Happy New Year!
Have you decided what your New Year’s resolutions will be?
You may be asking me, “Pete, are you crazy? It’s November!”
I know that. And we are in the final quarter of 2016. Therefore, instead of posting this message on the last week in December this year, I want to allow you some extra time to buy a book such as the one you see on your right, The Story Of Christianity, Vol. 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation.
Why not? Why not order this book (or a similar book) now, rather than order it at the end of the year when you are busy with families, short on time and perhaps low on cash? Why not now prepare to begin on New Year’s Day studying church history systematically?
By systematically I mean studying the history of the church chronologically, little by little, event by event, from when the Christian Church was born to the last days we are now living in. Can you do that? Sure! Why not? A book such as this just may help you accomplish that goal.
It was written by Justo L. Gonzalez and was first published in 2010. I chose this book because it is the text used in several Bible schools, colleges, and universities. I believe Azuza Pacific University still uses it as a textbook in its theology curriculum.
By getting a book such as this, early, you will have the chance of leisurely going through it. And, with a 2017 calendar planner, you can jot down the pages of the book you need to read each day of the week for one half of the year. Then, by reading about four pages a day, by the end of June 2017, you will have completed volume 1.
I then plan in July to launch into volume 2, (click here) which I will order early next year – Lord willing. And have it read by December 31st.
In the first volume of this book, the first five chapters have these areas of study:
* The Jews in Palestine
* The Church in Jerusalem
* Mission to the Gentiles
* First Conflicts with the State
* Persecution in the Second Century
For each weekday during 2017 you can (as a suggestion):
1) Pray to God and ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand the book’s points for each event in Church history.
2) Use a study Bible as a tool which links a Bible passage to the Church history account you are reading.
3) Use your Church denomination’s own history of her existence and locate it relative to Church history – once you get to the historic event.
4) Browse the internet and locate supplements to the topic you are reading.
5) Use other Christian sources such as Fox’s Book of Martyrs or Christian History Timeline and study the significance of Christian Church leaders or events you are reading about. [Note: I am under no contractual relationship with Amazon.com. You can order these books from your favorite bookstore such as Barnes & Noble, Christan Book Distributors or Books-A-Million].
6) Use previous sermon notes that you have taken on any reference to a particular topic you are reading – or – go to your church’s website or publications. Perhaps you may need to contact your church’s staff for information.
7) Review and jot down in a notebook what you have learned. Pray and offer thanks to God. Be willing to share what you have learned with other Christians.
Why I Strongly Suggest the Study of Church History
I strongly suggest you become at least familiar with Church history because of the following reasons:
- Much of what you read in the New Testament – after the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – was written by the apostles Paul, Peter, and James in response to the dangers the Church was facing at that time. For example, Gnosticism was on the rise. Philosophies against the reality and personhood of Christ was threatening to divide and destroy the Church. The Roman Empire was increasingly reacting against the gospel.
- Many Christian doctrines, over the centuries, have been clarified, expounded and brought to focus after the New Testament writings (letters) were completed and circulated to the early churches. One of these doctrines was about the nature of God, the Trinity.
- Today, many planters of new Christian Churches have little knowledge or understanding of the issues that have influenced Christian thinkers, writers and teachers that have confronted the Church over the centuries. The result is that new churches may begin embracing several teachings or traditions that are incorrect.
This system of reading The Story of Christianity does not necessarily replace any read-through-the-Bible program that you may have planned to undertake throughout the year. As a matter of fact, I encourage you to do both: study the history of the Church AND read the Bible through using a daily devotional.
Why both? Because, like your favorite chewing gum, you can double your pleasure appreciating God’s hand in Church history and understanding more the messages found in His Word.