By Jennifer Taylor
Trent Renner, lead pastor at Parkway Christian Church (Surprise, Arizona), read about hundreds of Christian martyrs as part of his morning devotions in 2010. When planning for 2011, he knew these stories would inspire and challenge his church.
“The accounts of persecution and the way these heroes faithfully endured it for Christ really affected me,” he says. “It changed my perspective and made me more grateful for the freedom in our country.”
At the beginning of the year, Renner invited church members to share the story of one martyr in one service on one weekend.
“We have four services, so as many as four different people participate each weekend,” he says. “Each Thursday evening during worship practice, that week’s team gathers to choose the story they’ll share, do some research on it, and prepare their thoughts.”
Although the group plans together, neither Renner nor his volunteers who coordinate the program insist on a “script.”
“Each person shares the same story so all four services are hearing about the same martyr,” he says. “But the point is not ensuring identical speeches in each service, it’s getting four people together who might not know each other and encouraging them to learn and plan as a team. We just ask them to focus on the person being persecuted, that person’s response, and their steadfast perseverance.”
Renner says the exercise offers additional benefits—church members of every age can participate (almost 100 have signed up already, some of them kids and teens), and the participants grow in their speaking and presenting skills.
“We schedule this three-minute moment right before the sermon, so if someone goes really long I can walk on stage,” Renner laughs. “And it’s easy to work each week’s story into my message. I can’t imagine ever getting tired of hearing how someone stood their ground for Jesus.”
Jennifer Taylor, one of Christian Standard’s contributing editors, lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Read her blog at www. christianstandard.com.
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