Pastors and Historical Research

fact check

I will admit it; I love social media, and I think it is an excellent tool for evangelism and understanding.  However, one of the biggest problems with social media is the ability to post whatever we want and then, just because we know the person who posted it, believes it and then shares it.  I have fallen victim to this myself and have shared items without checking them only to have to take them down after the fact.

As we move along in the political season, and more and more information will be posted online, it is important for everyone, but especially pastors, to verify the information that they are posting. Pastors are community leaders and as such we have a tremendous responsibility to provide factual information.  My new rule of thumb is if I do not have time to verify I should not post it.

With all of this in mind, historian John Fea pointed readers of his blog to a recent essay about the importance of reliable historical research and offered some tips.  Here is a little bit of the article:

A friend of mine was preparing his sermon. We happened to be at the same social function, and so he casually asked me what I knew about medieval illuminations (i.e. fireworks). To be honest, I didn’t know much. From my years of teaching world history I knew that gunpowder and fireworks had originated in Asia and spread rather slowly (along trade routes and through military ventures) to Europe. Hence European fireworks are really an early modern/modern phenomenon.

My friend’s question, however, was fairly specific: when was the earliest use of fireworks for a royal event in England? This was beyond my general knowledge.

I wasn’t worried. I knew I could quickly find the answer. So I did, and told my friend what he needed the next day (late fifteenth century, for those of you interested).

I am a professional historian. But the methods I employed to help my friend are not monopolized by my profession. Most of the tools pastors need for basic yet reliable historical research are readily available in our digital age. So, for those of you who like to “do-it-yourself”, here is a quick guide to becoming (at least for the basic stuff) your own personal historian.

Read the Rest Here

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