We walked into this medieval village in France to see the history. Homes lined the streets older by centuries than anything in the US. Standing in the doorway of a home, I found the top of the door at my shoulder, testifying to the size of the people who lived then. This village is named Eguisheim in Eastern France, in the Alsace area. This area was host to the legend of storks bringing babies. The village had stork nests on rooftops everywhere.
Then we entered the Chapelle Saint Leon in the village which is still in use. This church was the church of Pope Leo IX from circa 1000 AD. As I walked through the church and the village, I became acutely aware of our history and the survival of Christianity for millennia. This pope precedes any of the reformation by 500 years or more.
Also, I stared in wonder at Sainte Chapelle in Paris. The stained glass windows record the book of Revelation. This church was built in the 1200’s to house the relics of Christ which had been purchased from the Emperor of Constantinople. The king was Louis IX who was sainted. He is known as the most strong Christian king. Our St. Louis, MO is named after him. Then in Poitiers, France, we behold the Baptistry of Saint John dating from the 300’s. This goes back to the first centuries of our faith. The baptistry is a building with a stream running through it where a baptistry is carved out. It is astounding.
Amazingly the faith founded in Christ has survived these many centuries. It has survived the follies of its leaders. It has survived the misguided and the profane. It has survived wars and plagues. It has survived the many heresies perpetrated on it. It has survived schisms, splits, divisions, and misguided theology. The church is a miracle of God’s persistence.
For all the hatred, accusation, competition, the Lord still has a church. While in Angers, France, the dear pastor we met and ministered in his church, has been working in the city for decades. He has bridged the gap of faith. He is personal friends with the archbishop and the archbishop has included him in the planning for the next ten years in Angers. He has made friends with the mayor, has given himself to unity without compromise.
The greatest testimony to the existence of God, is that His church remains after all these centuries. Every time we about kill it, He sends a movement of some sort that corrects the problem. He inspires some person like Luther to rock the church world and call people back to the gospel. As I looked at these magnificent testimonies of the history of the faith, I was moved with the faithfulness of people who have gone before and kept the faith.
The cathedrals were built to glorify God, but also they were built to teach the gospel to an illiterate people. Each stain glass panel was a gospel tract to be seen and explained to teach the word. While they are beautiful and we think them archaic for today, they are a testimony of survival.
I know I stand on the shoulders of millions of men and women who loved God and did their best in their time to honor the Lord. As I walked the streets of La Rochelle, France, I was overwhelmed with the fact that at one time this city was 98% spirit filled Huguenot believers. The Hotel d’Ville has the Huguenot Cross laid out in the pavement stones.
While I have Protestant roots and honor the sacrifices of those who fought for the Word and baptism and Baptism of the Holy Spirit, I have a growing respect for those who worshipped and led the church through the centuries. There have been passionate people who have kept the faith and fought for the faith. We stand here today because of them.
If our generation fails to keep the faith and honor the gospel, God will faithfully create a movement to take us back to where He wants his church. He will not fail. He has proven that over the 2000 years since his ascension. He will return and He will find his church.
During my time in ministry, which is really a blip on the screen of history, I have seen the Lord correct his church numerous times. Each time there is some move of excess or error, I have seen the Lord bring correction and right the course. I believe we are presently in one of those course corrections. There are corrections being made and some more coming. It is God loving his church.