In this guest post, Simon Cansdale of Christ Church, Winchester, explains how the church used Open Doors' Dangerous Faith resource during 2020 to help the church better connect with their persecuted family.
Christ Church, Winchester (photo taken before pandemic)
Like all churches in the UK, we’ve had to look at doing things differently this year at Christ Church, Winchester. Our services have been livestreamed, and members of the church have only recently been able to start meeting with each other again at all. Things are still far from normal.
In this season, we’ve been using Open Doors’ Dangerous Faith resource to help our church better connect with the persecuted church – in many places in the world, of course, believers are never able to meet together. Lockdown isn’t persecution for Christ Church, but perhaps it makes us better understand the experiences of our brothers and sisters around the world.
Each week, for six weeks during the summer, we used Dangerous Faith as a central part of our online Sunday service. It can be used as a small group resource, but we wanted to make sure everybody felt able to engage together with it.
Every week, we played the relevant Open Doors video, followed by a reflection from one of the staff team of the church. Then we picked up the themes in an online Q&A, after the service. That meant everybody could contribute, and we didn’t feel too separated from each other.
Dangerous Faith uses Acts to connect the courageous faith of the early church with the sisters and brothers today who are standing tall for their faith in places like North Korea, China, Nigeria and many other places. The videos really helped us see the book and the situation more clearly – it’s fresh and engaging preaching and interaction on parts of Acts, helping us to see how the persecuted church is thriving in other parts of the world.
As I said in my reflection on the first of the six weeks: here’s what I learn from the persecuted church. In Acts and across the world. The persecuted church often thrives and grows with far more taken away from them than is taken away from us right now. With greater risks, greater uncertainty, greater hostility, greater personal jeopardy, than any of us can imagine.
"If the persecuted church can thrive and grow [...] what’s stopping us growing and thriving during lockdown? Simon Cansdale
If the persecuted church can thrive and grow and be faithful to Jesus, with lots more taken away than access to a building and the permission to meet in large groups, then what’s stopping us growing and thriving during this lockdown?
In a later week, when we looked at Acts 8, we read about a scattered church – but one which knew what they stood for. This community of faith were captivated by the mission and ministry of Jesus. A ministry that was so good, it had to be shared regardless of the cost. And that’s what we see from our persecuted church family every day.
Maybe the key thing that we have realised and taken home over the summer is that, even during lockdown, we have more freedom to share and practise our faith than many of our sisters and our brothers who are disciples of Jesus across the world. It’s helped to lift our eyes and give us a bit more hope and confidence as we go into autumn.
Lord, we ask that You would continue to connect the church in the UK and Ireland with our persecuted family worldwide. Please show us how we can stand with our brothers and sisters, what we can learn from their courageous faith and how we can worship and serve You together.
Dangerous Faith is available, for free, as a downloadable pdf or an orderable print resource. To use this material in your church or small group, simply download the free discussion guide which provides session plans to accompany each video, as well as background material and Bible readings.