The church is a family with a long and glorious story, woven together by God’s grace. As we continue to celebrate ten years of 5 Minutes in Church History, today Stephen Nichols underscores the importance of knowing, remembering, and retelling our story.
Welcome back to another episode of 5 Minutes in Church History. Last week, we celebrated our 10th anniversary, and I realized that we have one more Wednesday in this month of August. So why not celebrate the 10th anniversary two times? So, in honor of you all who have been listening to this episode, I want to dedicate this episode to you and want to address this question, “Why church history?” On the one hand, you’ve been listening, maybe you haven’t been listening for 10 years, but you’re listening. So, I think you already appreciate the value of church history, but it’s probably good for us to just take a pause from looking at all these events and all of these places and all of these people through church to just ask the question, “Why? What value is church history to us?” I can tell you the impact it has had on me.
I felt drawn to church history because I loved history. I think history helps us understand who we are, helps us understand our roots, helps us understand our place in this world. I remember reading the poem by Langston Hughes, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” And in the poem, he recounts the great rivers, the Nile River, the Euphrates River, and his ancient peoples who grew up along those rivers and accomplished things, even references the mighty Mississippi. And then he has this beautiful line. “My soul has grown deep like the rivers.” And I think what he means in that line of that poem is that as he engages in a very real way with the past, he himself has a better understanding of who he is, and he has a better understanding of his place in this world. We can also turn to our good friend, Spurgeon.
We bring him up a lot on 5 Minutes in Church History. And there’s a reason, he has a lot of smart things to say. And Spurgeon once said in the context of using commentaries, “I find it odd that someone who thinks so highly of what the Holy Spirit teaches them thinks so little of what the Holy Spirit teaches others also.” And so, he was encouraging people to use commentaries because the Holy Spirit is not an individual gift. The Holy Spirit is a corporate gift to the body of Christ. And so, the Holy Spirit teaches others, and we can learn from that. Well, the Holy Spirit is a corporate gift. The Holy Spirit is a global gift. We have things to learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe. The Holy Spirit is also an historical gift. And so, we have much to learn from the last 2000 years of church history as the Holy Spirit has been teaching those who have gone before us.
One way to look at “Why church history?” is to look at it this way, we don’t need it to get into heaven. All we need is the righteousness of Jesus Christ that will get us into heaven. You could say that you don’t even need it for a good sermon. What you need for a good sermon, of course, is the Bible, and, as Paul, exhorts to preach the word, but I would make a case that we might need it to live the Christian life. When we look over church history, what do we see? We see faithful disciples who faced the challenges, and they looked to God, and they saw God’s grace at work in their lives and in the church of their day. We also see examples of people who are not faithful. Church history is full of good steps, and it’s full of missteps.
And sometimes we can actually learn more right from a bad example. And sadly, church history is littered with bad examples. So, if we're trying to be a faithful disciple in our age, it might stand to reason that we would take advantage of all of the resources that God has given to us. And one of those resources is church history. Might I add another reason? It's fun. Church history is fun. These are fun people as we get to know them. And so, “Why church history?” Well, I hope after listening for 10 years, you know the answer to that question. Thanks for sticking with us and listening to this podcast for the last 10 years. I'm Steve Nichols, and thanks to all of you, my faithful listeners, for listening to 5 Minutes in Church History.