Someone has said that if we know nothing about what has happened before we were born then we are destined to live a life of ignorance. In other words, the past helps us to understand the present. And this is why biographies and the stories of the past are a great help in understanding the Christian life and what happens in churches.
So we give a hearty welcome to these 75 ten-minute talks by the author of War and Grace – a book which traces the influence of the gospel on the lives of people who lived through the two world wars.
In winsome style and with lucid presentation, Don Stephens recounts the lives of notable Christians from the days of the early church to modern times. We may have heard of Julian Martyr, Origen, golden-mouthed Chrysostom and the great Augustine of Hippo and others, but now we have them graphically brought to life.
Hymn-writers such as Watts, the Wesley brothers, Toplady and others are included, as well as the great Reformers, Luther, Calvin, Tyndale and Knox. The Puritans are represented by Samuel Rutherford, Richard Baxter and the unforgettable John Bunyan. William Grimshaw of Haworth, who preached regularly twenty times a week, puts in an appropriate appearance in the tercentenary year of his birth.
And if we know little about such missionaries as Mitsuo Fuchida, Jacob DeShazer and Robert Kalley, then Don Stephens will introduce us to them. Great preachers of the calibre of Jonathan Edwards, Christmas Evans and Spurgeon are included with an assessment of their influence. We are pleased to meet such heroes as Paul Schneider, Werner Simonson and Johanna-Ruth Dobschiner from the Second World War period, as well as Rupert Lonsdale, a submarine commander of outstanding faith and courage.
These talks are full of evangelistic and pastoral application. They could be used profitably for ten-minute slots at mid-week meetings, home groups and church fellowships. Their brevity also makes them suitable for meetings of young people.
Used wisely they would give added interest and stimulus to meetings that have become somewhat dreary, and they could spark off profitable discussions. This is a valuable resource, and I hope readers will use it.