You Were Born into a Story

Christian Life & Theology, Podcast Episodes

We are starting a new series this week!

After a break to rest and study, Phylicia is back with a new church history series. In this introduction episode she discusses why we need history, specifically church history, and how studying it impacts our present day lives.


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Welcome to Verity Podcast. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer, and I am here to teach you how to know what you believe, to live it boldly, and to communicate it graciously to the world around you. I believe that women are ready to go deeper in their faith than ever before, and they don’t have to go to seminary to do it. I am so glad you’re here, and I hope you’ll join me on this journey, because Every Woman is a Theologian.

Hello, friends, and welcome back to Verity Podcast. This is episode 124 and I am so excited to be back in the saddle of recording episodes for you. I did not intend to take as long of a break as I did between our last official episode and this one. But with the Verity conference in October, followed by an illness that I had for over a month, I am now on the mend.

We kind of had to take a little bit of time off from producing new episodes. But a benefit of this is that I had time to think and pray about what direction to take the podcast over the next few months. And as I sought the Lord about it, he made it clear that I should start a series on a topic that you guys have requested for quite some time. That’s right, church history. 

So over the next maybe few months, maybe more than a few months, we are going to do a deep dive into church history. We are going to be looking at how the church has carried the Gospel forward over the last 2000 years. I am super excited about this series, and even if you aren’t super into history, I think you’re going to find it fascinating and very applicable to your life today. So in this quick introduction episode, I want to kind of make the case for church history, why we need it, why we need history in general, and how it impacts you to hopefully build up some excitement for what is to come over the next few months, maybe a year, we’ll see how long this series is going to play out. 

So we are born into a legacy as Christians, but many of us are very unaware of our communal history. We’re detached from this legacy, from our Christian forefathers, from the examples and patterns of what came before. And because of that, we’re easily frightened by what lies ahead. I can’t tell you how many times people have said, oh, well, what about this persecution in this place? Or what about the state of the Church in America? Or what about this theology that’s emerging? And as concerning as some of these things are, none of them are new. We have seen them before in church history, just in different places with different names, different people, different structures, but the same core issue or the same theology has been there before. And when you know history, especially church history, it gives us confidence to face the future with peace, because we know the God who accompanied Christians in the past. 

I’m currently working on a new book, a new manuscript. I can’t tell you the title or the topic quite yet, but we’re talking a little bit about Christian legacy in this book project, and I want to read you a quote from that manuscript that sums up this idea of our Christian legacy. “If we were to distill the idea of Christian legacy into a single line, it would be Romans 12:21 do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Christians are handed a victorious legacy. The Apostle John writes in one John 2:14, I write to you, young men, because you are strong and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one. In Revelation 2 through 4, Jesus tells John through a series of visions that the victor, the believer who endures in her faith, will receive specific blessings and rewards from God. He is not referring to our salvation here. Our salvation is secured through the cross and resurrection of Christ. He is referring instead to the fruit of a faithful, enduring, overcoming life. This is the life of a Christian who overcomes evil not by studying evil and its movements, but by embodying what is good.”

 So my point in this particular passage is that the history of Christianity, the legacy of Christianity, is a life of victory, of overcoming evil, not by obsessing over evil and trying to study the supernatural movements or prophesy when the end of days is coming or seeing the end of days in our specific century, but instead living a faithful, committed life in the generation we are called to serve. And that is what the Christians in church history have done and studying their lives, studying the movements of church history, the cycles of persecution and peace, gives us confidence to face our own generational challenges. It teaches us how to walk in faith practically where God has called us. Now, you might not be convinced. You might still be thinking, I took history in school and I was bored out of my mind. It was just memorizing dates and facts. And you know what? If that’s how you learned history, I would probably be pretty bored, too.

But history is not boring when you understand that it is a great big story, specifically church history, where the story that you are invited into is the kingdom that God is building, a spiritual kingdom that impacts the world for what is good and true and beautiful. I truly believe that the story of redemption is the first great fantasy. Now, I don’t mean fantasy in the sense that it’s fiction because it’s real. But every good fantasy novel or plotline is based on the original plotline of God’s redemption, of the articulation of God’s victory over evil. And we’re invited to be a part of that true story. We get to enter into the legacy, the story of people who came before us, who were walking in that same victory, that same overcoming life. But if you don’t know your history, you don’t know your own spiritual family legacy. It should not surprise you that you feel maybe discouraged or detached or afraid of the future because you don’t know how God has overcome in the past.

So let’s talk about history in general for a moment. Why do we need it? University of Wisconsin Madison said, “history matters because history gives us the tools to analyze and explain problems in the past. It positions us to see patterns that might otherwise be invisible in the present, thus providing a crucial perspective for understanding and solving current and future problems.” So essentially, what they’re saying here is exactly what I just said, that when we are able to see the patterns and problems in the past, we’re able to come to the present with a greater perspective. We can solve the problems of the present because we can look to the past, learn from it, and do better in the future. Another encouraging thing is straight out of scripture in Ecclesiastes 1, 4 through 11, Solomon observes that there is nothing new under the sun, and this is true.

When you study history, you learn that there really is nothing new under the sun. These ideologies that we see today are recycled ideologies. The lies that are believed are the same old lies that have been believed throughout history. The same desires for money and sex and power, driving people to abuse other people, and Christ calling them to live in his upside down kingdom that puts others first and lays itself down to love. The Christian story is one of love and honor and victory. It’s one that we get to be a part of and participate in. But if we refuse to know our history, to pay attention to it, we forget the power of how we could live in the present. 

George Orwell, who is definitely not a Christian and definitely not a spiritual example to us, did have something interesting to say about history. He said, “the most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” I think a lot of Christians have been denied and have obliterated their own history, at least before the Reformation. There are some Christian traditions and denominations that will pay a lot of attention to their history in the 1800’s, the 1900’s , and up to the 1500’s, 1517 with Martin Luther. But before that, we really don’t know a whole lot of what happened in church history. We don’t pay a lot of attention, especially if we aren’t in a liturgical tradition such as Orthodox or Catholic or Anglican. We don’t pay a lot of attention to what was happening between Christ’s ascension and 1517 or maybe 1900. And there’s so much history there that explains why we are where we are today.

An effective way to destroy unity and mission in the Church is to obliterate our understanding of our own legacy of faith. If we can be isolated and individualized, we can be divided and distracted. Cicero said this, “Not to know what has been transacted in former times is to be always a child. If no use is made of the labors of past ages, the world must remain always in the infancy of knowledge.” So if we don’t pay attention to what has happened in the past, if we don’t make use of the work of the people in past ages, we can’t really grow up in our knowledge of what to do in the future. I truly believe that Scripture is empowered by the history of how it was applied in the past. When we’re reading Scripture today, we can look to how Charles Spurgeon or John Wesley applied Scripture. We can look to how Origen or Athanasius applied Scripture. We can look to how Thomas Aquinas applied Scripture. We can look to how these people lived and how they applied their faith, and we can learn from it. 

Edmund Burke gave this famous, famous quote that many of us know. Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. And I think this really does happen today, especially as many, many people, at least in America, have not had a strong historical education, have not been taught how to sift through the facts of history, draw out the patterns, understand the implications, and move towards the present with intention. We end up repeating the very patterns that we’ve seen before, and especially in church history. In American church history specifically, there have been cycles of this. If we understand the cycles, we can break the cycle.

This week’s episode is sponsored by Compelled podcast. One of my favorite podcasts, Compelled is always finding amazing God stories, and they recently shared one that blew my mind. When Steve Richardson was seven months old, he and his parents moved to New Guinea to bring the gospel to a tribe of violent Stone Age cannibals. After weeks of preparation, they made their first contact. Steve and his parents traveled to the remote tribe via canoe. As they rounded the final bend in the river, they were shocked by the sight of 400 Sawi warriors armed to the teeth, waiting for them. The Sawi had never seen a white person before and had never been exposed to the outside world. They were truly living in the Stone Age, with axe heads made from rocks and zero exposure to modern civilization in their eyes, Steve’s family were workers of the deepest magic they had ever witnessed. Steve’s parents possessed a white metal box that could consume a person and then disappear into the sky for weeks on end before reappearing with a completely different person inside. The Richardsons had magical potions that could cure the sickest man on his deathbed. But the one thing that the Richardsons wanted to share the most with the headhunters, a story about a god who died for his enemies. What would transpire next would change the course of history for this entire people group and capture the imagination of millions more. If you have ever been curious about missions, then listen to Steve share his one of a kind story on episode 65 of the compelled podcast. Search for compelled on your favorite podcast app, or visit again. That’s 

Now, when it comes to learning history, a lot of people think boring again because they’ve been taught history as disconnected facts that they memorize and then regurgitate on a test. Now, I have a lot of opinions about educational philosophy. As a second generation home educator, a former higher Ed academic advisor, I have a lot of opinions. Now, I’m no expert. I don’t have a master’s in education. But I do know a thing or two about making history interesting. And I do know a thing or two about making theology interesting. Two topics that people often feel very put off by. Two topics that people are scared of.

So I can say this. When you teach history as disconnected facts with no pattern, no way of interpreting it, no way of applying it to life, it is no surprise that people are bored because they don’t see how it impacts them today. But if you teach history as a story, people find themselves in it. Rudyard Kipling, another secular person, not an example of spirituality that we follow, but with a good quote, said this, “if history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” And if you look at different cultures, you’ll notice that people who are connected to, integrated into their specific culture often have stories that are handed down to them over the ages. Their oral history, the folktales, the legends that connect them with their past. We have those stories. We have those stories as Christians. And the amazing thing is that they’re true. They’re not legends. They’re true stories of faithful people. They’re true stories of people walking with God. They’re true stories of the gospel moving forward, and they’re our legacy. But if we forget them, we don’t really know our family story. We don’t know what our family tree is. And you have a spiritual family tree.

If you are a Christian, you have a spiritual family tree, and it’s worth learning about it. Christian history is a story of hope and victory. Other generations have walked through the hard things we’re walking through before. If we don’t learn from them, we won’t have what it takes to face the challenge of our generation. So my goal in this series is to tell you church history as a story. And I have structured this series in a way to make it as consumable as possible. I also had to structure in a way where I wasn’t overwhelming you or overwhelming myself, because it’s a lot of information to cover. And so I have divided church history into 500 year sections.

From the Ascension of Christ and Pentecost to present day. I will release eight episodes per 500 year section, starting with the early church. So we will be starting in AD 33, ending around AD 500. This first episode is trying to convince you that church history matters. After this episode, we are going to talk about the world of the early Church, how the first church did Church, how to live as an exile in a pagan world, identifying a counterfeit gospel, pastors, martyrs and bishops, the key figures of the early Church, missions in Asia, Africa and Europe, and the rise to power of the church as it replaces Rome. So we’re going to look at these different movements. I’m doing a high level overview, and I’m utilizing resources like Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley, Story of Christianity by Justo Gonzalez, rediscovering the Church Fathers by Michael Haken, and a variety of other journal articles, historical resources as well. To supplement, I have some hopes to do a few little mini episodes or bonus episodes for kids, we’ll see if I’m able to release those. 

But I want this to be something that is so fun, so interesting, engaging, but most of all encouraging and equipping you as you see that you are not alone in facing the challenges of this generation. The challenges of this generation might look different on the outset because we have iPhones and we have the internet, but they really, at their core, are the same challenges that were faced in the first 500 years of the church, in the Middle Ages, during the Great Awakenings, all the way to present day. So be encouraged. You’re not alone. You have a legacy, you have a family tree, and you have a story. And we’re about to learn what that story is. 

Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of Verity Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, would you take the time to leave us a review? It helps so many other women around the world find out about Verity and about Every Woman a Theologian as a ministry in a shop. We appreciate you, and I hope you’ll be back next week as we continue to go deeper into God’s word and the heart of Jesus Christ.


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