Both church and missions history are important because we are inheritors of the “faith once delivered” as it has been lived out for centuries before us. Because “there is nothing new under the sun,” from these disciplines we learn about mistakes already made, issues already wrestled with, and advances already gained.
Church history tells us about how the church has wrestled with doctrinal issues, heresies and differences. We learn about how and why the church has evolved to its current forms and denominations. We gain insight from the lives of those whose leadership shaped the church. We see examples of healthy churches and church movements, and how they were started, nurtured and led. If our ultimate missions goals are disciplemaking and church planting, we dare not charge ahead without understanding what has shaped the church to this point.
Missions history informs us of the cross-cultural advance of the church. We dare not blindly extract methodologies and transplant them into today’s situation. Yet we gain great insight by discerning what past missionaries have done both well and poorly. Of particular interest are lessons learned in church planting, contextualization, leadership training, creating dependency, and ecclesiology.
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