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Church History - Some Concluding Remarks Print E-mail
Church History

I.  Introduction:

 Our brief study through the history of the Church is coming to an end.  As I think back on what we have covered, I cannot help but feel like we actually covered very little.  There is so much to say and so much to learn from the history of the Church.  We would do well to continue in our study of Her history.  Thus, I want to end tonight by drawing some conclusions that will hopefully encourage you to keep studying.  Before I do that, I want to say a word about some of the current trends in the Church today.  These issues are the ones that we are having to address in our day of Church History.  Thus, let’s begin there.

II.  Current Trends:

 A.  Theological Trends: It should be no surprise that there are a number of different theological trends that the Church is currently facing.  Let me mention a few.  Many have embraced what has been called ‘Open Theism.’  This theological view denies that God actually knows the future.  He is the God who risks.  He is the master chess player.  But He has not planned, nor does He even know, the future.  Rather, He, like the rest of us, is doing His best to respond to what is taking place in history.  These groups look at the passages in the Old Testament that speak of God relenting and draw the conclusion that He did not know how these situations were going to turn out, thus, He does not know the future.  In general, I could mention the continuance of theological liberalism.  To some degree, this is just a catch all, but it continues to grow and change in our day.  From science, to sin, to biblical interpretation, to miracles, people continue to pick and choose what they believe about God. 

Another trend that is not new but continues to plague our Churches, particularly those even in our area, is the over emphasis and misunderstanding of God’s love.  All sorts of errors and sins have been overlooked or tolerated in the Church because ‘God is love.’  Many people in the rural communities believe that they are Christians simply because they could not believe that God would send them to Hell, for that is not loving.  All of these theological trends must be addressed biblically and faithfully by those in the Church today.  We must hold strictly and stringently to the Word of God, to the revealed truth of God.

 B.  Ecclesiological Trends: One of the real errors that has crept into the Church today could be summed in this way: whatever works must be right.  In other words, if a Church is growing numerically, then they must be doing something right.  Thus, many of the more rural Churches are simply looking to the mega-church model and trying to follow suit.  Likewise, many pastors judge their success in ministry by how large a congregation they can build or get called to serve.  Yet, I must say that the emphasis on mega-church ministry has waned to some degree because of the next generation of pastors who are not as interested in numbers driven ministry.  It will be interesting to see how this trend changes in the next five to ten years.  Another ecclesiological trend that should be mentioned is that of the emgerging/emergent movement.  I do not have time (nor do I have the understanding) to try and explain all the parameters of this trend, but it is important to briefly mention. 

Seemingly, the idea is to move away from the traditional/modern model of the Church towards a more ‘fluid’ understanding of the community of faith.  The difficulties with this approach is a loss of objective truth (and even the gospel in the most extreme cases).  The strength lies in its emphasis on being ‘missional’ (a term used by those within the movement).  These Churches are trying to be intentional about engaging the culture with the gospel through music, art, fellowship, relationships, etc.  I see this as a strength as long as they do not lose the true gospel in the process, which goes back to the difficulties of the approach.  Many conversations are currently taking place within the SBC about the emerging/emergent trend.  Again, as I have said repeatedly during this series, we must look at this trend in light of God’s Word and hold firm to the wheat while letting go of the chaff.  We should pray that God will give us the wisdom and discernment to do just that.

III.  Some Conclusions from our study of Church History:

 A.  There is nothing new under the sun (see Ecclesiastes 1:9-10).  The struggles that we face today are not necessarily new.  They may be re-packaged, they may involve new terminology or jargon, but they are not new.  The errors that the early Church faced are still the errors that we are facing today.  Jesus condemned the Pharisees for allowing their traditions to trump the Word of God.  Luther did the same with the Roman Catholics of his day.  As Southern Baptists, we are currently struggling with holding to the traditions that have been left for us by former generations without faithfully testing them with Scripture.  I say this to simply illustrate that the struggle with traditions is not new.  We can learn from those who have fought to faithfully follow the Scriptures in this regard (and others as well).  Thus, I hope we see our continual need to consider the faith of those who have gone before us, which leads to my second conclusion.

 B.  We have much to learn from the history of the Church.  I said from the beginning that this study would only be a sampling.  My hope has been throughout that as we talked about a particular person or situation your interest would be kindled.  I cannot encourage you enough to go back and read about Augustine and the Council of Nicea, or John Knox and the Scottish Reformation, or Edwards and the First Great Awakening.  There is so much to learn, so much to be encouraged by, so much faith to emulate.  Thus, let me leave you with a challenge: read one book dealing with Church History per year.  It could be a biography or first-hand material or even a book on a particular part of Church History.  It could be long or short or whatever length that you can manage.  Pick out something or someone that interested you and start there.  At the end of this month we will be having a celebration of the Protestant Reformation, so you could read some about that in preparation for the event.  We will be moving into the Christmas season soon, so you could gather some Christmas sermons from Church History and read them with your family (in fact, there are Advent books that take this very approach).  However you approach it, I just encourage and challenge you to continue in your obedience to Hebrews 13:7, which says: Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God.  Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

 C.  As we have said week after week, you need to always remember that Church History is currently being written.  We will probably never have books written about us personally, but the generation that comes behind us, if the Lord tarries, will either be blessed or cursed by how we live out our faith.  We must address the issues and trends that are facing us with the Word of God that we might avoid error and the mistakes of the past.  We must not teach the next generation that we are always right, but that the Word is always right and we are simply trying to follow it.  This is our leg of the race and my prayer is that by God’s grace we will run faithfully, for the good of those who will come behind us and for the glory of the One who redeemed us with His blood.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 25 October 2007 )

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