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Church History Themes: Seeing the “Bigger Picture”

I wanted to take a moment to share a little bit of what I’ve been working on the past year. As many of you might already know, Logos 10 launched yesterday and with it comes a lot of awesome new features, datasets, and resources. I hope to highlight some of the new resources my teammates and I worked on over the next few weeks.

My focus was primarily on developing new church history resources for Logos 10, including the new Church History Themes (CHT) resource and dataset.

Screenshot of the Church History Themes resource title page in Logos 10.

Like many, I tend to think of my projects as my non-human children… there is a lot of pain and labor that goes into creating datasets and resources—no, it’s not actually like childbirth, but the metaphor is apt. This latest project is especially near and dear to my heart as it is probably the largest project I have attempted and the one over which I had the most ownership. I had the privilege of working with Information Architect Extraordinaire, Sean Boisen, (he’s an information icon, really) to develop these Church History Themes from an idea into an actual resource and dataset. We also had a lot of help from other Innovators—HT to Jeremy Thompson (computer wizard, Hebrew aficionado, and all-around good sport 🙇‍♀️)—as well as an outside Contributing Editor, Zachariah Carter, who specializes in church history. I am part of an incredible team of Innovators, past and present, for which I am grateful.

I was in my happy place for most of this project: nose in a book, or in this case, on a screen. The project involved a lot of intensive research on my part, lots of brainstorming on how to organize all the data, and, of course, a plethora of curation work. I am very, very proud of what we accomplished.

So, what exactly are Church History Themes?

A Church History Theme (CHT) captures the “Big Picture” in the life of the church. A CHT is a combination of a theme, period, and key entities including people, places, events, concepts, and documents. The Theme, or Big Picture, for a period typically describes a progression, development, or outcome within the history of the church. Themes tell a story that is important to understanding the bigger picture of church history.

In creating Church History Themes, we wanted to organize the lots of church history related data—people, places, events, etc.,—to tell a story that would serve as an entry point and connect users with our data. What do these events, writings, and people have in common? What changes were taking place in the world and within the church during this time? How was the church taking shape? Where is a good starting point to learn more about X, Y, and Z?

Currently, there are forty-two themes that span the beginning of the church to contemporary movements. While these themes are not comprehensive—there’s obviously a lot that has happened in the life of the church over the past 2,000 years—they are expansive and cover some of the most important developments within church history, as attested by popular and well-regarded church history resources, from the Christological controversies of the early church to the ordination of women in many Protestant denominations. Church History Themes were designed with the hopeful intention of expanding the dataset in the future (I don’t make those decisions, but I will be a squeaky wheel!). Beneath these larger themes are more granular stories waiting to be told.

If we were to take an even deeper look at the theme “The Early Church Expands Beyond Jerusalem,” we could tell the story of how Christianity spread East into India, North into Armenia, and West into Africa, for example. All of these narrower (but no less important!) movements have their own Key People, Places, Events, etc., that can be curated and organized into their own Church History Themes.

Let’s take a closer look at one of the themes to give you an idea of the data behind each CHT.

The Church Pushes for Social Reform in the Industrialized West

Screenshot of the article “The Church Pushes for Social Reform in the Industrialized West” from the Church History Themes resource.

Each Church History Theme (CHT) has a title, time period, and description, followed by a brief summary and image to provide more context for the theme. HT to my husband, Jimmy Parks, whose idea it was to include summaries in addition to the descriptions for CHTs… though writing those forty-two paragraphs was arguably the most difficult part of the project! Summaries are hard, am I right? The images link to our Media Tool where you can find an image description and copyright info.

Key Developments

Screenshot of the Key Developments section.

Next you’ll find a list of Key Developments. Again, while not exhaustive, these were some of the big changes that were taking place in the world at the time. These developments help provide more context about what might have prompted some of the changes that were taking place within the church. The Industrial Revolution, for example, was a key factor in the changing social and cultural landscape of the Western world which led to the social reform movements of the nineteenth century.

Key People

Screenshot of the Key People section.

The Key People section provides a list of some of the most notable individuals, and sometimes groups, related to the CHT. Each Key Person has a brief description explaining their importance to church history in general, and, more specifically, their relevance to the CHT and any written works attributed to them that are also relevant to the theme. For this theme on the social reform movements that arose in the West following the Industrial Revolution, we chose to highlight various social reformers from abolitionists to women’s rights activists and welfare reformers.

Church History Themes also feature several sections with lists of other key entities, including:

Key Events

Screenshot of the Key Events section.

Key events link to our Advanced Timeline tool which allows you to see other events from the Bible, church history, and world history. All of the Key sections are enriched with links to other data in the Logos ecosystem (primarily Factbook and the Advanced Timeline). This allows you to explore particular areas within a theme, like a Key Event or Key Person, in more depth.

Key Places

Screenshot of the Key Places section.

Key Places help you identify where the “action” of a theme was taking place, and in some cases where a Key Person was located.

Key Concepts

Screenshot of the Key Concepts section.

The Key Concepts section links to Factbook and helps expand on the Key Development sections.

Key Documents

Screenshot of the Key Documents section.

The Key Documents section helps contextualize some of the important documents from church and world history. Many of the Key Documents were authored by a theme’s Key Person or is directly related to one of the Key Events. The brief description highlights the document’s relevance to that particular Church History Theme.

Recommended Reading

Screenshot of the Recommended Reading section.

Lastly, each article has a Recommended Reading section that lists hand-curated links to church history resources in Logos that discuss the particular Church History Theme.

There is a lot more I would like to do with Church History Themes, including highlighting some of the stories and movements within church history that don’t typically get as much of the limelight. I’m personally interested in learning more about the early church in North Africa and the historically indigenous churches in the East. And I am always interested in learning more about the women of church history and giving them the spotlight.

Church history is a fascinating area of study. Talk about DRAMA! And there is the occasional weird event that you cannot believe actually happened (Cadaver Synod, I’m looking at you). It is also incredible to see how this body of believers—full of misfits and troublemakers—took shape over time. There is both a lot to mourn and a lot to celebrate. There is certainly much to learn from our past… about how we have harmed others in the name of Christ, and how we have endured and cared for one another in the name of Christ.

My hope is that the more we learn about our past, the more we err on the side of extravagant love and grace.


If you are a Logos user and have had a chance to check out the Church History Themes, I’d love to know what you think!

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