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The Future Runs Through the Past: Learning from History 2

Posted on May 6th, 2008

The greatest richness and learning that comes out of us learning church history, especially early church history, is the perspective it gives us on the North American church. This leads me to the next few lessons. The first relates to the state of the church today in light of history. One twenty two year old in our church put it well: “I had no idea how weak we as the church in America are until I heard/saw all this.” This came out of listening to the purifying effect of the persecutions up to 311 ad where Christians experienced 129 years of persecution and only 120 years of relative peace. This eliminated any notion of half-way, nominal Christians rather quickly. Christianity is an Asian religion with rich African roots, not Western. They continually moved Eastward in their mission. Who knew there were three “Christian kingdoms” in Asia before the Roman Empire. One seminary alone, in Edessa, had 1000 students and required their incoming students to memorize the Psalms before entering! Many of the priests/leaders were monks. I am challenged to call our people at New Life to a larger commitment to Jesus Christ with their entire lives, avoiding the traps of upward mobility and comforts. A second great reminder for me related to the churches’ passion for infants, women, the elderly, abandoned babies and orphans. It preaches well but is lived at a great cost. I continue to see this here at New Life – whether it is our work with foster care youth without homes, the food pantry, illegal immigrants struggling economically, or simply the challenge of poverty. Let’s not forget how hard this is and what a grasp of the gospel this requires of us. I am challenged by this! My final application relates to the oneness and unity of the church. The split of the Eastern/Western church in 1054 AD as well as the many splits around and during the Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s remains with us today. Our evangelical tradition can be narrow and judgmental towards those different than us. Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is a challenge to us to remain faithful to our “tribe/tradition” while learning from and working at oneness with the rest of the church around the world (in particular, non-evangelicals). That is a challenge. For this reason, I think the Nicene Creed is so important to us. I had us read it last Sunday at the end of worship as an act of worship. It was wonderful. What other lessons of church history do you think are important for us today?

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