Who should study church history? Is it just for history students like myself? Or maybe for ultra-keen christians? For pastors? For those who like reading? Maybe the words study and history put you off the subject. Nevertheless, I believe that learning about the church and the heroes of the faith in the past is something we should all do as christians, wanting to grow in our faith.
Recently I’ve been reading Sketches in Church History by SM Houghton. Its a really great book, a simple introduction to the key names and events of church history from the early church until the twentieth-century, including fascinating stories and illustrations. Its divided into short chapters and an ideal starting place. I highly reccomend it.
So why should you read such a book?
Well really we’re not learning about them but about God, and what he has done. The men and women who we look back to were simply instruments in our God’s hands. They would not want us to look back to them as heroes in their own right, but ‘through Christ who strengthens us’.
Furthermore, we are not just ‘learning’ about them because it’s interesting or because it will make us look clever in conversation. Learning about church history can and should lead to worshipping our God. It’s not just an academic study! At it’s best it will inspire us to praise our God, when we see his faithfulness, grace and covanent-keeping love which runs like a thread throughout history.
In twenty-first century Britain, when the church seems to be failing and weak, it is even more important to look back to assure us of God’s power and love. But in looking back we must not forget that God is still willing and able to do more than we could ask or imagine, today!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12: 1-3