This post is part of a 5-session teaching series covering the first 5 chapters of the book of Acts in the New Testament. It is designed to be used in a small group environment for young people aged 11-14, but can be adapted for other purposes. The young people were encouraged to read the chapter in advance. Credit must be given to Dave Johnson for co-writing this session and for posting it online previously here.
I originally planned on writing a 12-part series, but our groups fell behind and I didn’t continue the notes. For more youth group resources check out my page here.
Image credit: JustinLowery on Flickr
Acts Chapter 4: Arrested
To learn about Christians who are persecuted for their faith and understand how God encourages and inspires us in difficult situations.
Give everyone a pen and paper, then ask them to write down (or draw) their three most important possessions. Once everyone has decided, explain that there has been an huge earthquake and their houses have been destroyed. They have a few minutes to grab ONE of their items to carry with them. Which one would they take and why?
When everyone has shared, tell the group about the underground churches in places like China and North Korea. In these places, God’s word is their most treasured possession with people risking their lives to smuggle Bibles and share the good news with others.
How does this make them feel? Did anyone think of taking their Bible with them?
Following Peter and John’s healing of the crippled man at the Temple ([youversion]Acts 3:1-10[/youversion]) they were arrested for preaching about the good news of Jesus. The Jewish leaders believed that the disciples were committing blasphemy (speaking untrue things about God) and they were thrown in prison overnight. Even though the believers were scared of what might happen to them, their numbers grew from 3,000 to around 5,000 men ([youversion]Acts 4:4[/youversion])!
Reading: [youversion]Acts 4[/youversion]
Your group should have read the chapter in advance. Take a few minutes to recap on its content for those who havenâ€™t.
Illustration: Brother Yun
Take a few minutes to look at the life of Brother Yun (author of The Heavenly Man) whose story represents an example of the persecuted Christians in China. From Wikipedia:
Seen as a rebel among some Chinese for not joining the ‘official’ government-controlled Christian organization, Brother Yun was imprisoned and tortured by the government authorities. He was finally arrested and sentenced to many years in prison. However, Yun continued his ministry while in prison, with miraculous results. As a result, many prisoners and even some prison officials became born-again.
Apparently, while he gained increasing favor from some officials, he also became a target of increased persecutions by others. He was repeatedly beaten and became severely malnourished. After many years, he escaped from Zhengzhou Maximum Security prison. He described how he heard the voice of the Hoy Spirit, telling him to simply walk out the heavily guarded prison gate. Risking being shot to death on the spot, he wrote later that he obeyed the voice, and walked straight through several prison doors that were somehow left open in front of many prison guards, across the prison yard and finally out of the main gate. Yun stated that it was as if he had become invisible to the guards who stared straight through him. Although many expressed doubts that such a thing could happen, some prison guards had apparently lost their jobs for this ’embarrassing mishap.’ It is reported that the official investigation by the Chinese Government concluded that “Yun received no human help in his escape.” It is claimed that these reports have been also confirmed by numerous prisoners who occupied the same prison cell as Yun. Apparently, he remains the only person to have escaped from this notorious maximum security prison!
You can watch a 10 minute testimony by Brother Yun on YouTube:
- How would you react to being arrested for what you believed? Would it effect your faith and beliefs?
- What would you do if it was illegal to be a Christian? Why?
- Do you think that you could praise God in difficult situations? How would you do it?
- Which of our 5 Values (Follow, Honour, Serve, Support, Share) apply to this passage? What can you learn from it?
- Pray for the persecuted Church around the world
- Pray for boldness within the group that they can share the message amongst their friends (and family) without fear
- Pray for any issues affecting the group this week.
This week, you should try to overcome your own fears and share the good news of Jesus with some friends! Ask God to give you boldness even when people are rude to you because of your faith. Remember, if people laugh at you because of Jesus, you are in great company!
Further Reading: [youversion]Genesis 39:20-23[/youversion]
Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. (New Century Version)