Of the many books that have been recently published on the topic of church history, one that is extremely well-suited for use in a church education class or a book discussion group is Mark Noll’s Turning Points, published in its third edition in 2012. As Noll notes in his acknowledgements, the book represents material that he has worked out with both students in an undergraduate classroom setting and also laypeople in various church contexts. In other words, the book was written with this kind of audience in mind.
Further, the book has 13 chapters, and as veteran church education leaders know, 13 is a number that is anything but unlucky for our purposes. It’s the perfect number for a quarterly class! (OK, maybe 12 is even more perfect, because you can do an introductory week and then dive into the material. But I tend to find that “introductory weeks” end up being a little boring. So, my encouragement is to let week 1 be the introduction: give a little spiel about the book, and then jump right into it!)
Obviously, as you prepare your class, you will probably have practices that help you get ready. Also, you know your own context far better than I do. My goal is not to tell you how to teach the class or engage your participants, but rather to provide resources as you get ready to do those important things. I’ll give you some introduction and overview for the chapter as a whole, a link to a primary source that is connected with the material, and some discussion questions that might be helpful. Also, depending on the chapter’s material, I’ll provide other little notes and comments, as I think they are needed. (By the way: a hat tip to my graduate assistant, Aaron G. Brown, who was invaluable to me in helping create the questions here, not least by writing a good number of them himself!)
(Note: the third edition includes some more discussion questions in the back of the book. You might be thinking, “Why give discussion questions if the author does already?” My answer: sometimes another set of eyes [i.e., not the author’s] can offer a valuable alternative perspective.)
Let me know how I can help as you guide your people through the winding paths of our story as followers of Jesus! Many blessings!
By the way, if you want to jump quickly to a chapter from here, click on one of the following links: chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3, chapter 4, chapter 5, chapter 6, chapter 7, chapter 8, chapter 9, chapter 10, chapter 11, chapter 12, chapter 13.