7 Heroes of the Faith: Introduction

I have decided to try something different. I am writing a new book, entitled, 7 Heroes of the Faith, and I am going to post each new chapter and segment of the book online here for free, incrementally as I write them. You will be able to purchase the whole book when it is eventually finished, or simply read it in instalments for free as I write it. Be blessed!

I started writing this book about 4 years ago. Actually, ‘started writing’ is a very generous description. I created a folder for the new book on my computer, opened up a new Word document and typed the heading, “7 Heroes of the Faith”, at the top of a blank page. And that is how the page remained for the next 4 years. Over those years I would periodically open the document and stare at the blank page for a while, perhaps in the vain hope that some form of immaculate literary conception had occurred, resulting in words magically appearing on the page. But when it was clear that no such miracle had taken place and that no momentous literary phrases were forthcoming from my sluggish synapses, I would close it down again and leave it gathering digital dust for another few months. In fact, there were many periods throughout those years when I decided to scrap the idea completely.

My reluctance was not due to a lack of material. In fact, quite the opposite. Only seven heroes of the faith? There are dozens! In fact, hundreds! Where to start? Which seven do I choose? And if I do decide which ones to write about, what can I possibly offer that hasn’t already been documented in much greater detail by many other authors?

But despite these doubts, the idea for the book would not completely go away. Despite the plethora of books already in existence which comprehensively describe the lives of many great saints from the past, I felt that there was a need for a much simpler book; a book for people who aren’t ‘into’ church history.

I enjoy studying church history. I find it fascinating, inspiring, disturbing and disappointing in equal measure. Learning about how we got to be the way we are today helps to give context to our current situation. It also helps me to see the sovereign, guiding hand of God throughout the various epochs of history and gives me a deeper appreciation of the power of the gospel. Examining the lives of great saints from the past inspires me. They are examples for me to follow. They have gone ahead of me, proving the powerful promises of God to be true, and living lives of great faith and sacrifice. I am humbled by their example and inspired by their courage.

But not every Christian has taken the time to read the story of their lives. Most Christians are relatively uninformed about the brave and inspiring sacrifices made by others in the past which have furthered the faith that we now openly practice. And, in one sense, I completely understand why most people haven’t taken the time to read these stories. Most biographies of great Christian men and women from the past are massive. For example, I have a two-volume biography of Charles Spurgeon sitting on my bookshelves that is almost 2,000 pages in length! Who has got the time and inclination to read all that? Not many people.

Hence, why I feel compelled to write this brief book. This is not intended to be a comprehensive set of biographies. I am not aiming to duplicate the many massive tomes that are already in existence documenting the lives of these inspiring men and women. This is a ‘readers digest’ version of their stories, targeted at people who would never normally open the cover of a large biography.

If you are a lover of church history, this book will probably disappoint. It barely skims the surface of the lives of these great saints. This book is probably not for you. It is for people who live busy lives and who, until now, may never have felt inclined to dig back into our past. This is for people who may be vaguely familiar with names like Wesley, Spurgeon, Whitfield, Moody and Luther, but only because they have heard them occasionally mentioned in sermons or referenced in books. Perhaps they have said to themselves, “I must read their stories one day”, but they have never gotten around to doing so.

If I have just described you, then read on! I think you will be surprised. I know you will be inspired. Those who have gone before us have blazed a trail for us to follow. Their lives are a perpetual testimony of faith, courage and perseverance. Although they have long since left this world, their influence lives on and their example will inspire you as you seek to faithfully serve the same God.

I have not included the stories of any women in this book. This does not mean that there have been no women of influence throughout church history, for there have been many. Names such as Susanna Wesley (1669 – 1742), Evangeline Booth (1865 – 1950) and Amy Carmichael (1867 – 1951) immediately spring to mind. There are also women of great note mentioned in the Bible, from Debra in the Old Testament to Priscilla and several other gospel co-workers in the New Testament. But the hard reality is that the Christian church has historically and predominantly been led by men. Consequently, those who have had the greatest influence upon Christianity’s ongoing development have been men. Things are changing in that regard, and many would see these changes as a refreshing and positive development. But if I am to pick seven people from history whom I believe have had the greatest influence upon the advancement of the Christian faith, I find that they are all men.

The people whose stories I briefly recount in this book are the seven people from history who have most inspired me in my own Christian walk. I hope you will find their stories equally inspiring. In my next post we will start with my favourite hero of the Christian Faith: The Apostle Paul. And if you think you already know his story; think again. I think you will be surprised!