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Church History in Plain Language, 3rd Edition Paperback – December 2, 2008
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This book was a fantastic introduction into church history, covering a huge span of time yet maintaining enough detail in each chapter that keeps you wanting to find out more. I'm not normally a reader (averaging maybe 1-3 books per year), but this book had me hooked all the way through it. The author tries to maintain a neutral non-judgemental tone throughout his text, providing a variety of views of how church historians have interpreted events over the years. Of course, recounting history can never truly be an "objective" exercise, but the author does (in my opinion) present his material very thoughtfully without adding too much of his own subjective views.
I've since started studying at Bible College and looking into church history more formally. This book was a huge help in giving me a basic framework to structure my learning around now.
I highly recommend this book, and personally cannot wait to see what's been updated two editions later.
My takeaways are: the church is messy, Christians are messier, but God's hand is steady and sure. While the evangelical author/editor have an opinion, they do a good job of presenting the historical facts and mostly let the reader form his/her own opinion.
Covering 2000+ years in 500 pages does not allow the authors to dwell on anyone one phase in great depth although they slow down to set the stage for the events and explain how the events shaped the church as we know it today.
One theme, that struck me throughout church history, is that the local church rediscovers "the church" and then at some point its "leaders" highjack the movement for their benefit. Constantine's rule is a reminder of our desire for the church to have "the power of the state" when the power of the Gospel is all that is needed. The history of the Roman Catholic church is another example of the excesses that occur when man attempts to use the church for the benefit of the institution over the good of the gospel. Most interesting to me was how much I have misunderstood what has happened in the last 4oo years both in America and in the world.
To read about the rapid growth of the gospel in East Africa fueled by Ugandan pastors is inspiring. The American church of 2017 can learn a lot from what is happening in Africa, Asia, and even the middle east.
The "national leadership" of the American church has been more focused (out of fear) in attacking the moral depravity of our nation when the gospel is the only true message of the church. Jesus Christ was a man and God. Yet in America we tend to strip Him of His supernatural power to not only save but to transform.
One of the clear messages of the book is that our interest in protecting the church using state power/legislation, proven methods, revivals, camp meetings, programs, etc. takes the focus away from the gospel and that is the only source of power of the church of Jesus Christ.
I will read this one again and maybe even again. Good read!
Personally/spiritually, I was encouraged by two things: 1. There are always reformers that call the church at large back to true biblical faith. 2. The challenges we face today are nothing to be shocked and afraid of, many similar challenges have been faced in previous ages of the church.