INTRODUCTION TO CHURCH HISTORY
The histories of Christianity and of the Christian Church are two related butdifferent subjects:
1) Christianity describes a religious system;
2) The Christian Church embodies arelationship among persons who in turn relate collectively andindividually with God.
To track the history of Christianity is to objectively follow a political, cultural, &ecclesiastical evolution: thedevelopment and social impact of a movement.
To follow the history of the Christian Church is tobecome subjectively involved in the lives and faith of its people and in theunfolding of their collective experience of God's direction and purpose.
Most histories attempt in someway to combine the twoand thereby create a total picture of a`movement.' Some histories even assert the study produced can help explain how theChristian Church `wound up' where it is at the end of the 20th century.
Yet because material is presented and treated serially(i..e., ona time line from the 1st to the 20th centuries),relationships are not always clear between, say,A.D. 300 and today's American churches .They may be generalizedin conclusions listed or elaborated in a Summary chapter at the endof a work, but by then, some of the intellectual and emotional impacthas disappeared, and specific applications which might have beenfar more obvious and intelligible had theybeen drawn at the point the supporting data was being considered are lost tothe reader.
It will be our working assumption that the 20th century Churchof JesusChrist has been shaped and conditioned by its past, andthat every period, trend, problem, and solution worked throughby Christians and their leaders since the day of Pentecost has a bearing on the current shape, options, wisdom, and challenges of today's church.
We will assert that this is true in all eras of church history.In other words, every moment of church life is made possible and shaped by the days and years which have preceded. There are no `new' trends, just old ones with new public relations directors.
We also will see the heartbeat of the Christian Churchto be found in its worship.