Many Christians have very little understanding of or appreciation for church history. Hebrews 12:1-2 speaks encouraging words to believers that they should press on in the faith because they are surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses. This crowd of witnesses did not end when the last pages of the New Testament cannon were penned. Church history is filled with many engaging, inspiring, and convicting stories of believers from all over the world taking a stand for Jesus Christ.
365 of these stories are compiled by Robert J. Morgan in On This Day in Christian History: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs, and Heroes. This is a daily devotional book, which does not merely include a scriptural passage for reflection for the day, but also a story of the work of God through one of His saints in the history of the church.
Morgan begins the book with a preface in which he includes two great quotes that display the importance of such a study. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn stated “If we don’t know our own history, we will simply have to endure all of the same mistakes, sacrifices, and absurdities all over again.” Through a study of church history, Christians learn valuable lessons from those on whose shoulders our faith rests.
The second quote is by Philip Schaff, and he says “How shall we labor with any effect to build up the church if we have no thorough knowledge of her history? History is, and must ever continue to be, next to God’s Word, the richest foundation of wisdom, and the surest guide to all successful practical activity.” For Christians who want to seek to advance the cause of Christ through the local church, church history should serve as a bank of ideas and inspiration to engage the world with the gospel.
As you begin to think about what God may be calling you to read in 2011, I would greatly encourage you to consider reading On This Day in Christian History. It will encourage you and cause you to consider the thoughts, lives, and stories of those saints who have paved the way.