Evangelism in the Early Church: Recommended Resources

Most historians agree on the basic methods and reasons for the evangelization of the Roman Empire, but each brings a different emphasis.

On the evangelists

Michael Green’s Evangelism in the Early Church (Eagle, 1995; distributed in North America by Harold Shaw) dwells on both the New Testament and later periods. As the advisor on evangelism to the archbishop of Canterbury, his zeal for spreading the gospel shines through his well-researched history.

Another fascinating read by a nonhistorian is Rodney Stark’s The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History (Princeton, 1996), which applies the discoveries of modern sociology to the study of ancient history. Historians don’t agree with all his conclusions, but the work sparkles with insights.

Michael Walsh also highlights the legacy of the first century church in his accessible The Triumph of the Meek: Why Early Christianity Succeeded (1986, out of print), which contains over 100 photos.

The resource we are probably most excited about is the newly revised Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (Garland, 1997), edited by Everett Ferguson. At $187.50 for both volumes, it’s pretty expensive for the average reader. But since it is one of the top reference works on the subject, demand that your local library purchase a copy.

On the evangelized

The most comprehensive book on this topic, Pagans and Christians by Robin Lane Fox (Knopf, 1986), is out of print but well worth hunting down. It is a challenging read, and sometimes a tad too reductionistic, but each of its 800 pages is crammed with facts you never knew about early Christianity and Roman paganism.

Taking a creative approach to the subject, Robert L. Wilken’s The Christians as the Romans Saw Them (Yale, 1984) is an informative character study of specific Romans and how they interacted with their Christian neighbors.

In their own words

Two resources we used most in researching this topic were on the computer. Logos’s Early Church Fathers CD-ROM is easily searched. The Christian Classics Electronic LibraryWeb site has dozens of early church writings, all of which can be downloaded for free-though it can take some time. For primary source material, no book beats these.

Other issues of Christian History

We've covered the early church on many occasions, and the issues relating most closely to the current issue are Persecution in the Early Church (Issue 27) and Worship in the Early Church (Issue 37). Paul and His Times (Issue 47) covers the earliest period.

Tired of heavy reading?

The Trial and Testimony of the Early Church is a six-part video series by Vision Video (1-800-523-0226) that covers one major thread of early church growth.

Many novels—Ben Hur, for example—also get you into the period. You may also want to look at something completely different: the popular online game S.P.Q.R: An Ancient Adventure in Rome. It is essentially a mystery set in the period covered in this issue. There’s a CD—ROM version of it too, but the Web version is free.

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #57 in 1998]

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