As soon as you saw the word “history” in the title of the article, you may have been tempted to just scroll on by, so congratulations of overcoming that temptation and clicking on the article. Trust me; I know the temptation well. For much of my life, history of any kind was boring to me, especially church history. In fact, I failed a history class in high school, simply because of a sheer lack of interest in the subject and absolutely no motivation to learn anything about it.
I have since matured (if only a little) and come to realize the importance of the history of God’s Church here on earth, not only realizing its importance, but I am fascinated by it. And if you are someone who loves Jesus, might I suggest that you should be fascinated by what God has done through his church throughout history. It should inspire you.
If it all seems to boring and dull for you, you might wonder how such history could be inspirational. Might I suggest that maybe it is not the history that is boring and dull, but rather that you have a skewed and ill-informed perception of it. Sorry if this sounds like a rebuke to you—yes you, the one reading this right now—and dreading the thought of picking up a biography of Martin Luther, or Augustine, or John Calvin, or the writings of Johnathan Edwards (just a few examples).
If you are a Hockey fan who lives in Canada, you will likely have heard of the 72’ summit series between Canada and Russia. And if you are of a certain age, not only will you have heard of it, but you will most certainly remember it. It was one of the greatest hockey series of all time. The Series was tied at 3 games apiece, and in the last game of the series, Canada was losing by two goals at the end of the second period. Canada scored two goals in the third to tie it up, and with 34 seconds left on the clock, Paul Henderson scored the winning goal to take the series, and Canada won! This goal has been dubbed, “The goal heard around the world!” due to the significance it holds in Canadian hockey history. Coaches still use this series as inspiration and motivation for their teams to never give up, never quit, never lose hope. This is history being used as motivation and inspiration for hockey teams everywhere today.
This is why Church history is so important to us today. Church history is full of mistakes made by the Church, but there are also these shining moments where the Church has taken the Bible and declared the truths contained within, and it changed the course of not only Church history, but world history. We can observe in history that God’s Word has power, not because it is a book, but because it gives us the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection!
The birth of Jesus is a historical fact. If we had been there, the stable would have smelled of animals. The cross is a historical fact. If we had been there, we could have experienced the brutal death that Jesus died for the sins of His people. The Bible is real, it is true.
Church history also shows us that when the Church of God knows the Jesus of the Bible, amazing revival happens! And whenever the Church gets their idea of who Jesus is from any other source, such as a group of people, the culture, or philosophy, there is major Church failure.
So we need to look back on Church history and be motivated just as a hockey player might be motivated by watching the 72’ summit series all over again. We can look to Church history and realize that when we truly know the Jesus of the Bible and His gospel, and when we declare that Gospel, it is life changing. That is why Church history is so important. It helps us to see the power of God at work through his people here on earth.
The writer of Hebrews also knew the importance of the history of Gods People. When writing to the Hebrews in chapter 11, he lists the heroes of the faith from the past, and then writes this in chapter 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
He uses historical heroes to motivate the New Testament Church to run the race with all their might, always looking to Jesus. That is what Church history can do for us today. Let’s look back to the mistakes the church has made as motivation to avoid them, and let’s look back to amazing gospel victories that God has achieved in this world, through his church, when they focussed on Jesus.