The most surprising thing I learned from this course and the excellent book, “The Lost History of Christianity” which covers similar ground is how far East Christians went in early evangelist efforts.
The ancient churches of Iran, China, and other branches founded by Nestorian Christians were something I never learned heard about before. What could we in the West learn from these churches? It is hard to set ourselves outside the context of Western imperialism and the 18th and 19th-century missionary movement, but this myopic lens clouds the witness of our brothers and sisters who seeded this ground centuries earlier.
I appreciate your response in regard to your perspective about your thoughts on your takeaway after reading “Christianity in the First 1000 Years.” It was very elaborative and the part that stood out to me the most was how you noticed how the East Christians did what they has to do with their “early evangelism efforts.” Evangelism is key to spreading the word of God and for them to do what they had to do in the way they did it demonstrates the level of commitment and connection the East Christians had to Christianity.
I’ve been most surprised after the reading (and the lectures) by the deep historical roots of Christianity in the East. While it was no surprise that there is a long lineage of faith in Israel, it surprised me about the role of Christianty in China, India, and Iraq. In the past I’ve struggled at times with how sometimes it seems like Western missions in the 19th and 20th century seemed to import an almost colonial religion and practices. So, I was astonished to discover the deep Christian roots already in these cultures prior to Western missionaries.
When I lived in an Arab-Israeli town this Spring, there was both a Baptist and a Orthodox church in the town. Visiting the Baptist church, it felt a little uncomfortable to think about how white Western American missionaries had come over to Israel to convert historic Christian minorities to a more Western way of practicing their faith. I think the Western church has a lot of listening to do. It would do well to connect to older Eastern communities of faith and figure out how to support them well.