Messy Church History: Keepin’ Us Honest

Despite this messiness, the believer remembers that Christ is building his church and that church will not remain messy forever.

Church history is messy because of the fact that God uses fallen humanity to advance his kingdom. Church history is messy because the world’s history intersects with the church’s. Church history is messy because we cannot consider all unforeseen consequences of decisions and choices. Church history is messy because theology has a people-story connectedness. Church history is messy because there are applications the church must learn.


King David brought Bathsheba into a home where there were other wives and concubines. Not only was she another woman—a competing woman—but she was with child, and unbeknown to David’s other wives, she was a widow because of murder. Sometimes I imagine the wedding ceremony. Can you imagine it? A pregnant wife-to-be in a white dress, probably not even wanting to be there. She was beckoned by the king afterall; not really a culture where the king asks permission. Other wives were standing with her as the bridal party. Maybe embarassed, maybe confused. David with blood on his hands and a heart hardened against God.

Yet this man—this king—God’s king–points us to Jesus Christ and is a called “a man after God’s own heart.”

That’s messy.

For the past few years I have been completing a Master of Theology degree in post-reformation church history. One of the difficulties with being a critical student of church history is that one comes to realize that church history is not a perfect line of faithfulness and good decisions. 

Not even close. 

As a pastor, I have tried to teach my congregation over the years that church history is messy, and that’s okay. It’s okay to wrestle with the messiness of the history of the church, whether the whole church or our particular denomination’s history.

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