More than thirty years ago, back before there was YouTube or Mp3 files or TED Talks or Master Classes on line, I plowed my way through a series of 39 lectures on church history. Those lectures were a game changer in my life.
Much of my theological education came via cassette tapes. They looked like this.
| My car was littered with cassette tapes. I had travel cases full of them. They included albums I had recorded so I could listen as I drove. But more often than not, I was listening to lectures and sermons as I drove to and from work. As a young Christian, I had lots of questions about God and theology and the Bible. The cassette tapes helped answer a lot of those questions.|
I was like a lot of Christians in those days (and in our day too). What I knew about church history was pretty limited. I would later joke that most Christians thought that the church had started in Acts 2, had spread throughout the Roman Empire thanks to Paul’s missionary journeys, and then nothing happened until Billy Graham came along.
I’m not sure what possessed me to purchase a multi volume tape series on church history. Maybe it was on sale. Whatever the reason, I decided to make the lectures on church history from the life of Paul through the 20th century my project at one point.
The teacher was Dr. John Gerstner, who had been a mentor to RC Sproul. In fact, it was Dr. Sproul’s ministry, Ligonier Ministries, that had produced the series. It was called Handout Church History.
And the truth is, I almost didn’t make it past the first five minutes of the first lecture.
Dr. Gerstner had a gravelly voice and a stern and somewhat formal presentation style. I was a bit taken aback and wondered if his lectures would hold my attention. But it didn’t take long for me to recognize his command of the subject and his keep intellect. After clearing the initial hurdle, I was full speed ahead.
By the time I was finished with the lectures, a few big ideas had become clear to me:
1. Many of the theological issues that trip up Christians in our day have been addressed and resolved by people a lot smarter about the Bible and theology than we are.
2. The towering figures who God used during the first two millennia of the church were people who had an amazing command of scripture and a well-trained intellect. With no computers or concordances, these practitioners of the theological arts were giants. They were flawed men and women, as we all are. But they had a deep love and respect for God’s word.
3. We have very little idea how costly it was for many of these people to hold fast to their faith. John Bunyan spent 12 years in jail. Jan Hus refused to recant his criticisms of the Pope and the church in his day, and was burned at the stake for his “heresy.” The list of those who suffered for their faith is a long one.
4. God has preserved and protected His church through the years. The gates of hell have tried to destroy it. They cannot.
My Handout Church History cassettes are gone. It pained me to get rid of them, but with no cassette player in my car these days, I knew I’d never listen to them again.
But this is 2020. Now there is YouTube. And there are Mp3s. And thanks to the folks at Ligonier, the Handout Church History lectures I listened to more than 30 years ago are available for anyone to enjoy. You can watch them on line here. And there’s a free study guide available here.
And if you’re looking for something that is a little easier to digest, Pastor Tom Nelson at Denton Bible Church taught at 13 week class on church history a while back. All 13 lectures are on line here.
Knowing your Bible is more important than knowing the history of the church. But knowing about how our brothers and sisters throughout the ages wrestled with and came to understand and apply the Bible will help you know how to better understand and apply it for yourself.
Maybe this is a good time for you to get introduced to some of the heroes of our faith that you’ll meet one day in heaven. Maybe pause whatever podcast you’re listening to regularly and learn about the work of God in our world over the past 2000 years.
We don’t know how much longer we will be gathering as a church in our living rooms instead of gathering in our worship center. We continue to look to medical professionals along with our city and state leaders to help us know when we can begin to safely gather again. And once we’re cleared to meet, we will be giving careful and prayerful thought to how we keep each other as safe as possible aw we come together to worship each week.
In the meantime, I want to commend you for your faithfulness to continue to make corporate worship a priority while we are at home. We had more than 300 video streams active this past weekend, reaching more than 20 states. We’re having new people check out our Facebook page all the time. God’s word is being heard by more people now than it was six months ago. We thank Him for that.
And thank you as well for your faithful financial giving during these weeks. Many of you have continued to give on line or to mail your check to our post office box. Your faithfulness and diligence are remarkable and greatly appreciated. For those who would like to give this week, click the link above or mail your check to P.O. Box 26677, Little Rock, AR 72221.
Sunday morning, we’ll resume our study of the life of Jesus in the book of John. We’ll see the power and compassion of Jesus as He heals the son of a nobleman in Galilee.
See you (on line) Sunday!
Soli Deo Gloria!