Over the last several years it seems like we have seen more and more stories of people losing their faith. I’ve read various statistics about the vast majority of kids who leave the youth group lose their faith while they are in college. There are various reasons why people say this is. Most of us probably struggle in our faith at one point or another. I believe a primary reason for that is we see our walk with God through lenses in the time in which we live, and we are disconnected from church history.
Since the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two Jesus has been building his church, yet most of our understanding of the church comes from the particular vision and values our local church has. We need to be plugged into a local church, but we also need to be connected to church history. Obviously, there are more than two thousand years of church history, so where do you start? I think it’s good for everyone to have an overview, and Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley gives an easy-to-read overview of the history of the Church. I encourage every Christian to at least have a basic knowledge of church history because it will strengthen and encourage your faith. There are many people who have given their lives for Christ; some as missionaries, some for the translation and mass production of the Bible, and many other reasons. I also highly encourage you to read the Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and see the depth of love for Jesus and God’s Word others had and read the various Confessions throughout Church history.
I grew up in an Assembly of God church and my journey with the Lord has taken me all over the Christian map. I attended a reformed charismatic church for a few years and was introduced to Charles Spurgeon, who is one of my heroes today. Followed by the Church of the Nazarene for a while, where I was introduced to John Wesley. I listened to word of faith ministers for two decades and went through ministry training and was ordained in the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee). While my beliefs no longer fit the circle of the word of faith and I am not ministering in the Church of God, I am thankful for every season and how God used it. I see how the word of faith was used to develop my hunger for the Word of God and that is what prepared me to dive into the study of theology while I was being exposed to Reformed and Wesleyan theology. All of those seasons brought about a love for church history and a deep sense of connectedness to what God has done through the ages. When I read about people leaving the faith I am not shaken. Primarily because my faith is in Jesus based on the Bible, not faith in Jesus based on my favorite preacher. Secondarily, throughout church history there have been men and women who once stood strong but ultimately walked away from God but there have also been those who walked faithfully throughout their lives.
Charles Spurgeon and John Wesley are heroes of mine because they lived faithful lives and that encourages me as I see people walking away from the faith. I expose myself to their faithfulness and stay rooted in the Scripture to keep myself from faltering. Spurgeon was a man who stood strong in the face of compromise and was a great pastor and preacher. Wesley was a disciple maker like no other and his emphasis on holiness is central to my walk with the Lord.
I encourage you to pick one or two great examples from church history and study their lives. Read their sermons or books, read several biographies on them and like Paul said, follow them as they followed Christ. We will be stronger in faith when we are tethered to a strong anchor from the past and the Word of God.