Starting in November, we will be starting a small group studying church history. To do this, we will use a book called 2000 Years of Christ's Power. The book is excellent. Order it now.
Now that you've ordered it, I want to try to convince you why it might be beneficial to you to join our group.
The first reason is found in Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, "I will build my church." The church exists because of Jesus Christ. And church history examines Christ's faithfulness to do what He said He would do.
Second, in 1 Timothy 6:12, Paul commanded Timothy, "Fight the good fight for the faith." By that, Paul means that conflict is sometimes required to protect the truths in the Christian faith. Church history is a record of those believers who were obedient to defend truths which were under attack. Just as military leaders must prepare for battle by studying the wars of the past, Christians are better equipped to understand spiritual warfare when they know the history of the church.
Third, in 2 Peter 3:16, Peter commented about Paul's letters saying, "There are some things hard to understand in them." When you study the Bible, it's easy to get confused. If Peter struggled to understand Paul, we will too. Thankfully, church history gives us a lot of perspective on how to interpret the Bible. No matter what your interpretation of the Bible, there's a good chance someone in church history already tried it. Church history makes us wiser as we interpret the meaning of Scripture.
Fourth, in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Paul wrote, "So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, whether by what we said or what we wrote." Did you know that Paul not only taught churches, but he left traditions they should uphold? Traditions aren't always a bad thing. Church history teaches us about the good traditions that we still practice in our worship service. Also, about traditions we don't practice which aren't necessarily bad. And finally, it teaches us about the really bad ones (like penance, Mariolatry, and praying to saints) and how they got started. Church history teaches us to be discerning about our traditions.
Fifth, Isaiah 8:12 says, "Do not call everything a conspiracy that these people say is a conspiracy. Do not fear what they fear; do not be terrified." This means that it's easy for us to needlessly imitate other people's fears and concerns without knowing the truth. Church history shows how wrong ideas make their way into the church and become popular. This prepares us to resist erroneous concerns and have more realistic ones which are based on the Bible.
Sixth, in the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus said, "This heaven will pass away, and the one above it will pass away.". Wait, what's the Gospel of Thomas? And why don't we believe it? It turns out there are a lot of spiritual-sounding texts that we don't accept as Scripture. The process of determining which books are inspired by God and which aren't is called "canonization". Any Christian who knows how we got our Bible is better prepared to defend their faith and appreciate the Bible's reliability.
Seven, and last, perhaps you aren't part of a small group. Small groups are people that gather regularly to connect with God, study Scripture, and enjoy each other. Every Christian should have this in their life, outside of attending a worship service. Our group won't just read a book; we will talk about Scripture, exchange perspectives, enjoy each other's company, and become better followers of Christ. I encourage you to consider joining us.