I am a total Christian history fanatic now. Even though I grew up in Williamsburg, “History Town”, Virginia, I had a so-so interest in history for many years. But Ken Curtis changed all of that.
I met Ken Curtis in the early 1990s when I was working on my seminary degree. I thought the class would be a dull recitation of dates and names. Boy, was I wrong. Here comes this heavyset man with a thick Bostonian accent walking into class with great passion. He lived and breathed the great moments of church history. From the Early Church to the Reformation, Ken’s zeal was contagious.
And he had films.
Ken Curtis got his big start in the film business in 1972 with the story of David Wilkerson, a young pastor working in the tough gang ghettos of New York City, titled The Cross and the Switchblade. But Ken’s real heart was for church history. Sometimes we get so focused on our own problems and our own little world that we forget that God has been in the Kingdom building business for centuries. When we get overwhelmed with life’s challenges, it really helps to take a step back to figure out where we in our current circumstances fit within God’s long term plan. Ken Curtis knew that the church needs to remember the past for the sake of understanding the present and even guiding us for the future. With this vision, Ken Curtis was able to scrounge up enough money to put together a series of classic Christian history films, including several available here at Ken’s Gateway Film’s Vision Video.
I was hooked. Ken Curtis made the history of the church come alive on film. I have used Ken’s stuff several times over the years in Sunday School classes to help fellow Christians remember the faithfulness of God over the centuries. But Ken’s work was not limited to film. Ken’s family and friends have continued to publish a weekly church bulletin insert, Glimpses. But perhaps Ken’s greatest legacy is the Christian History magazine he founded. With over one hundred issues, Ken and his group have been able to publish high quality issues on almost every subject imaginable. While I throw out most magazines after awhile, I have never thrown out an issue of Christian History.
The magazine floundered in the late 1990s with the advent of the Internet, and Christianity Today picked up the magazine, only to kill it a few years later due to poor sales, yet another casualty of the demise of print journalism these days. However, just before Ken Curtis died of cancer a few years ago, his group at the Christian History Institute resurrected the magazine. There are print editions still available, but now they also publish full-color PDF versions on-line. They ain’t got much money, but they are committed to providing the PDF versions free of charge to folks who can not afford it. In honor of Ken’s legacy, the Christian History Institute wants to help the church to remember with high-quality photos and artwork, very accessible reading and interviews with the top scholars of the world.
At our recent Facts and Faith Symposium, many of the evaluations indicated a real interest in learning more about church history. The timing could not be better. The Christian History Institute has published a recently new issue, Debating Darwin. If you have an interest in how the church responded to the challenge of Charles Darwin in the 19th century, one of the topics that came up during the Symposium, you can find no better place to do your research than to start by downloading the PDF or getting the full print edition delivered to your door.
And if we ever have a future Symposium on Christian History, there stands a great chance of viewing some of Ken’s amazing films. Enjoy!