In response to a post about why to learn a bit of church history, BibleMesh was asked where a person can get started. So here are six ways to enrich your walk with God by learning church history.
1. As part of your personal Bible study, research what previous generations thought about particular passages and topics. One way to do that is by exploring the “theology” articles in BibleMesh’s Biblical Story course. Each has a “historical interpretation” section explaining how notable Christians from the past viewed the topic and directing you to further reading. Also, check out Kairos Journal. It’s a free online resource for pastors that documents the positions of Christians through history on abortion, economics, family life, education, the environment, the relationship between church and state, and a host of other cultural issues. The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series is another great resource, compiling commentary from the church fathers on various books of the Bible.
2. Read an overview of church history. Books like Mark Noll’s Turning Points and Timothy Paul Jones’ Christian History Made Easy present brief flyovers that introduce the most important characters and events. If you want a more in-depth survey, try Justo Gonzalez’s two-volume The Story of Christianity.
3. Read biographies of great Christians. There are scores of books about Jonathan Edwards, Augustine of Hippo, John Wesley, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, and other famous characters in church history. A good place to begin is Justin Taylor’s list of the best biographies, compiled from a survey of theologians and church historians.
4. Ask your pastor about his favorite church history resources. Especially if he’s seminary-trained, he ought to have a few favorites to recommend.
5. Explore Christian History magazine online. Their website has a wealth of free information, including back issues catalogued according to what century of church history they reference. This will let you learn through bite-sized articles rather than having to tackle an entire book.
6. Learn about your denomination’s heroes. This can make church history seem especially personal and relevant. If you’re a Methodist, read about John Wesley, Charles Wesley, and Francis Asbury. Presbyterians can turn to J. Gresham Machen, John Knox, and Robert Lewis Dabney. For Baptists there’s Charles Spurgeon, James P. Boyce, and John Broadus. Every camp within Christianity has its heroes. Find yours.
“I don’t know where to begin” is no longer a valid excuse. Get started in your study of church history.