How Did Christianity Spread All Over The World?


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Ann Dougherty Profile
Ann Dougherty answered
Firstly, by migration of ordinary people. There was a large exodus of christian Jews from Jerusalem because of persecution from the Jews and also to escape from the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. The prophecies of Jesus regarding this cataclysmic event were so well known and understood among early believers that very few, if any, were caught up in it.

Secondly, it was spread by the work of missionaries. The disciples were in the vanguard of this. It is known that Peter got as far as Rome, that Thomas went to Parthia and Bartholomew went to India. The Apostle Paul travelled all over the European area of the Mediterranean and may have got as far as Spain. In the post-apostolic age, Clement of Alexandria. Visited a church which had already been established in India. This church did not last, however.

The methods followed by Paul deserve examination here. He established churches in major population centres such as Ephesus and Corinth, sometimes staying for up to three years in the one place. He usually took the message to the Jewish synagogue first, and then to the gentiles. Once a church was established he would move on to the next major centre of population, keeping in touch with the congregation by letters and sometimes visits. The intention was that the first church would travel outwards and establish daughter churches in adjacent areas and so on. This resulted in cities being very well evangelised and very rural areas almost untouched. Eventually, the last strongholds of the old Greek and Roman religion were the very rural areas of the Roman Empire. This is why the word "pagan" which we use to refer to animistic religions, actually means "rustic" or "country dweller" in Latin.

Thirdly, it was spread by servants and slaves. These people, particularly when educated Greeks, often carried an influence far greater than one would expect. They were responsible for bringing up children, managing great estates etc etc. Close friendships would grow up between them and their masters and it was not uncommon for a man to adopt a highly regarded slave as a son, or for an educated slave to be virtually in loco parentis to a highborn youth. Christianity was very popular among slaves, which was also probably one of the largest classes of people in the Roman Empire. One example of this found in the Bible was the Ethiopian Eunuch who was evangelised by Philip (Acts 8 vs 26-39). He was a high ranking official in the court of the Queen of Ethiopia. He founded a church which grew quite separate from the church in the European part of the mediterranean, and still persists today as the Coptic church.

Fourthly, it was spread by soldiers. Christianity was very popular indeed in the Roman army, which was also a very large class of people in the Roman Empire. Soldiers went everywhere and tended to evangelise. England was first evangelised by the Roman army, in particular, according to tradition by St Helena, the mother of Constantine, who later became the Emperor of Rome. It was probably Roman soldiers who initially evangelised Gaul (France) and Germany.

A very important person in the post apostolic period was St Jerome, whose life work was to translate the New Testament from Greek into Latin, in order that the christians in North Africa, who spoke Latin rather than Greek, could read it in their own language. He met bitter opposition in this but won through, and his translation (the Vulgate) became the basic Biblical text of the Roman Catholic church in Europe as well. For churches to last, it is very important that the people be able to read the bible in their own language. After St Jerome, no-one in the church recognised this need until the Protestant Reformation in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Fifthly, it was spread through politics. When Constantine the Great became Emperor of Rome, he wanted something to unify the Empire, and he wanted an efficient means of governing it. He very much admired the diocesan organisation of the church, which is the church in the major centre of population within a district being responsible for looking after the churches in the surrounding area. He decided to adopt this method for his own civil service and also to create christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. There was no compulsion on individuals to embrace christianity, but most people did, from political rather than spiritual motives. This brought a massive influx of members into the churches all over the then known world, but created difficulties in teaching them effectively and eventually resulted in a decline in true spirituality within the church.

After the middle ages came the age of sailing ships and explorers. Missionaries tended to follow explorers. And it was in this way that South America was evangelised, though unfortunately the explorers & missionaries colluded to use warfare and force as an instrument of conversion. Then, following upon persecution of "dissenters" in England in the seventeenth century, groups of dissenters came over and settled in North America, and it was a combination of settlers and missionaries from England who evangelised the native American peoples. However, north America was largely christianised by overwhelming settlement from Europe.

The church in the west settled down somewhat as far as spreading the gospel to the heathen at this point. It was only in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that an English cobbler by the name of William Carey took up the challenge of evangelising India and, in so doing, picked up the torch first lit by St Jerome and carried forward by reformers such as Wycliffe and Tyndale. He was the first person after them to realise the importance of giving christians the bible in their own language. His labours and successes inspired a whole generation of missionaries who went all over Asia, including China as well as India, and the whole of Africa. The more temperate areas of South and coastal Africa were colonised, and largely christianised, by the Dutch, the Belgians and, to some extent, the French. But it was Protestant missionaries who opened up the jungle areas, because of their burning desire to spread the gospel to the native peoples. Their vision and self-sacrifice cannot be underestimated, as they died like flies from jungle diseases. Yet many young couples and young single men went out there, knowing that they could well be dead within a few days or weeks from infections to which they had no resistance. It was during the nineteenth century that Australia was colonised, mainly by England, and, again, the settlers, initially convicts, brought the christian religion with them.

Missionary societies still exist and missionaries still leave western countries to go all over the world. The emphasis now has changed from church planting to training and assisting the native churches to evangelise and care for their own people and, where appropriate, assisting with specialised technical expertise. There are still a few traditional church planter missionaries, but they tend to be language specialists and literacy workers, spending about fifteen years at a time working with tiny language groups to translate the Bible into their languages and then to teach them to read. There are still such groups in the Amazon jungle, parts of Indonesia and India. So the work, ordained by Jesus, to spread the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth, still goes on.

Ri Tam Profile
Ri Tam answered
Well, I would have to say the Disciples did what Jesus asked them to do and they preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it spread like wild fire. Amen for that!
thanked the writer.
Ri Tam
Ri Tam commented
Well, Amen to that! I was going to leave a long answer but decided not to. Paul was considered the first disciple to go to the gentiles.

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