well, this has been a great struggle when I was an RA. I was saved out of a long history of church rebellion and sin. When I became an RA we’d spend several nights sharing testimonies and I would get this kind of comment every time, “Well thanks for making mine sound boring!”

    So hard to hear when I wish I could have said I obeyed the first time. Hard when Pornography haunts my mind when a guy my age can testify to never have looked at it. Such a powerful testimony… not the life of disobedience.

  • Fiona

    I pray daily for my children that their testimonies will be that, like me, they can’t remember a day in their lives when they didn’t know God and trust His Son to make them clean. Our God is so powerful, and when I see Him transforminng the hardest of hearts, I find it such an encouragement to keep on praying for and sharing the Gospel with my family and friends even when they seem so closed to Him. But whilst God saves even the hardest of hearts, he rarely removes the consequences that come with having lived such a destructive life and I am thankful that by God’s grace I have been spared some of the ongoing pain and consequences that a wild and shameless life can leave us with, even having been transformed by His wonderful grace. We need both kinds of testimonies.

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  • Richard

    I have encouraged my kids during their teen-age years to be thankful for having a boring testimony. They would hear many speakers who lived the ‘prodigal’ life only to be accepted into the Kingdom of God upon dramatic confession, repentance and belief in Christ. But upon reflection, I suspect there are many ‘elder brothers’ who have boring testimonies because they have never actually experienced rebirth through grace alone.

    So here’s my take-away … when suffering comes, and it will, that is like one’s testimony being cast into the furnace. What remains is one’s true testimony.

  • Mark

    Salvation stories would all be better (even the really dramatic ones) if they included the fact that God is still saving us from who we still are. While our conversion is part of our salvation, it is not our entire salvation. In a sense we have been saved, in a sense we are being saved. We ought to live in constant amazement that God accepts us today, not that he accepted us way back when. The position of every Christian is “have mercy on me (today), a sinner” and not “God had mercy on me that once but now I’m done with that”.

    • Laura

      Yes, yes, yes, Mark! You have hit the nail smack dab on the head. Too many people don’t realize that our salvation is an ongoing thing. Just like we don’t stop sinning after we “get saved”, God doesn’t stop saving us! And praise God he doesn’t! Thank you for the input!!!

    • Darcy Lynne

      I love this… wrote it down and everything so I won’t forget it. Thanks for this reminder!

  • Darcy Lynne

    The timing of this post is almost too good to be true. I was talking about this exact topic with some fellow youth leaders at my church because, with the exception of one person in our group, every high school student at our church was raised by Christian parents. They all (to my knowledge at least) professed Christ at a young age and would all (again, my assumption) probably find their testimonies “boring.”

    I totally understand the feeling because I spent the first 20 years of my life thinking that my testimony was essentially “worthless.” Then a friend who had grown up just like me told me her story. She also had felt almost ashamed of her “boring” testimony, until she realized that the reason she found it boring was because she believed that she didn’t need all that much saving! She shared that when she read Matthew 9:12 – “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” – she had always lumped herself in with the healthy.

    Hearing that was probably the most life-changing moment in my life. I realized that I also believed myself to be “well,” for the most part… sure, I knew from childhood I NEEDED Jesus, but definitely not as much as “those sick people.” At that moment, I recognized that I was no better than any one of those addicts or criminals. I was every bit a sinner as them. And, if not for the grace of the Gospel presence in my life from an early age, the path of my life would have certainly looked more like theirs.

    Clearly I’m not the most concise person. But all that to say… this post was such an encouraging reminder of the truth that my testimony is NOT boring or worthless, and a challenge to me as youth leader to share these truths with the teenagers I work with. As they seek to share the Gospel with their friends, it is so crucial that they see just what the Lord has saved THEM from. Their stories are never boring!

  • Chancellor Roberts

    It was a great article, a much-needed article.

    I wonder if the reason we find so many of these salvation testimonies “boring” is because of our flesh, because our flesh isn’t tantalized by them. Why is it that we’re so often drawn to all the gory details of the ex-murderer’s, ex-drug-dealer’s, ex-Satanist’s sinful past while we look at the moment of receiving Christ as almost an afterthought, as “Oh, and then I prayed the sinner’s prayer and accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior”? Never mind, of course, that the entire work of salvation was done by God alone, that we wouldn’t even be saved if God hadn’t regenerated us, given us the faith to believe, brought us to repentance, and justified us.

    Our testimony is supposed to be about what He did, not about what we did before He did.

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  • Andy

    “Our testimony is supposed to be about what He did, not about what we did before He did.”

    I’m just thinking out loud but wasn’t what He was doing all about what we were doing? In other words my testimony would be one of the horror stories that would probably be fairly interesting but if I can’t see His Hand in it all, though I don’t think people can resist His dragging us kicking and screaming to Him, the things I’ve gone through would make absolutely no sense to me. There’s always a bit of desperation in my thoughts that borders a lot on the why He had to allow me to do and have happen to me the things that did. I’m just thinking out loud again if that makes any sense.

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