(John Wesley Selfie…or image found on google)
“Church History is the record of God’s gracious, wonderful and mighty deeds, showing how by his Spirit and Word he rules his Church and conquers the world.”―Nils Forsander, Life Pictures from Swedish Church History
I decided to start a series in our Jr/Sr High Sunday school class about the history of the Methodist church. We are a United Methodist church, so it isn’t random and yes, teaching this lesson is by choice.
I have discovered that there are many adults in the church, not just ours, but in all denominations, who haven’t really been educated in the founding of the doctrine they follow. They understand following Jesus, which ultimately is the most important thing, but they lack the knowledge about why they have chosen to be a certain denomination.
In fact, if you were to ask many of them, you would possibly find these common answers (these are not based off of any scientific study, just my own conversations), in no particular order:
- “Well, my parents were (insert denomination), so I am.”
- “I had a lot of friends at this church and it felt like the right fit.”
- “I enjoy the preaching and the worship experience.”
- “They have a good children’s program.”
Rarely will you hear, “Well, I did a lot of research into the history of the denomination and found that the theology and doctrine line up with my thoughts and the way my family believes.” Many times, this is an afterthought, which ends up leading to an awkward conversation in Wal-Mart about why you haven’t been to church for some time.
So, my co-teacher and I have decided to go on a journey discussing the history of the Methodist church, the way the denomination functions in leadership structures, and the doctrine and discipline we follow.
The main reason why: I want our students to know what they are involved in.
As a parent, I would not want my kid to sign-up for a club, sports activity, and/or a special group without knowledge of what they stood for. I would actually consider myself to be poor parent if I didn’t do research myself before allowing them to do so.
I actually know that most parents do this very same thing. Before allowing their kids to step foot into a group they look into schedule, commitment, and what’s required of them as a parent.
Why wouldn’t we do this in regards to church?
So, we are taking this journey to understand the denomination.
At first, I thought, “Well, I should also provide pillows and blankets because I’m pretty sure these kids will be snoozing on first PowerPoint slide.” However, to my surprise, I had kids asking questions and actually listening to the quotes John Wesley shared.
By the end of the lesson, I had one student share: “I learned more in this 45 minutes than what I learn in 8 hours at school.”
I didn’t know if that was a good thing or not, but I took it as a compliment.
The value of knowing church history is great!
When we know what we follow, we can embrace it more. When we know the history behind it, we gain a sense of pride in the process in which it was established.
John Wesley never wanted his own denomination, but wanted people to discover a true relationship with Jesus. He took time to teach people and train them to understand their faith and doctrine, in order to grow disciples. Now, his movement has sprouted churches all over the world.
His story is worth teaching.
QUESTION: Do you find value in learning about history?