Bruce Shelley: A Historian for the People
On Saturday, February 20, historian Bruce Shelley died at the age of 82 after having suffered a stroke a few days earlier. Dr. Shelley served for many years as a member of the Christian History advisory board. We asked his Denver Seminary colleague Dr. Scott Wenig to interpret the significance of Dr. Shelley's contribution to Christ's church. Here is his tribute:
"You must always ask the question of how this relates to ministry!" So exclaimed Dr. Bruce Shelley on countless occasions over his 40 plus years of teaching church history to students at Denver Seminary. After three decades of close contact with Bruce as a student, friend and colleague, I can't begin to recall the number of times I heard him say those words in both formal and informal settings. Ministry lay at the heart of all he said, did and wrote, be it in the study, the classroom, the pulpit, the Sunday school class or the home group bible study. He was concerned to teach others about Jesus Christ and his church, especially those he liked to call "ordinary people," the men and women who would never have the opportunity of formal theological education. So while he drew his living as a scholar of history in an academic setting, Bruce Shelley's primary focus was always on ministry to laypeople.
Both his writing and teaching reflected that singular passion. Dr. Shelley's main work, Church History in Plain Language, now in its 3rd edition, has sold over 100,000 copies, a feat almost unheard of for surveys of church history. One of the main reasons for its longevity and ongoing popularity is that it is built on the concept of story. Years ago, Bruce learned that to keep people listening—and reading—you must tell them a story. And that's something he did ...