30 Events that Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky: A Book Review
I do not envy Alton Gansky the job of narrowing two thousand years of history down to the thirty most significant events. In doing so, however, what he has created is an aerial view of history, a tool for harnessing the parade of names and dates, which should lead to a greater understanding of who and what the church has become since Jesus’ original disciples worked the post-ascension crick out their necks and became part of the movement that turned the world upside down.
There’s nothing dry or dusty about Gansky’s brand of history which is, largely, storytelling. His major players are three-dimensional, whether piecing together the New Testament account of the first missionary to the Gentiles (“Paul’s life is the stuff of movies . . .”); the warped trajectory of a demented emperor (“A teenager with ultimate power and a controlling mother sounds like trouble from the start . . .Nero was a young man with hidden and unacceptable appetites.”); or the trials and tribulations of a brilliant scientist who would not bow to tradition (“Galileo, now an old man, was allowed to live out his days under house arrest.”).
A further strength of 30 Events . . . is that, without bogging down in detail, Gansky manages to re-enact the history and to provide the background that led to each event. For example, he follows the rise of the Christian Right through the Baby Boomers and post-WWII social changes and on into the commercialism and secularization of the 60’s and 70’s before Jerry Falwell ever puts a toe on the stage.
Reading this book has stimulated my own questions about history and will affect my future reading of historical material. I would recommend its use as a supplement to a homeschooling history curriculum. Thirty chapters would provide nearly one a week for a high school student to read and summarize, or it would be ideal for a special read-aloud over lunch for elementary students. An ambitious student could take on the book with a chapter a day for six weeks. Adults will enjoy the opportunity to put flesh on the bones of history they already know (or lived through!), and to be introduced to pivotal events of which they were barely aware.
Best of all is the reminder that history unfolds day by day, and the church will continue to be shaped in our life time. As the people of God respond to world events and the leading of the Holy Spirit, God is at work behind the scenes with the gentle reminder, “Surely I am coming quickly.”
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
Disclosure: This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Company, in exchange for my unbiased review.