DOWN MEMORY LANE | TAKE AWAYS FROM THE CHURCH HISTORY COURSE

May 29, 2023 | English

Reflecting on what you learned from church history this semester, what lessons from church history might your current church tradition learn that could help them move forward through the present and into the future?

This entire church history course has been full of insights from each of the major epochs starting from the committed church through the cooling off period, the catholic or chaotic era, the reformation, the restoration and the restoration renewed:

 

THE COMMITTED CHURCH:

One of the major lessons I believe our current church tradition can learn from this era is the importance of role models in inspiring the church to live for God.

The church fathers (in spite of their obvious areas of weakness) were a great inspiration in perpetuating the example of the apostles. We still need such great leaders who inspire others to live for God. Tertullian declared that “the blood of the martyr was a seed, for the more it was spilt, the greater the number of Christians” who were ready to live up to the faith they professed.

After the 2003 crisis in the ICOC, many pulled back and became inward-focused at the expense of God’s mission for the world through the church.

We need men and women to rise up anew to inspire the church through their personal example of great faith and sacrifice. These men and women will not be perfect just like the church fathers but their inspiration is much needed

 

THE COOLING-OFF PERIOD:

The absence of persecution and the blending of the church with the State were some of the major reasons behind the Cooling off period.

In our church culture, we must fight to remain distinct from the world. We live in an era where progressive and liberal culture is taking over. The lines are sometimes really blurred.

Many of us as Christians are allowing ourselves to be sucked into the world culture, in the pursuit of success according to the world’s definition.

The Sermon on the Mount must redefine our value system and worldview as a church family. There is a need to build our church communities around the values portrayed in Matthew 5-7.

 

THE CATHOLIC OR CHAOTIC PERIOD:

The seeds of hierarchical or positional leadership style (in contrast to servant leadership) were already planted through some of the early church fathers but fully developed during the catholic era. This led to a lot of abuse by the papacy and other religious authorities.

Our church family needs to close the clergy/laity gap that still exists in a lot of our churches – at least in many African congregations. Every member needs to see themselves as equally called by God and sense the willingness to give back to God through active service (in the use of their gifts) rather than passive spectatorship. It will take teaching and deliberate efforts to change this culture in the ICOC.

The Monastic Movements that developed to cope with this era also teach us the value of the spiritual disciplines when applied with moderation and balance. During later periods in history, it was the pietistic movements that played a similar role.

As a Church family, we need to develop a culture of growth in the spiritual disciplines.

 

THE REFORMATION

The establishment constantly needs courageous men and women who are willing to challenge the status quo. That’s what reformers like Luther, Zwingli and Calvin did during this era.

As a global family of churches, there’s a need to review some of our beliefs and practices. It will require courageous or prophetic voices to help us reflect on the course we are currently taking.

This must be matched by a humble and godly leadership – one that is always ready to listen and take correction. Such an attitude from our leaders would have prevented the 2003 crisis due to the Henry Kriete letter.

 

THE RESTORATION

Building on the Reformation, there was a need to take a step further and seek to restore the Christianity we see in the Book of Acts. This was specifically targeted at restoring the beliefs and practices of the early Church.

Part of the challenge is how to interpret the historical records of the Book of Acts – which parts are normative and which are simply historical or cultural?

We will need to review certain aspects of our Hermeneutic with the noble goal of restoring first-century Christianity – the Committed Church.

 

THE RESTORATION RENEWED

The last 40-50 years contain some very deep lessons we need to learn as a global family of churches.

Especially with the advent of the Henry Kriete letter, there is a need for us as a church and especially the leadership, to process the lessons from this period in history.

I did a video documentary on the history of our church in French Africa from 1989 to 2021 (Part 1 and Part 2). Some of the insights gained from interviewing some of the key leaders in Abidjan back then include:

1) The need to allow God’s Spirit to lead His Church rather than apply human efforts to push people for results.
2) The need for a gift-based ministry approach that allows people to use their gifts and personalities to serve rather than being forced into being someone else. Through a team effort, everyone puts their strengths to bear and God is glorified.
3) The church should be a place of faith, fun and family to allow God’s Spirit to grow organically
4) Growth should be organic – just the human body that grows in stages allowing for balance and strengthening.
These are a few of the lessons that occur to me but this is not exhaustive. Restoration remains a process and the Spirit will continue to guide us into new spaces of growth and church health.

 

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