Church History You Will Remember and Use

9780310516569_30Church History is one of those subjects that many feel inadequate to comprehend, remember, and use in Christian ministry. Unless one is a history buff, church history texts are often difficult to enjoy reading, and are often not typeset or designed to be memorable or useable. In short, they are quickly forgettable.

Zondervan’s two-volume church history set combines a church history and historical theology approach to walk readers through both the major events of the church and the development of doctrine since the time of the apostles. Skimming through the volumes, I found succinct, yet in-depth, progression through the centuries. Since  volume one is less than 600 pages, the discussion of topics is compressed. Volume two tops out over 800 pages, but for volumes on church history, these are manageable lengths. This is what makes this set valuable for pastors and others in practical ministry that want to refresh and maintain their knowledge of church history. Both the content and the design are conducive to learning and retaining important.

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The first volume, Church History: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation (2nd ed., Zondervan, 2013), is written by Everett Ferguson and covers the apostolic period to the Medieval Age. The second volume, Church History: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day (Zondervan, 2013) is written by John Woodbridge and Frank James picks up in 1300 A.D. with European Christianity in an age of “Adversity, Renaissance, and Discovery”. The quality of these volumes are exceptional. These titans of church history write from decades of experience and knowledge, and this set will be well worth the money spent on them.

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Help for Teachers

Gospel-Centered Anyone who has ever taught Sunday School, Adult Bible Fellowship, a small group, a VBS class, or in any other setting has experienced the frustration of a lesson that fails for lack of depth, flagging interest, or stagnant inward focus. Trevin Wax’s new book, Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in All the Scripture (B&H, 2013) is a very welcome help for teachers who want to infuse their groups with the life that the gospel brings to everything. Wax applies the power of the gospel to three problem areas of a teaching experience—inwardly focused groups, biblically illiterate groups, and shallow discussion within groups. He walks a teacher through the process of beginning with biblical content, connecting a passage to the story of the gospel, applying it, and redirecting to God’s mission in the world. This is a book every teacher will find helpful and encouraging. Wax concludes with this challenge:

What your group celebrates corporately is just as important as what your group affirms doctrinally. Celebrate the gospel, and cross-cultural ministry will bubble up in surprising ways. Celebrate your church’s personal preferences, and your group will become an insular group of likeminded individuals. Celebrate your own gifts as a leader, and your group will be centered on you as the hero rather than Jesus.

Every Christian teacher should keep the focus on the gospel so we can see the good fruit of God’s power in our teaching.