Over the years I’ve stopped listening to music in favor of podcasts, and my favorite format evokes the feeling of sitting in the corner of someone’s kitchen, eavesdropping on friends talking about a topic they love. Even when it’s just me and my earbuds and I might never meet the hosts, I’m a participant in their conversation.
Church History for Chumps (CH4C, as they call themselves on social media) is exactly the sort of podcast I like. Though not historians, Thomas and John are Arizona pastors from the Reformed tradition who geek out over church history like some guys do football and action movies. When I thought about church history before this podcast, I went immediately to martyrs and saints, individuals from antiquity who had something to do with shaping theology.
This is an unfortunate and narrow view. Is the story of a man who died in a Nazi concentration camp through an act of Christian sacrifice part of church history? What about the work of the Celtic missionaries? Or the Salem Witch Trials? Yes and yes. Even controversial traveling preachers from the past century are worth mentioning. To think of church history as only facts rather than a way to interact with fellow believers is to put ourselves in isolation.
Occasionally CH4C will bring on guests who are just as enthusiastic as our hosts. The conversations are always informal yet informed. Sure, they sometimes use words and phrases inappropriate for the pulpit, but they’re clearly having a good time—which isn’t to say it’s all fun and games. Jesus warned us in John 18 that the world would hate us because it hated him first, and we have been chosen to align ourselves with him. Most of these stories resonate because they remind us how hateful the world can be or how God can use sinful people for his greater glory.
Through honest reflection and heartfelt honesty, Thomas and John find significance and application for believers today. I never get the sense that any lessons are tacked on or pre-planned, so much as arrived at organically. And what they find is as much for them as it is for their listeners.
One of the goals of CH4C is helping today’s believers see themselves as part of a continuing legacy of faith. Protestants don’t venerate the saints as Catholics do and, consequently, have completely ignored some incredible and inspiring true stories. It’s important to remember that many of the things we know about the saints actually happened and are part of the conversation God is having with his church through time and distance.
We aren’t alone, even with our earbuds in.