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History of Christianity

Introduction to the idea of the History of Christianity 

Rationale

Jesus commanded his disciples, and through them us, to make disciples of all the nations. The history of the Christianity is the history of the spread of this work across the entire planet. Acts 1 presents this history as the continuation of all that Jesus began to do and teach, through the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. The Church history is very complicated and is intertwined with the history of the world over the past 2 000 years. At this age the focus should be on key groups and key people who made significant contributions in order to give a flavor to the kind of things God has been doing. This does not mean that an overview is not in order, but it should be minimal in order to not overload students. There are many possible candidates, for which see the Ideas/Strategies for Teaching below. The object is to make real how the faith of these people lead them to make an impact on the world. In doing so two key ideas need to be kept in view. First, that the History of Christianity is our history. It is something which has led directly to us, and which we are now writing ourselves in the 21st century. Second, that most of this history is made up of people who have faithfully served God without any recognition or place in the history books. Hence not only should the story of well known people be included, but also local stories that will never be famous. The teachers in the school here are a resource. They have stories to tell that are part of this history. There is also room for Christians from the local community to share their part in this story, telling how God has shaped there lives.
This history, this story, is one which has an end. It will end when Jesus returns and establish his Kingdom. This history is also one of enormous sacrifice. It begins with the sacrifice of Jesus, but it does not end there because persecution has been a constant reality for Christianity throughout the centuries and is more so now than ever. Christians are the single most persecuted group in the world.
 
Note: The terms Christianity and Church overlap but are not always interchangeable. The Bible speaks of an Israel within Israel, and hence a Church with the Church. That is, there is an outward organizational form of Christianity/Church which is sometimes faithful to God and sometimes not, and yet still carries the label and in the eyes of the world is Christianity. This outward form is sometimes called Christendom. There is, however an inward reality which is known only by God, which is the Church, or perhaps the true Church, made up of those who have real faith in Jesus. There is an overlap between the ideas and sometimes they cannot be separated. The focus in this and related units is on the true Church, not the various aberrations which have occurred over time. It may be necessary in some instances to explain this idea to students.

Key Concepts

  • In the beginning God created Adam and Eve, and therefore all of us, in his image.
  • He sent Jesus to save all people, John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:3,4
  • Jesus told his followers to go and make disciples of all nations, which is the Church
  • Church History is the continuation of everything Jesus began and do and teach, by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Church, Acts 1
  • The history of the world is intertwined with the History of Christianity
  • This History also has an end, when Jesus returns
  • One of the key aspects of this history is the persecution of Christians, which was at the beginning and is even more so now

Scripture References

Matthew 16:18 - the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church
Matthew 28:19,20 - the Great Commission
The Book of Acts - the first history of Christianity
1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 - the return of Jesus
Revelation 21 - the New Heaven and the New Earth

Resources

 
http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/church-history-for-kids/ - great list of possible people to look at keyed to a Church history timeline, with short articles to support each person.
 
YouTube Video on the Spread of Christianity
 
 
 
 
Church History for Kids
 
 
 
 
 
Websites for Christian inspired NGO’s:
YouTube videos on key people. For example:

Ideas/Strategies for Lessons

Use animated videos to introduce idea of the History of Christianity, and to use later to locate particular people on a world map and a certain time frame
Use videos to introduce key people
Students can research people using the Christianity.com website and do presentations. Possibilities include
  • The Apostle Paul – Apostle to the Gentiles
  • Hudson Taylor
  • William Wilberforce
  • Martin Luther
  • Billy Graham
  • Wycliffe Bible Translators or other modern missionary groups
  • NGO’s like the Red Cross, World Vision and so on which had Christian origins
Teachers from school talk about their journey, bring in photos and so on
Students may have a story to tell about their family, bring in photos and so on
Christians from the local community