SANTA ANA, CA - Christian leadership training is one of the greatest needs in the Persecuted Church today.
Church leaders often lack access to Biblical training in many countries around the world due to persecution and living in a hostile environment.
For that reason, Open Doors with Brother Andrew - a ministry to the Persecuted Church celebrating 50 years of outreach in 2005 - has made pastoral and church leadership training one of its highest priorities.
In 2003, Open Doors trained more than 22,000 pastors and church leaders in some of the world's most restricted areas. Training includes conducting seminars on Christian living, family life, how to thrive under persecution, discipleship, Sunday School and child evangelism, cell church principles, building bridges to reach Muslim neighbors and formal theological studies. In some cases, Open Doors also supports Christian community development projects and Bible-based literacy courses to aid Christians living in areas where they are considered second-class citizens.
"Open Doors is increasing its efforts to reach and strengthen the emerging generations of young Christians in order to build a solid foundation for future church growth in some of the world's most restricted areas," says Open Doors USA President Dr. Carl Moeller. "I've heard first-hand of how the training courses for pastors in Vietnam are impacting the entire country for Christ. We need to equip even more church leaders; they are thirsting to grow in the Word so they can better reach out to their congregations and to their communities."
The most popular and unique training course offered by Open Doors is called "Standing Strong Through The Storm." Taught by Open Doors co-workers, it shares the lessons of the Persecuted Church worldwide, giving a solid Biblical perspective on persecution, practical advice on how to avoid unnecessary persecution and instruction on how to endure persecution when it happens. The material also contains inspirational examples of how many churches grow even in the midst of severe persecution.
At a Standing Strong Through The Storm seminar held in Gujarat state - one of the most intolerant states for Christianity in India - participant Suresh Thackeray, who has been severely harassed for his faith, shared his gratitude for the training and the support of fellow participants: "The seminar has been timely for my situation and it is good that I could come here for fellowship and encouragement. It does not trouble me that I had to drive one full day to get here. It is worth the effort. I was feeling alone and hopeless, but you have given me hope and assurance."
February marked a milestone for Open Doors when the first group of students - 22 in all -graduated from an advanced theological training program in southern Sudan. During the two-year training, Open Doors supplied the students with course modules, exercise books, pens, Bibles, food and other items. The books used during the first training phase covered subjects like prayer ministry, stewardship, church management, administration and family management. The second training phase took an in-depth look at the King and His Kingdom, the law of the Kingdom, Christian maturity, the witnessing task of the church and the Kingdom of God compared with other cultures.
In Nigeria, Open Doors offers administrative assistance to a training course for Christians called "Local Church Training Program." The course equips Christians to reach out to the Muslim-dominated villages of northern Nigeria.
"The course is a weapon given to us, which is exactly what we have been waiting for," voiced a seminar attendee. "Now we have everything in our hands to share the Gospel. We have the responsibility to saturate this area with the Gospel….answering questions about the Christian faith with a new-found confidence."
In many countries where Open Doors serves, women are disenfranchised residents. Recently women trainers came to Vietnam to take up the challenge of meeting the growing needs of the women of the Vietnamese church. A trainer offered this testimony: "A dominant theme in the women's testimonies was the discovery of how the Lord highly values them as women; that they are as precious to Him as the men. Through the training they received affirmation of their worth as women - all shaped to be vessels of God's beauty. I felt so humbled to be part of bringing this change - of changing a generation's paradigm, of liberating the women from a flawed perspective of who they are and of freeing them from the notion of being 'second class.'"