This is a side note I had added while writing some related thoughts to another Q&A (Accountability Groups). The first paragraph is the springboard in my own response that got me remembering my own experiences, and subsequent considerations, regarding the "Testimony"
Now, in this system it's important that a leader is one who will not become the object of the same examination that is brought upon lesser-esteemed individuals. This is accomplished not by the demand that he must not be examined, but instead through use of efficient diversion techniques. Such leaders have learned how to create and flaunt an oft-declared and well-known declared "Testimony" so that lesser-esteemed individuals are not only kept at bay but stand in AWE over the publicly witnessed "humility" of said leaders. In this way, the "sins" of such leaders have become enviable trophies that often find themselves included within the "testimonies" of accountability-leader wannabes!
When I was attending bible college it become necessary for this very issue to be addressed by the faculty from time to time ... because there were more than a few students who not only molded their own pre-prepared "Testimonies" to INCLUDE the more highly esteemed sins of the highly-regarded leaders, but even a few who borrowed the experiences of others and claimed them as their own. Of course, the "extreme" examples provided a very definable no-no to avoid, allowing the whole bogus publicity framework known as the "Testimony" to replace the very real testimony of the Spirit, who continually operates within all who belong to Christ.
How did I end up seeing through this craziness? I can tell you it's not because I was so insightful ... but because of the fact that I was so fearfully insecure ... as well as having been endowed with a very good memory!! I came to realize right away that - based upon simple comparison - I didn't have a very good "Testimony", surely nothing that would compete with those I heard at every single evangelistic meeting I attended (which was most every meeting I attended). Given my incredible shyness in crowds I found it very easy to make myself as invisible as possible in order to avoid getting called on ... and I rarely was.
I mean, who was going to get "saved" by hearing such a lack-luster story from a kid who didn't have anything of note happen to him during the entire course of his life?! If salvation from sin was based upon the modern psychology of evangelism then I should have never gotten saved because I could have never hit "bottom" so that I should see how "sinful" and in "need of a savior" I really was!!
You see, the bible college I attended was a training camp in how to witness the gospel in order to save souls from hell. Soul-winning was not a secondary reason or extension of the school, but was very clearly stated in the mission statement that it was the only real purpose of the college. Those who came for other purposes did so under their own assumptions. Though I had had my own previous conflicts with this agenda I had been snagged during one of the weekend long "youth camps" (a winter venture held in Asheville, NC) and upon my return home had decided to register and enroll at the Bible college in Hollywood, FL (just an hour south of my home) to be trained as a soul-winner. It had become my mission.
Funny thing was that I had associated my embarrassment in the realm of public-speaking with being "ashamed of the gospel of Christ" when the real thing I was ashamed of was messing up by not doing it right. If I had had a testimony worthy of presenting to a crowd so that I could be assured that they would be struck by its power as I was of others I would have certainly taken the risk. The bottom-line is that I didn't want to stick my neck out as a "Christian" anymore than I didn't want to raise my hand in school to ask a question or stand up front to give a book report (the idea soaked my very composure with dread). But there was more.
The fact is that a good part of my embarrassment was interwoven with the "spiritual" game taking place both around and within me, for I was slowly beginning to understand, though having been unconsciously aware of for years before. My "testimony" was supposed to be prepared beforehand so that it could be given in a moment's notice, and it was to include the circumstances leading up to me receiving Christ as my savior. Most of my teachers had testimonies worthy of telling since they actually had something (or many somethings) happen to them causing them to cry out to God for salvation at a specific point in time. Geez, I didn't even know for sure when I had "received Christ as my savior", which in such a setting only added to my insecurity.
Being "ashamed of the gospel" has nothing to do with the formalities of "giving a testimony" or sharing the "steps to salvation" (in either public or private settings) but instead has to do with the underlying sense of shame in the realization that in Christ our standing according to the world's system of performance shows us to be nobodies. The real gospel (good news) stands upon the simple reality that our real selves have no standing in the world. Yes, it demands that one's peers have no REAL standing either, but in the face of a unified belief structure that seems to be validated by appearances we can only be viewed at the bottom of the pile of humanity - by our own admission.
Being NOT ashamed of the gospel does not come by strength of will, but in relinquishment to that which is revealed within our very beings. The determination factor is not found in how we can be bold but in the overwhelming freedom of NOT trying to cover our weaknesses and fears with religious procedures and systems. The boldness comes in the realization that we don't have to pretend or to make a show just because the world - even the religious world - demands it.
Our testimony is not a prepared speech stuck in the past but is a living reality of the only true life that is within us, who is Christ. Knowing that we have nothing else but Christ can only cause embarrassment to a mind that finds its worth in its own efforts, but it can only bring overwhelming freedom to those who know that all such worth is bogus! When your testimony is Christ alone, and not a prepared speech, you find you may truly have some real stuff to share from time to time.