What do you know about the first Roman emperor to be converted to Christianity? Do you know when Gutenberg produced the first printed Bible or why Martin Luther posted the Ninety-Five Theses? Do the names Polycarp, Irenaeus, Augustine, or Aquinas sound familiar?
Church history is probably one of the more neglected and oftentimes poorly taught seminary disciplines. Everyone can think back to elementary school and recall a dull history course or teacher they had and perhaps that colors their perspective on church history. Or maybe it is a discipline that feels quite removed from a future ministry context. After all, very little preaching, teaching, or counseling are connected with the history of the Christian church.
However, I believe there are several ways church history can serve us in ministry. Here are three of the more significant reasons.
First of all, history of the Christian church can give us perspective on current issues facing the church. Studying history to the very early days of the church is revealing. From nearly it’s outset, Rome was persecuting and sometimes killing Christians in horrible ways. It wasn’t until the 300s that persecution of Christians was even outlawed.
The Middle Ages was also not a good time for Christians, but in a different way. They were starting wars and dying from all sorts of diseases. When we experience trials as the Church, looking back and reading about the strength, perseverance, and love of Christians during those difficult times can give us a great amount of comfort and assurance.
Second, it can help us connect what the Church does every Sunday to a long tradition of what Christians have always done. As I have studied and taught Church History, it has been a joy to watch students connect what their church does, not just as something done in the year 2021, but as something that has been done for 2000 years.
As you read more and more about the history of the Christian church, you will find a deep appreciation and connection to what churches throughout history have done. You’ll realize that what you are doing is what Polycarp, Augustine, Luther, Edwards, and others have done as well. You are not alone, you have giants behind you.
Third, it can keep us from making mistakes. This may be the most obvious, yet most necessary, of the benefits of studying church history.
One of the assignments I regularly give students is to research an ancient heresy and find evidence of it in the modern world. I have never had a student come back to me and say “I can’t find evidence of this heresy today.” There are big mistakes that are still being made today. Understanding church history can help us discern and identify what is truth and what is not.
Into the Future
George Santayana is credited with saying that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” At Grace Theological Seminary (GTS), we are committed to equipping leaders who understand the rich history of Christianity and are prepared to shepherd God’s people into a glorious future.
Are you interested in learning more about the history of GTS and exploring your future in ministry? Since 1937, we have been equipping men and women to do the work of God. As time marches forward, we too have developed new programs and delivery methods for answering the call to ministry.
To learn more about the history of the Christian church to be equipped to lead the church of the future, enroll in one of our seminary degrees.
Find a degree that fits you on our programs page.