I went on a rant a couple weeks ago. I was reading though my Twitter timeline and started thinking about how much we need to discuss and know Church History today. When I was in Bible College I took Church History expecting to white-knuckle though a boring semester. Dr. Parsons opened my eyes to a new love and passion that I never knew I had. Church History is amazing! I wondered at the end of that semester how come I never knew of these awesome men and women of our faith.
Before the class started I couldn’t tell you the difference between Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr. I just never heard about them. I never heard about the great stories of the Church Councils. Like how Santa was real and slapped a heretic in his face. I mean, that is crazy right? Or the example of Augustine who after 30+ years of living in sin and for himself he give his life to the Lord and has since influenced so much of Christian Theology and Western thinking. I don’t think I ever heard a lesson on any person or event in church history earlier than Jim Elliot. I certainly have never heard a message on church history in youth group.
So I took a risk. I taught on Church History in my youth group. It went amazing!
Here are 6 reasons I taught my students Church History and I think you should too:
- Church History teaches our students that Christianity is historic. Millions of people over 2000 years have been studying, believing, and dealing with many of the same issues they are going through and wrestling with today. That should comfort your students that they are not the first Christian ever to deal with a certain issue..
- Church History teaches our students about the heresies of the past that have already been dealt with, so we don’t make the same mistakes again. So many heresies that are being propagated today are recycled thoughts from 1500 years ago. There were church councils that dealt with weighty issues and wrestled with the scriptures to find what the Bible actually says on the issue. We should learn from the errors of the past so we don’t make the same mistake again.
- Church History teaches us that what we believe is worth defending. Studying the martyrs who risked their lives empowers our students to be bold about their faith and stand up for what they really believe in. People risked their lives for the truth. People died proclaiming the gospel. This is emboldening for our students.
- Church History should humble our students. Jonathan Edwards entered Yale at the age of 12. Charles Spurgeon didn’t go to college but managed to start his own Pastor’s College. We have brilliant men and women in our history. People who God has allowed us to be able to study and learn from. In our entitled society it is probably a good habit to read and learn from men and women who can school us and bring us back a couple pegs.
- Church History teaches us that God can use imperfect people for his perfect purpose. Martin Luther said racist stuff towards the end of his life and Jonathan Edwards owned slaves. These are things we shouldn’t shove under the rug. We should show our students that God can use incredibly flawed individuals for his glory. That is very good news for us.
- Most of the men had epic beards. As Spurgeon said: “Growing a beard is a habit most natural, Scriptural, manly and beneficial.” Seriously, beards are amazing!
I did a series called Four Epic Dudes. It was a study on the life and ministry of Augustine, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon. My students came in not knowing much about these men and they left with a new appreciation for Church History and the people who paved the way to where we are today. You can purchase this series in the YouthMin Market Place. I won’t lie, this was a bit different from most of my past series. Lots of research and reading went into it. However, my soul has been enriched after doing it and refreshing my own mind on the works by these men and their lives as an example for me has been very beneficial.
If anything, study church history for yourself. If you want a book to get you started on studying church history for yourself, read Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley. That was my textbook in college and it has been a great resource ever since. Also, read “Lectures to my Students” by Charles Spurgeon. Every pastor should have this on their shelves. It is just an amazing book!