Why is it important to study Church History?

Some time ago I aquired a lecture series from Ligonier Ministries on the topic of Church History. This lesson is taught by a man named Robert Godfrey.

Today, I found myself at work scrolling through my phone what sort of sermon, lecture, or song playlist I could listen to today. I found myself at work today listening to a lecture series by Robert Godfrey on Church History. Church history has always fascinated me, there are a number of high points and low points within Christian history and to be honest, it’s a straight-up mess.

As I was listening to this series for probably the third or fourth time, I began to think to myself how saddening it is that not many Christians today know about Christian History. In some cases, it may even come down to the idea that ministry leaders never learned the topic. I believe this can be a very dangerous slope to be standing on, and we as Christians could greatly benefit from studying Christian History. After all, it’s not just history, it is the Christian’s history. It is our history.

Below I have come up with five reasons (in no particular order) why it is important to study Church History.

Most of the world is clueless and the church today is “losing” answers.
I can’t tell you how many times I have had conversations with others who question the Bible, Christian History and try to give some sort of “The Bible is written by man” comment or some other claim to discredit the Christian faith. What’s even worse is there are Christians who have no idea how to respond to these issues. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us that we should always be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have. How can explain our hope, when we don’t know where it comes from?

Our History is God’s Testimony.
I often find myself looking back on my own life to find the evidence that God was with me through certain situations. By bringing these to mind it helps me with various struggles I may be facing in the present. Now that is only 30 years. What if I had 2,000 years to look back on? Another element I like to look back on is that of the Protestant Reformation. It began with Martin Luther trying to hold a theological discussion among his colleagues, little did he know it would set off an atom bomb in the faith. Pulling us back into the Word of God. I sometimes find myself speaking up against certain theological ideas with the same hopes. To bring individuals into a sound understanding. It can sometimes feel like a burden, but looking back on how God works through the lives of faithful ministry titans of the past helps me to press on in the work God will do in the present and future.

Knowing history can help us preserve truth and defend against error.
One of the elements we can sometimes miss within the ministry of Jesus is not that He came to abolish religion but to rebuke and correct false religions. A right understanding of truth was very important to Jesus. Likewise, through history, we see many heresies that sprout up claiming superiority in some way or another. Gnosticism (New Age, Word of Faith, Mormonism), Judaizer (7th Day Adventist, Catholicism), Arianism who denied the deity of Jesus (Jehovah’s Witness) and many others that creep into modern Christianity.

Gives ministers a right perspective on their place in the Church age
Church History spans 2,000 years, each generation is but a blip on the timeline. Understanding church history helps us to understand our role in the narrative, something God could choose to do with another nation if He saw fit. We are not the first generation to “get it right” We should treat the writing and actions of the past faithful ministers seriously and learn from them. What did they get right, and what did they get wrong?

Church History is our History.
Church history is Christian history. I beleive if we take some to study church history it can hep to not only increase our understanding of the faith, but also bring more value, purpose, and even drive to our own ministry.

Conclusion
It seems to me that as the generations continue, the church loses hold to their foundations and sound doctrines that were taught in the life of Jesus, the Apostles, and “restored” during the Reformation. If we continue down this path, we may soon see a Christian faith that doesn’t use scripture or history except to support their personal ideas.

We live in a time were the gospel has been reduced to a song from the Beatles, All you need is Love. How much longer until the Christian doesn’t know anything about the sacred Word of God?

Below is a collection of resources I have in my own collection I find myself going back to quite often. My hope is that you may find them to be helpful in your own spiritual walk.

Robert Godfrey of Ligonier Ministries (Video and Audio)

Nathan Busenitz of The Masters Seminary (Video)

Handbook on History of Christianity (Text Book)