Why Studying Church History is Important

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Something we’ve started recently at White Fields is a series of classes we’re calling: School of Ministry and Discipleship.

The idea is that have started offering a series of 5-week Christian education classes on various topics in a classroom setting. I like to think of it as Bible college for people who don’t have time to go to Bible college.

We ran a test of this last spring, learned a few things, and are ready to start again with our first 3 classes: Christianity 101 and Church History: Parts 1 & 2.

Interestingly, the Gospel Coalition just put out an article this week titled: The Role of History in Reclaiming the Christian Mind.

Here’s an excerpt:

“One of the besetting sins of evangelicalism is a mostly ahistorical approach to theology and praxis. As evangelicals, we appeal to the supreme authority of Scripture, and rightly so. But we don’t read our Bibles in a vacuum.”

Understanding God’s working in and through the church over the past 2000 years, as well as how Christianity developed in doctrine and practice is important for us as Christians today. For me, studying Christian History was one of the most enriching and enlightening parts of going to seminary, and I hope to share some of that with other people.

If you live near Longmont and would be interested in attending these free classes, they will be held on Sundays at noon starting April 3.

For more information or to sign up, click HERE.

 

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Bad Church Statistics

I ran across this article this week about Bad Church Statistics and the lies that are commonly believed as a result. I’ve copied the 7 myths part below, which is the core of the article.

I don’t know about you, but I have heard almost all of these before. I guess the sky isn’t falling quite as bad as we’ve been told it is. But, as Winston Churchill said: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

Myth #1. The divorce rate among Christians is as high as that of nonbelievers.

Reality: Christians have significantly lower divorce rates than the religiously unaffiliated. Further, the more regularly a Christian attends church, the less likely that person is to divorce.

Myth #2. Christian young people are leaving the Christian faith in record numbers.

Reality: It’s true that younger people are less affiliated with church than older people, but that’s the case in every generation since scholars began tracking it. We always need to help the next generation connect with church, but the overall percentage of Americans who affiliate with evangelical churches has remained rather stable for the last 30 years.

Myth #3. The majority of American evangelicals are poor and uneducated.

Reality: This quote from the Washington Post has some truth to it. The problematic term is “the majority of” which should be replaced with “many.” On average, evangelical Christians are less well educated than mainline Protestants, Catholics and the religiously unaffiliated. But evangelicals cover a wide spectrum from poorly educated to highly educated. Themajority, however, are not poor and uneducated.

Myth #4. The prayer life of American evangelicals is diminishing.

Reality: It turns out that evangelical prayer is on the increase. For example, 75% of evangelicals today pray on a daily basis, compared to 64% of those in the 1980s.

Myth #5. Evangelicals are less active in sharing their faith with others.

Reality: About half of all evangelicals report sharing their faith with non-believers, and rates of evangelism have held rather steady over the past several decades. This evangelism rate is more than double the rate of mainline Protestants and Catholics, and is higher than most other religions. We all have family and friends who seek a closer relationship with God, plus we know of entire people groups that have little exposure to the Gospel, so let’s keep ramping up our efforts.

Myth #6. Evangelicals preach one thing about sex outside marriage, but practice another.

Reality: Actually, evangelicals have relatively low rates of adultery, premarital sex and pornography usage, and these decrease with more frequent church attendance.

Myth #7. The more educated you become, the more likely you are to give up your faith.

Reality: Belief and practice grow stronger with increased education, evangelicals included.

Evangelicals’ Favorite Heresies

Christianity Today posted this article about surveys done of evangelical Christians, which revealed how many American evangelicals hold views condemned as heretical by some of the most important councils of the early church.

Here’s the article:

New Poll Finds Evangelicals’ Favorite Heresies: Survey finds many American evangelicals hold unorthodox views on the Trinity, salvation, and other doctrines.

It’s worth reading. Here are a few of the poll results:

The concluding statements were also very insightful and worth taking note of:

Beth Felker Jones, professor of theology at Wheaton College, said, “Orthodoxy is life-giving, and God’s people need access to it.” Participants who gave unorthdox answers are not heretics, but probably lacked quality resources, she said. “Church leaders need to be able to teach the truth of the faith clearly and accurately, and we need to be able to show people why this matters for our lives.”

For Nichols, one way forward in understanding God and ourselves is to consult the historic church. “While slightly over half see value in church history, [nearly] 70 percent have no place for creeds in their personal discipleship,” he said. For Nichols, the church’s knowledge of its past will determine its future. Knowing heresies and how they were overcome, he says, will help the church stay on the right track theologically.

Thoughts?