5 Minutes in Church History and In the Year of Our Lord

5 Minutes in Church History and In the Year of Our Lord each view church history through an engaging and refreshing lens.

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*5 Minutes in Church History: An Introduction to the Stories of God’s Faithfulness in the History of the Church by Stephen J. Nichols. Reformation Trust Publishing, 2019. 154 pages.

cover of 5 Minutes in Church History

Reading level: Teen/Adult, Ages 16 and up

Recommended for: Ages 12 and up (perhaps younger as a read aloud)

Based on the popular podcast “5 Minutes in Church History,” Dr. Nichols offers up “postcards of people, places, events, artifacts, dates, and ideas” from church history in this slim volume. 40 short chapters include such interesting titles as “The $14 Million Book,” “1066: A Good Year For a Monk,” and “Jonathan Edwards’s Favorite Word.” (Now you’re wondering what Jonathan Edwards’s favorite word was, aren’t you?) Nichols covers key moments such as the Protestant Reformation, but he also includes chapters on lesser known bits. For instance, which Bible Shakespeare used as a reference (primarily the Geneva Bible) and which books of the Bible Shakespeare drew from most often forms one chapter.

Nichols is witty, informative, and just downright interesting to read. His style is casual (one can easily imagine these stories being spoken, on air), and children and teens will enjoy listening to these stories read aloud (recommended) or reading them on their own. 5 Minutes in Church History would make an engaging “hook” for a middle or high school Sunday class or a worthwhile addition to a family read aloud line-up. Highly recommended.

Overall Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 5
  • Artistic/literary value: 4.5

*indicates a starred review

*In the Year of Our Lord: Reflections on Twenty Centuries of Church History by Sinclair B. Ferguson. Reformation Trust Publishing, 2018. 229 pages.

Reading level: Teen/Adult, Ages 16 and up

Recommended for: Ages 12 and up (perhaps younger as a read aloud)

When you think of church history, there are likely highlights that stand out: the early church and its persecution by Rome, the Protestant Reformation, the modern missions movement, …. But what about the other 17 centuries since Christ? Dr. Ferguson takes a concise, chronological approach to church history and gives each of 20 centuries its own chapter; most chapters are remarkably similar in length—no small feat when readers consider how many seemingly significant events happened during some centuries compared to how little we might know of others. One chapter that really stood out to me was Ferguson’s treatment of the seventh century: “Gregory and Muhammad.” Why is Muhummad in a volume about the history of the Christian church? Ferguson compares Gregory’s influence over the church with the rise of Muhammad:

“Thus, it is striking that it was precisely as the church was becoming strong as a political force, but growing weak in its hold on the gospel, that another figure staked his claim to be a major figure in history. His name was Abū al-Qāsim Muhammad ibn ‘And Allāh ibn ‘And al-Muttalib ibn Hāshim. We know him simply as Muhammad.

Ferguson, p. 75

Ferguson concludes this chapter with a reminder to learn from history, to place the Great Commission as our priority. He then offers a hymn for the reader’s meditation: “A Great and Mighty Wonder” by Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople (634-734). Every chapter concludes with a similar hymn from a composer of the century in question; what a delight!

Ferguson writes clearly, intelligently, and personally. Teens will have no trouble understanding this volume, and its size makes In the Year of Our Lord an excellent resource for a teen Sunday school class, a family devotional time, or even a book for teens to read on their own. Many middle school students will enjoy this one as well, but they may need a bit more explanation of the background history. This book is less “entertaining” than the 5 Minutes book above, but it is a tremendously rewarding read.

Overall Rating: 5 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 5
  • Artistic/literary value: 5

*indicates a starred review

Also at Redeemed Reader:

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Buy 5 Minutes in Church History directly from Ligonier/Reformation Trust Publishing

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Betsy Farquhar

Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Southeast.

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  1. Jen R on May 10, 2021 at 5:56 am

    My homeschool curriculum uses Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula which we have really enjoyed.

  2. Melanie on May 10, 2021 at 7:11 am

    My kids are just getting old enough to appreciate the Christian Biographies For Young Readers series by Simonetta Carr.

  3. Bret on May 10, 2021 at 8:41 am

    It’s really not an area I’ve read widely, but the first book that came to mind as an enjoyable, teen-accessible read was “Martin Luther: A Life” by Martin Marty.

  4. Bekah on May 10, 2021 at 10:24 am

    The only other church history I’ve read is Church History in Plain Language (Shelley). These look good!

  5. Nancy W on May 10, 2021 at 4:47 pm

    We use Generations curriculum which has excellent church history. My favorite is Taking the World for Jesus.

  6. Ivey on May 10, 2021 at 6:12 pm

    Christian Heroes Then and Now biography series. Thanks for the great recs!

    • Betsy Farquhar on May 11, 2021 at 7:25 am

      Great series! Megan has a feature about that very series in the May Redeemed Reader Quarterly ;-).

  7. Christy Whitsell on May 10, 2021 at 7:21 pm

    I like Trial and Triumph. I also love the series Hidden Heroes by Rebecca Davis. The stories of God at work in different cultures are truly amazing!

  8. Megan on May 11, 2021 at 5:12 am

    We haven’t read much church history. Though if Trial & Triumph counts, we’ve read that in our homeschooling! It’s a great book!

  9. Becky on May 11, 2021 at 9:54 am

    The Trailblazer Series by Dave & Neta Jackson is a fiction series which introduces Christian heroes of the past. These are exciting books for upper elementary (grade 3-5).

  10. Anne McCorkle on May 11, 2021 at 10:43 am

    I enjoyed Church History in Plain Language, too! Great for teens.

  11. Mandi on May 12, 2021 at 3:10 am

    Over a few years we’ve read chapters from the History Lives series as they’ve corresponded to our history timeline. We’ve also enjoyed a fun look at church history through hymns by reading the Mr. Pipes books by Douglas Bond.

  12. Emily P on May 12, 2021 at 5:07 am

    We also use Trial and Triumph in our homeschool. Love it!

  13. Jenni Winstead on May 13, 2021 at 8:34 am

    I’ve enjoyed the Mr. Pipes books, too and I like listening to the 5 minutes in history podcast!

  14. Andrea H on May 13, 2021 at 8:39 am

    We have also enjoyed Christian Heroes: Then & Now series. A few years ago the kids enjoyed the picture book Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World by Paul L. Maier. Also, Missionary Stories with the Millars by Mildred A. Martin.

  15. Daniel Szczesniak on May 13, 2021 at 8:44 am

    My kids love the Lightkeepers series! I’ve only read a few stories from them, but they’re excellent and my kids devour them. There’s a boxed set of 5 books for boys (titles are like “10 Boys Who Changed the World” etc) and another boxed set for girls (“10 Girls Who Made History” etc). So combined that’s 100 different mini biographies in the set. Of course they do big names like Martin Luther and Corrie Ten Boom, and also ones you may not immediately recognize (Lysken Dirks; Marion Harvey; Margaret Wilson; C.T. Studd; Lord Shaftesbury; Ivan Moiseyev). Great stuff!

    Also, sounds like I need to pick up a copy of Trial and Triumph asap. Thanks for the recommendation!

  16. Jen Woyke on May 13, 2021 at 8:48 am

    Dave & Neta Jackson have an older Heroes devotional series that has great short biographies! I’m also going through the History Lives series by Mindy Withrow with my 12 yr old.

  17. Julie on May 13, 2021 at 8:56 am

    The Little LIght Series by Catherine MacKenzie is great for the littles readers learning about great missionaries.

  18. Nora B on May 13, 2021 at 8:58 am

    Christian Heroes Then and Now! I also want to try the Good Book’s “Do Great Things for God” biographies.

  19. Ashleigh on May 13, 2021 at 10:11 am

    I haven’t read a lot about church history, although I picked up Church History in Plain Language from the library. Unfortunately, the edition I ended up with was really long and I didn’t finished the entire book before I had to return it. 🙂 I did read Martin Luther by Eric Metaxas, which I found fascinating. I can’t wait to read Bonhoeffer!

  20. Stacy E. on May 13, 2021 at 10:52 am

    My brother-in-law loaned me his The Church in History by Kuiper last year during the pandemic and libraries were closed. It read like a textbook so I would probably enjoy 5 Minutes in Church History!

  21. Claire Cecil on May 13, 2021 at 11:06 am

    Church History in Plain Language is an awesome resource!

  22. Michele Samuelson on May 13, 2021 at 11:14 am

    I have used two of Stephen Nichols’ books with my daughter. “The Church History ABCs: Augustine and 25 Other Heroes of the Faith” and “Reformation ABCs: The People, Places, and Things of the Reformation―from A to Z.” Both have been really great in introducing some complicated history!

    • Melissa Joy on May 13, 2021 at 5:16 pm

      Oh yeah, we have those and love them too! Ned Bustard artwork is always snazzy too.

  23. Mary C. on May 13, 2021 at 11:27 am

    “The Glory of Grace: The Story of the Canons of Dort” by William Boekstein

  24. K. Morton on May 13, 2021 at 1:23 pm

    We are reading “Church History in Plain Language” by Bruce L. Shelley. It was a course book when I was in Bible College, but taken in small chunks with my teens, it has been enjoyable!

  25. Clarice on May 13, 2021 at 1:24 pm

    An interesting book for older kids is Saints and Scoundrels: from King Herod to Solzhenitsyn, by Robin Phillips. Another great book for high school kids and adults, by Donald Brake, is A Visual History of the English Bible.

    I’ve recently found, but not yet read, a few of Louise Vernon’s books–The Man Who Laid the Egg, about Gerhard; The Beggar’s Bible, about John Wycliffe; and A Heart Strangely Warmed, about John Wesley. Is anyone familiar with her series of religious heritage books?

    I love your website–I’ve gained so many valuable titles through you and through readers’ comments!

    • Betsy Farquhar on May 14, 2021 at 7:29 am

      I’ve never heard of the Saints and Scoundrels book. Sounds very interesting! I have heard of Louise Vernon’s books, but I haven’t read them yet either. So many books, so little time!

  26. Melissa Joy on May 13, 2021 at 5:15 pm

    We love all the books by Richard Hannula, and also the series by Mindy & Brandon Withrow.
    I got Epic recently, as well as Bruce Shelley’s book on Church History.
    I kind of adore studying it with my kids!

  27. Dorothy on May 13, 2021 at 5:19 pm

    We like Trial and Triumph and also the Trailblazer series. I’d like to put the 5 min. one in our great aloud list for next year!

  28. Shannon H on May 13, 2021 at 8:30 pm

    For the ancient church, we really enjoyed Peril and Peace by Mindy and Brandon Withrow.

    For missionary biographies, we really enjoy the biographies published by YWAM – by Janet and Geoff Benge. The series is Christian Heroes: Then and Now and they have a whole list of missionaries and Christian hero biographies. All are very well written!

  29. Virginia Lee Rogers on May 13, 2021 at 10:13 pm

    The 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power series by Nick Needham is great. It would be for teens and up. We also enjoy Trial and Triumph for our younger kiddos. One of my daughters really like Radiant by the same author as T and T. I think you reccommended it to us, Betsy. The whole family likes the 5 Mins in Church History podcast. We listen in the car to a few at a time. I’ve never read the Simonetta Carr bios. I know so many people love them, it must be why I never seem to be able to find used copies. ?

    • Betsy Farquhar on May 14, 2021 at 7:30 am

      Those Simonetta books ARE hard to find! Maybe a friend could hook you up with some used copies ?.

  30. Sunny on May 14, 2021 at 11:09 am

    We’ve used Mystery of History III for the first time this year, and it has a lot of church history included. It’s led to some great conversations. I’m looking forward to checking out the books in the review!

  31. Sarah Daniels on May 14, 2021 at 12:03 pm

    We love the whole series by Brandon and Mindy Whitrow. We just finished reading about Boniface this morning!

  32. Kristi on May 14, 2021 at 4:47 pm

    Our family has enjoyed the Little Lights books, the Christian Heroes: Then and Now books, the History Lives series by the Withrows, the Trailblazer books by the Jacksons, the Trail Blazers books (Christian Focus Publications), and the Light Keeper’s Ten Girls/Ten Boys series. Also, we have EPIC and the Adventures of Missionary Heroism and hope to read them soon.

  33. Christy on May 14, 2021 at 6:25 pm

    This year I found God’s Timeline, The Big Book of Church History by Linda Finlayson. It has a nice layout with timelines and pages that go into more depth about some subjects. It has a been a great companion to our world history class as it puts it all in context for us.

  34. Bethany Brawley on May 14, 2021 at 8:11 pm

    Books from the History Lives Series! Peril and Peace, Monks and Mystics, Courage and Conviction.

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