“I am a history person,” is often the response that I give when asked about my interests.  The context of such a question is typically in relation to my ministry as a pastor.  By vocation, all pastors are in some manner “history people” because our subject matter stretches back a few thousand years.  We touch history every time open our Bibles and interact with the text.  History dances across our eyes with every verse of Scripture that we read.  However, how many pastors can say with a pure conscience that they dedicate their time to studying the roots of our Christian faith?  What of the men and women who came before us (and after the closing of the canon)?  Are their lives not worthy of consideration and study?

The detractors will say, “We are called to preach the Word!  Not give a history lesson!”  And, I would heartily agree with that assessment.  My purpose as a pastor is to preach the Word of God to edify the saints of God and share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the lost.  But, what of the Word that I use?  What of the testimonies of Scripture?  Are not all of these histories?  Paul illustrates the value of history when he shares with the Romans the reasoning for studying Scripture, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).  By Paul’s use of the term “scripture” we know he is speaking of the Old Testament, the theological, as well as cultural and historical record of the Jews.  While modern pastors’ neglect of the Old Testament is the topic of another post, I will state that I think the principle of Paul’s instruction here is far-reaching.

The idea is not to be “backwards-minded” and be ineffective in this day and age.  The principle is that life is learned in the past and lived in the present.  Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart my discover itself.”  Or, as I often relate it, “Only a fool learns from experience, where instruction has already been given.”

What are the mistakes of our past and how can we avoid them in the future?  Solomon wrote there is “no new thing under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9) and if he is to be believed our future can be shaped and guided if we understand our past.  More importantly than that, I believe our history to be just as important as our theology, especially if we believe in the God of the Bible.  History is not merely an unrelated series of events that we categorize and tie together in an effort to gain understanding of our environment.  History is the channeled outworking of God’s redemptive acts.  I say channeled because I do not believe humanity’s time on this planet from creation to the present is a free-flowing fractal of coincidence and luck.  God has directed them and God has worked using the marred clay of humanity in His grand designs.  These past redemptive works should and can be used in our churches!  These histories can be presented in a manner that shows the application of Scripture in the lives of Christians and the Providence of God in the life of His Church.

In short, our Christian history can be a great evangelistic tool if used properly, and in using it we open up our next generations to the richness of God’s grace to humanity.  The past work of God becomes a present reality to those who accept Him through Jesus Christ.  The marvelous work of God is no longer a narrative to be admired, but a mission to be lived.  Grace is no longer an impotent word coming from the mouth of a preacher, but a concept to love and embrace.  The Holy Spirit is not an enigmatic invisible force but an indwelling Friend.  And Jesus, sweet Jesus, is not the oft-admired and just as often-maligned great moral teacher—He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Mat. 16:16; John 6:69).

Our Christian history is a means by which we open up that reality to the lost.  What is our testimony?  It is a historical record of how God worked in our life and continues to work!  What is the Word of God?  It is a God-breathed historical revelation of God at work in the realm of humanity!  So I charge each of you that are pastors to teach our Christian history, proclaim your own history with God by your testimony, and pray others can begin writing their own history with the Lord Jesus Christ.