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Defining Moments of Church History…(1)

As we approach the 2,000 birthday of the Church–the people through whom God has made himself known since the time of Christ–it’s not hard to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of events, critical moments, and remarkable saints that comprise the story. There’s a reason most church history textbooks comprise two fat volumes that dominate any bookshelf. There’s simply been a lot that’s happened.

That it all happened at all is extraordinary. How unlikely is it that Jesus’ handoff to awkward and somewhat confused fishermen would become a world-wide movement? How is it that a message of God would spread by love rather than by long-practiced approach of warfare? Imagine it! Somehow the Gospel of Jesus  became the dominant faith of many diverse nations without taking such territory by force.

It’s a great story.

Like any history of a people, clues to the present can be found in the past. Today’s harvest had a seed moment or two and a bit of watering before it came to its current level of blooming. And, for any student of the Church, an awareness of that planting is essential for either embracing or uprooting that which has subsequently grown.

So, for the next several blogs, we’re going to consider such moments. These are eight events in the Church’s history that have significantly shaped our current moment. One would be foolhardy to call them the most important of the church’s history and that is not my intent. I’ll leave those kind of discussions to the historians and their voluminous considerations. But these are moments where a direct line to modern reality can be traced, moments every member of the Church should grasp before trying to discern or act in the situations they have produced.

But first, let’s take a moment and rejoice that such a history exists. I have often thought that when eternity might allow, I’d like to line up the folks that were instrumental in connecting my life to that of the first disciples. You see, I know who guided my moment of salvation–my pastor’s son. It may have been one of his first tries at unpacking a salvation story during Vacation Bible School, but my toddler heart was moved and I made my first self-determined walk to the altar (at least the first that I recall) to receive Christ.

I know David Howard was there in my moment, closing the deal on what my parents and Sunday school teachers had been sowing in my life. I’m guessing I know who filled such a spot for him in his moment too. His parents were remarkable spiritual leaders in our congregation for four decades. I’m not sure who led them to Christ…or who might have led those who led them to Christ…and so on. But I want to know! The genealogy of my physical birth is a really cool story, but I am equally curious about my spiritual ancestry. And I’d like for Heaven to line everyone up so I can thank them for their faithfulness and whatever sacrifice they made so that I could meet Jesus in the mid-1960s.

That rejoicing deserves at least a week’s focus for all of us. Somehow, Simon Peter or Thomas or Bartholomew or even Matthias shared their own life changing story with someone and launched a line that I’m a part of. That line has crossed centuries and continents and the even more unlikely barriers of tribes and tongues. And there’s a line behind your moment as well.

So spend the coming week celebrating your Church history–all two thousand years of it. Next week, we’ll get started with the Defining Moments of Church History–the ones that gave us our current reality.

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