2020 Christianity Today Book Award of Merit for Missions
2019 Outreach Magazine Cross-Cultural and Missional Resource of the Year
A deeper understanding of the grand history of mission leads to a faithful expression of God’s mission today.
From the beginning, God’s mission has been carried out by people sent around the world. From Abraham to Jesus, the thread that weaves its way throughout Scripture is a God who sends his people across the world, proclaiming his kingdom. As the world has evolved, Christian mission continues to be a foundational tradition in the church.
In this one-volume textbook, Edward Smither weaves together a comprehensive history of Christian mission, from the apostles to the modern church. In each era, he focuses on the people sent by God to the ends of the earth, while also describing the cultural context they encountered. Smither highlights the continuity and development across thousands of years of global mission.
For years, I’ve taught students and church members that the Bible is a missionary text and Christian history is a missionary story. Ed Smithers believes the same thing, and in Christian Mission: A Concise Global History, he offers a winsome, accessible, and edifying introduction to the story of Christian mission. This book is ideal for both classroom use and church reading groups, and my prayer is that it will inspire many readers to join God in his mission to rescue sinners from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Rev. 7:9).
—Nathan A. Finn, Provost and Dean of the University Faculty, North Greenville University
Ed Smither brings to us—in his own inimitable way—a concise and balanced history of Christian missions. He offers concision with balance—and it reads well. It is far from boring! This reads like the best of Kenneth Scott Latourette’s A History of the Expansion of Christianity and Philip Jenkins’ The Lost History of Christianity. Smither is a messenger of the Good News to remember all that God has done in the past, which gives us confidence for the present and hope for the future.
—Allen Yeh, Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies & Missiology, Biola University, Cook School of Intercultural Studies
Historical study is extremely important to church health, yet often overlooked. Ask church members about mission history, and they will talk about the New Testament, something that took place with a man named Luther, and Billy Graham’s preaching. Beyond these matters, uncertainty exists. Where the Church is ignorant to her history, there her health suffers. Smither has summarized some of the most important aspects of 2000 years of gospel advancement so that the Body of Christ may grow in health and clarity of thought. Important names, places, acts, and events are addressed in a scholarly, well written, and easy-to-understand format. This is the place to begin if you are interested in knowing what occurred as the gospel moved from Jerusalem to the uttermost parts. Keep this book close, for you will return to it again and again.
—J. D. Payne, Associate Professor of Christian Ministry, Samford University
“While mission definitely involves crossing borders, the greatest boundary that a missionary navigates is the one between faith and nonfaith.” (Page xv)
“Second, historian Justo González correctly says that church history is in fact mission history.” (Page xvi)
“Like other early Christian missionaries, the monks began their work by approaching a political leader, preaching the gospel to him, seeking his favor, and receiving permission to minister to his subjects. The monks gained credibility in their preaching through their exemplary lives and apparent working of miracles. Finally, they demonstrated sensitivity by contextualizing the gospel in English forms. In particular, they transformed existing pagan temples into houses of Christian worship and adapted a pagan cattle festival into a thanksgiving feast.” (Page 19)
“Although Roman Christianity seemed to grow fastest in North Africa in the first three centuries, it also died out the quickest in the seventh century with the rise of Islam. Without Scripture in the local languages, Christianity failed to take root in much of North Africa. The North African church could have learned from the Egyptian (Coptic) and Ethiopian (Ethiopic, Ge’ez) churches that developed Scripture in their local languages and continued to survive after the arrival of Islam.” (Page 46)
“The whole church considered itself to be involved in mission and to have a missionary duty, and every believer was a witness, felt called to the work of evangelization.” (Page 40)
Edward L. Smither (PhD, University of Wales-Trinity Saint David; PhD, University of Pretoria) is professor and dean of intercultural studies at Columbia International University. He spent 14 years in intercultural ministry in North Africa, France, and the USA. His previous books include Missionary Monks, Mission in the Early Church, and Augustine as Mentor.