On Teaching Perspective to Our Children: Church History

2dyvq1psbgw-jeremiah-higginsOur children being raised in Christian homes in the United States may probably never see the type of suffering we see in the lives of Christian martryrs that have gone before us. It is a rare occasion of true persecution for your faith in this country. I am not talking about Facebook friends chastising your beliefs on social media. I once heard an individual claim they were being “persecuted” for their faith online because there were some that disagreed with them. I thought that this must be a problem with perspective in our culture. Being teased or “yelled at” on Social Media  pales enormously to the suffering of a history of martyrs and saints that experienced death, beatings, sickness, loneliness, disease and more for the Gospel. There are many in the world today still that truly suffer in these ways for the faith. It is a matter of perspective. Much perspective can be gained by studying our Church History.

I have a three part series on teaching perspective to our children: 1. Church History  2. The World and Missions and 3. Our Neighbors. This is on Church History. Even though this post is geared toward teaching children about perspective in the history of our faith and the needs of this world, it is not meant just for children. We grow as we teach, I hope it inspires us as well.

(c) National Trust, Tatton Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) National Trust, Tatton Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation


Let us begin by learning of Anne Askew and reading The Ballad Which Anne Askew Made And Sang When She Was In Newgate. 

Like as the armed knight
Appointed to the field,
With this world will I fight
And Faith shall be my shield.

Faith is that weapon strong
Which will not fail at need.
My foes, therefore, among
Therewith will I proceed.

As it is had in strength
And force of Christes way
It will prevail at length
Though all the devils say nay.

Faith in the fathers old
Obtained rightwisness
Which make me very bold
To fear no world’s distress.

I now rejoice in heart
And Hope bid me do so
For Christ will take my part
And ease me of my woe.

Thou saist, lord, who so knock,
To them wilt thou attend.
Undo, therefore, the lock
And thy strong power send.

More enmyes now I have
Than hairs upon my head.
Let them not me deprave
But fight thou in my stead.

On thee my care I cast.
For all their cruel spight
I set not by their haste
For thou art my delight.

I am not she that list
My anchor to let fall
For every drizzling mist
My ship substancial.

Not oft use I to wright
In prose nor yet in rime,
Yet will I shew one sight
That I saw in my time.

I saw a rial throne
Where Justice should have sit
But in her stead was one
Of moody cruel wit.

Absorpt was rightwisness
As of the raging flood
Sathan in his excess
Suct up the guiltless blood.

Then thought I, Jesus lord,
When thou shalt judge us all
Hard is it to record
On these men what will fall.

Yet lord, I thee desire
For that they do to me
Let them not taste the hire
Of their iniquity.

You see when Anne Askew spoke of enemies in her poem she truly meant enemies. The poem is reminisicent of the suffering by enemies in David’s Psalms and just as harrowing. Anne Askew, one of the first known female English poets was a protestant and had been kicked out of her home by her Catholic husband who had her later imprisoned. Charged with heresy for leading bible, prayer and discussions, of which one of those patrons was the then Queen of England, Catherine Parr, she faced many trials. The poem above is not merely a poetic work but truly what she had been experiencing. She was openly critical of the state of the church and was an important figure in the Reformation period. Because Anne Askew did not recant of her criticisms of the unbiblical teachings of the Church of England in her time even while imprisoned, interrogated by the Bishop of London, and tortured she was sentenced to execution by fire in 1546 but not before making the very poignant and critical statement “He errs and speaks without the Book” about the bishop’s executorial sermon. She died for her faith and history shows the Church of England was greatly influenced by reformation saints like her and they did eventually adopt the beliefs they killed Anne Askew for in her time. Even observation of the portrait above by Hans Eworth painted posthumously shows the inscription “Rather Death; Than False of Faith”. This is but one story of Church History.

Perspective in regards to martyrs and saints that have gone before us can help our children and ourselves understand 1. the weight of the knowledge we carry and 2. true suffering does not look what we might be accustomed to knowing. I am pretty sure there are very few Americans that have experienced execution by fire for the sake of the Gospel but even in our country we have heard of church burnings and shootings that should cause us to really pause and view our freedom to share the Gospel and the grace of our thriving in juxtaposition to the histories that have been written and will still be written of those that experience great trial in the name of Christ.

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I do not believe as Christians we should shelter our children from these truths and histories. In the United States, it is easy to become so insular that the world and history have no influence on our myopic hearts. We become hardened in our near-sightedness. So to combat our apathy we can teach our children about these stories and pray. Two resources that we use at home for teaching on martyrs and persecuted saints is Trial and Triumph and the Book of Missionary Heroes. We include this as church history in our schedule but can be read at any point in your week. We have read portions of the Book of Missionary Heroes before Family Worship as an example. Both are in story-form and make these stories accessible.

Another great resource is the Voice of the Martyrs website and the VOTM companion site Kids of CourageYou can read modern accounts and biographies of the persecuted church and write letters to imprisoned Christians around the world.

I believe we all need some perspective in our very narrow world-views. We all suffer with only knowing what if right in front of our eyes. It will do all of us well to challenge, Parent and Child.

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