Heb 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Some Christians take a very dim view of Church history. They see the early church explosion being followed by an extended time of compromise and dilution of the truth. They would see events like the Reformation, the Charismatic Renewal (and some even include the advent of Cell Groups!) as steps by which we are struggling back to the level of the New Testament Church.
This is not how I understand the purpose of God for the Church - past, present or future! Daniel 2 does not describe a rock that grows for 300 years, only to fall into decline for a couple of millennia, when it starts to then grow again. Nor does the rock start to grow with any modern advance of the kingdom. The rock is Christ, and the unstoppable Kingdom growth began with him!
There is nothing backward in the purpose of God, it is one of continual forward advance and increase. God's heart of Restoration is not that we might recover the level of the New Testament Church; that was just the starting point, never the destination. His plan is that we build on the pattern laid out in the New Testament, growing in numbers, stature and maturity, until we become the spotless bride he is coming back for.
Yes, there have been some dark periods in history, but even in the darkest night, God's light has still shone strong, and his Kingdom has advanced. We would not be in the faith today if it were not for those who held onto the truth in such times. People may fall, church organisations may loose their way, but God's Kingdom is unstoppable! His plan was not in trouble until we came along! If we have advanced the Kingdom it is only because of those who went before, and if we do not, then his purpose will continue on without us.
Let us be proud of our heritage of faith as Christians and not despise those who held the torch before us in this race. If we do not learn from our history, we are destined to repeat it. We do not want to be those who wander round in circles in the wilderness, but those who realise "We have been called to the Kingdom for such a time as this," and who take our place in its great eternal history of advance.