“In The Expansion of Christianity, Timothy Yates gives a brief history of the expansion of the Church throughout the world. This is a monumental task, especially for a book this brief, and Yates readily admits this in his introduction.
“Yates is not writing a primer on evangelism or developing a theology of mission. Rather, he takes a geographic and historical approach to the growth of Christianity. Each chapter focuses on a period of the church’s history and a geographical region. Beginning with the work of specific missionaries in a region, Yates discusses the growth and development of the Christian faith in that culture.
“Yates holds a doctorate in missiology. Because of this, his approach to the history of the church’s mission is not neutral. Henry Venn emerges from the text as one whose approach Yates appreciates. Venn argued that a church in a particular region should become ‘self-supporting, self-governing, and self-extending.’ (p. 144) This theme is recurrent in The Expansion of Christianity.
“Yates has done fine work in The Expansion of Christianity. It is a fascinating introduction to the story of how the church grew from a local near-Eastern sect of Judaism to the worldwide faith it is today. I was particularly fascinated by the history of the Church in Africa and the Far East. The history there is richer than most Christians realize.
“I should however, point out two weaknesses. First, the book raises many more questions than it answers. Just when Yates’ piques your interest in a topic, he moves on to the next one. Second, the book provides little in terms of answering the much larger question of ‘What is the Christian church?’ When one reads about the odd beliefs that were prevalent in some regions, the reader becomes uncertain if what is being talked about really is Christianity, yet Yates provides too little detail for the reader to be comfortable with any answer to the question.
“Both weaknesses have nothing to do with Yates’ skill, but everything to do with the scope of the project. All books in the IVP History series are about the same length, and it’s unlikely that Yates could have done more than he did with the words he had available to him. The book does its job as well is we can rationally hope, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the history of the Church’s mission.” – Charles Lehmann, Christian Book Previews.com
The Expansion of Christianity tells the fascinating story of how Christianity developed from its beginnings as a persecuted sect in an outpost of the Roman empire to become the largest religion on earth. For Timothy Yates human zeal and courage are key to the story, and his book concentrates on the missionary pioneers--people such as Paul, Columba, Willibrord, Francis Xavier, John Eliot, William Carey and Mary Slessor. Yates examines continents individually, showing how Christian mission has moved forward despite many periods of retreat. By the twentieth century churches had been planted in every major ethnic group in the world, with estimates putting the number of Christians across the globe today at two thousand million--33% of the population. All those interested in history and the growth of a truly worldwide religion will find The Expansion of Christianity a rich and enlightening resource.