Why is Church History important to missions?

Updated: May 11, 2020



Someone recently asked me a question, which was basically this:  “Why do you have those articles on church history and the details of the Roman Catholic false doctrines and false practices that are in past history?    I don’t see the connection specifically with missions.”

To use the title of a book by R. C. Sproul, “Now, that’s a good question!”

[Sproul’s book has nothing to do with missions, I am just using his title.  He answers common questions about the Bible and doctrine.]

The simple answer is this:

Church history is the record of the past of the outworking of missions, how the gospel spread to other cultures and peoples, and how the church perseveres (see Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 3:21), and grows, and understands the Bible (that’s called the development of doctrine and theology), and matures in holiness, love, and unity (John 17, Ephesians 4:1-16).  Basically, church history is the outworking of Jesus prayer in John 17:20-23 – “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word . . . “  (John 17:20 ESV)  Jesus is praying for all future believers  (see also Romans 8:31-34; Hebrews 7:25; 2:17-18; 4:14-16; 9:24) – “those who will believe in Me through their word”, that is, through the word of the apostles, that was preached, and was written down by some of the apostles.

Some churches disappeared in history – all of the seven churches of Revelation chapters 2-3 were conquered and eventually destroyed or eclipsed by Islam. (There is a very small Eastern/Greek Orthodox church still in Izmir (Smyrna) that claims to be from an unbroken chain back to Polycarp and Revelation 2, but the drifting of it from Biblical doctrine and the destruction of it by the Ottomans, gives us doubts about t