Church history may seem like something that is only an interesting side note on the future of Christianity and the Church, something that has no direct impact on the church of today or the church of the future. But author and pastor Robert Rea shows in his book Why Church History Matters that the history of the church is integral both to the corporate church, and to individual Christian believers around the world.
Churches know where they come from
Have you ever been to a church that displays old photographs of the congregation of generations past proudly on its’ walls? Churches that preserve various practices and honor their traditions understand a valuable piece of why church history is so important. The history of the church is the reason for so much of who the church is today. Even in non-traditional churches, the traditions of the past, the symbolism of various church service elements, are tied in to the historical church. Knowing the importance of these things can bring a stronger connection to God.
Church history teaches Christian identity
For new Christians or Christians who are still unsure about much of their identity in Christ, church history helps show that formation of individuals to become imitators of Christ – something believers have been doing for thousands of years. Seeing this history of identity routed in Christ helps to encourage us when we feel separate from this. And it confirms that we are children of God, as so many Christians before us have struggled and flourished in this identity in Christ.
Church history builds community
Seeing the history of the community of the Church and a community today that works to fully understand doctrine and tradition builds a strong tie to each other, and as is the case with individual identity, confirms and encourages communities to seek Christ. In moments of doubt or conflict, history reminds us that we are not alone, that we can band together not only with Christians we know today, but also with all Christians who have gone before us.
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