My first time ever truly studying Church history was this past fall. I had heard about St. Augustine a little bit, but that was really it. My perception of Church history was about like this: The Church was thriving until the book of Acts ended, persecuted until Constantine, and then corrupt until Martin Luther.
As we studied the early Church fathers, I was blown away at their commitment to Christ and their knowledge of Scripture. Learning about them made Christianity so much more authentic to me. Our professor tried so hard to help our class realize that we are connected to a massive family of believers who have come before us. The more I read, the more I realized that since the start of the Church, there has been a faithful group of believers clinging to Orthodoxy (or defining it) and pursuing Christ. That was new to me, and it still gives me goose bumps.
I wonder if that’s something we could help teenagers grasp. If high school students understood they were connected to this giant movement that has been rolling since the beginning of the A.D. era, how could that change the seriousness of their faith? If we told teenagers more about what God has done in the past, and what he continues to do all across the world, how much more real would it seem to them?
Last Summer I was talking to a high school student who considers himself an atheist. He made a comment to me that seems relevant to this discussion. He said, “Here’s my problem with religion: it’s invalid because it’s geographical. Everybody’s religion goes along with where they were born. You’re a Christian because you were born in America. If you had been born in India… you’d probly be a Hindu… and need a shower.”
We laughed, and the conversation was over. But what I wish I could’ve explained was how wrong his assertion about Christianity was. Christianity is geographical, because Jesus said to take it to every nation, but it is not limited by geography. The reason I know about Jesus is because there was a long line of believers a long time ago who decided they were going to give their life for the sake of making Him famous, even if it meant they would die. And we are here today, in this generation, to continue that story.
The Church fathers are relevant today, and I think it would serve our churches well to talk about them. My professor wrote a book that would be a great resource for someone wanting to start learning about the Church fathers. For a link click HERE.