I'm taking a church history class right now from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. This class has started me thinking about church history in a whole new way. I don't claim this to be anything profound or earth shattering but it is new to me.
In the past when I thought of church history my focus was narrow, to say the least. I identified with Jesus and the apostles. You know, anything that I could read about in the Bible. Then there was a huge void, kind of like the intertestamental period, until my mind paused for a just a second with Martin Luther. Then I would skip along until I reached the Wesley brothers and all the significant things they did for the church. From there my mind would dwell briefly on the important points of the Methodist movement on down to the Wesleyan Church of which I am a part. As I said, a pretty narrow focus. My church history was a Wesleyan Church history.
But now my view has begun to widen. The thought occurred to me, kind of a minor epiphany really, that because I am a Christian all of Christian church history is my history. Yes, I am a Wesleyan and my theological views lie in that camp but there is a huge rich history beyond my immediate tradition. I think many people do what I have done over the years.They only identify with the parts of church history that they like. They focus on the high points in their tradition and ignore the rest. This has a tendency to give us an us versus them mentality with other Christian traditions. Another downside to this narrow focus is that we don't get the benefits of learning from the mistakes and victories from outside of our tradition. To be sure, in the history of the church there are countless scoundrels, murderers, cheats, and liars. But there are also men and women that have been nothing short of heroic in their desire to follow Christ.
This is ALL my history. What a shame it would be to never learn about it. Everything I know and believe about the church has been affected by all of its history. The heresies, abuses, great leaders, and victories are all relevant to me and the future of the church. Dr. Garth Rosell said this, "The recognition of weakness or failure in ourselves or in the history of the church need not force us to despair or cut us off from huge chunks of our heritage. Rather, it should prompt us to embrace the whole history of God's people, to learn from its mistakes as well as its successes."
I'm lovin' it!