Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Five things you need to know about church history

Had the opportunity to teach 'The Story of the Church' for FP Impact Training. This from our first session together...

1. One big romantic comedy, with songs. No, not Mamma Mia! It's the Bible. The story of the church isn't a footnote in human history from Pentecost to today. It begins with Adam and Eve on the slopes of Eden, before that in the heart of God, and runs into the renewed creation at the wedding supper of the Lamb.

2. Warning. Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 tells us that we're not the first people or the only people, there's no memory of us - history administers a strong dose of humility... the gospel through creation. History is laced with frustration and the lost hope of Adam's son Abel personifies this.

“You may have heard the story of the Mennonite Brethren movement. One particular analysis goes like this: the first generation believed and proclaimed the gospel and thought that there were certain social entailments. The next generation assumed the gospel and advocated the entailments. The third generation denied the gospel and all that were left were the entailments.” Don Carson, cited in Assumed Evangelicalism at

3. Movements don't last - it's very hard to sustain the gospel from one generation to the next, the gospel continues movements almost inevitably don't. If we fight to maintain a movement we'll miss the gospel, if we fight for the gospel then whatever happens to the movement isn't so important.

4. There are villains - five key nasties who keep coming back. Bullies like legalism aka Biff Tannen that make us feel like we're not proper Christians and add all sorts of cultural extras that remove joy and blunt mission, two-faced foes like gnosticism aka Castor Troy that are anti-physical, apparent bad-guys like Arius (Dr Evil) who threaten a lot but are easily refuted, chaotic figures like Pelagius (the Joker) who are anti-community, optimistic about people, and the Sylar of Heresy, Liberalism who looks charming but steals everyone else's powers..

5. What to expect? Jesus promised he will build his church - it's a promise (Mat 16:18). Division and problems will come but when the word spreads the number of disciples will increase (Acts 6).
The story can be told of the Stephens and the Philip's.
The story can't be told of the Nicanor or Prochorus' - most of the story of the church is ordinary Christians doing ordinary Christian life. These are the history makers. Human history forgets them, or never even knew them at all - but in the real story of history - the story of the church, God's story, they are the story.
And, ultimately this is Jesus' story. No better story.

"The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes." CS Lewis, introduction to On the Incarnation, Athanasius


  1. "the Sylar of Heresy, Liberalism who looks charming but steals everyone else's powers.."

    So true! And witty too! Thank God that history (unlike Heroes) will eventually reach some sort of adequate conclusion...

  2. Where did you get the "Two Ways To Live" Pictures? They look like 2 ways to Live but I haven't seen them before?

  3. It's an edit by me of the Two Ways To Live Picture.

    So, first I added in the church - I think 2wtl is ok, but it's inevitably over simplistic, and the absence of the church and the renewed creation are major problems!

    Anyways, then for this occasion I added the arrows to show the promise of progress and frustration.