Church History 101: 50 People You Need to Know

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“My task in this class is to convince you that there was someone between your grandmother and Jesus and that it matters” – Timothy George, church history professor.

There have been a lot of people since the time of the New Testament and before our grandparents who have made a tremendous impact on Christianity and the world. Unfortunately, to our detriment, we refuse to take the time to get to know them.

The ideas we have about our faith and the way we practice it did not originate in a temporal vacuum. They have been influenced by all of those who have gone before us.

Seeing the grand historical scope of Christianity allows us to better appreciate its grandeur and the glory of its Savior. It also can encourage us, as we recognize that we are surrounded with a great cloud of witnesses, both living and dead. Many of them died defending some of the very doctrines you hold.

Just as Christ walks with us, others have walked before us. We do ourselves a disservice by not investigating their lives and contributions to the faith as a whole and our faith as individuals.

Recognizing that, with suggestions from friends on social media, I developed a list of 50 influential individuals within Church history. There are 50 men and women you, as a Christian, should know. Starting next week, once or twice a week, The Wardrobe Door will feature a profile of one of these 50 people in a new series called Church History 101.

Before you see the list, you should know what it is and what it is not. This list is not the 50 most influential people in Church history. I would not be qualified to make that judgment. This is merely 50 influential individuals whom I feel should be recognized and, in some cases, more widely known.

I have intentionally left out individuals from the New Testament and those who are alive today. Obviously, Billy Graham has made a significant impact on Church history, but his contributions are not yet completed.

Also, recognizing my ecclesiological background, I have focused mainly on those within my own frame of reference (Protestant, Evangelical and Baptist). This means I have left off popes, as influential as many have been, and the founders of Pentecostalism, despite its rapid growth in the last two centuries.

I have also not included those with whom I have major, central theological differences, as well as individuals outside of Christianity who may have impacted the church from the vantage point of a spectator. I want to speak positively of each one and how Christ worked in and through them.

This is a group who is entirely flawed and imperfect, but they made a lasting impact by simply obeying what Christ had called them to do. I hope in the coming days, weeks and months, these men and women will make an impact on your life and inspire you to your own life of obedience and impact.

50 Influential Individuals in Church History

1. Polycarp
2. Justin Martyr
3. Irenaeus
4. Origen
5. Tertullian
6. Athanasius
7. Aquinas
8. Anselm
9. John Chrysostom
10. Augustine
11. Patrick
12. William of Ockham
13. Francis of Assisi
14. John Wycliffe
15. Jan Hus
16. Martin Luther
17. Balthasar Hubmaier
18. Thomas Cranmer
19. John Calvin
20. William Tyndale
21. John Knox
22. John Bunyan
23. Thomas Helwys
24. Roger Williams
25. Blaise Pascal
26. Isaac Newton
27. Isaac Watts
28. George Handel
29. Charles & John Wesley
30. Jonathan Edwards
31. George Whitefield
32. David Brainerd
33. William Palely
34. George Lisle
35. Andrew Fuller
36. William Carey
37. Timothy Dwight
38. William Wilberforce
39. Adoniram & Ann Judson
40. Charles Finney
41. George Mueller
42. Dwight L. Moody
43. Charles Spurgeon
44. Lottie Moon
45. C.S. Lewis
46. J.R.R. Tolkien
47. Corrie Ten Boom
48. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
49. Jim & Elisabeth Elliot
50. Charles Colson

What do you think of the list? Who would you like to see included that I left off? Are there some names that you don’t know? Do you see someone here that you are particularly interested in?


If you would like to write a guest post on an individual for the Church History 101 series here at The Wardrobe Door, email me at WardrobeDoor (at) with the subject “Church History 101” or tweet me @WardrobeDoor with the hashtag #ChurchHistory101 and let me know who you would like to cover.


About Author

Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.