Christianity’s Spread: 1000 – 2016 AD

Check out this video: Christianity’s Spread: 1000 – 2016 AD!

Christian Cross
Christian Cross

In a previous blog, I posted this graphic map of Christianity’s spread from its beginnings around 30 AD to the year 1,000.  This sequel video shows its continued global spread until the present time.  Note that the maker of this video (Ollie Bye) includes all branches of Christianity in the video, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Christianity as well as Protestantism.  He does this by using different colors.  Of course the video is simplistic, but it does a great job of showing how Jesus’ words about preaching to all nations is being fulfilled!

The map gives a global perspective

So often we think of Christianity as a European or North American thing that was exported to other parts of the world.  This video showing Christianity’s spread over the past one thousand years gives perspective on that idea.  The truth is that Christianity only reached most of Europe around 400 years after the time of Christ, and spread to eastern Europe just before the year 1,000 (see the previous video).  Christian Faith came to North America with the European colonists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Share your thoughts

Tell me what you think about this visual representation.  Feel free to share the video with your friends, but don’t forget to give credit to Ollie Bye, its creator.

Christianity’s Spread: 30-1000 AD

Check out this video on Christianity’s Spread 30-1000 AD!   I think you’ll find that it will surprise you with how Christianity became established and the timeline it followed.

The value of this video.

This video shows visually how Christianity spread over its first thousand years from a tiny persecuted group in the Middle East  to eventually cover much of Europe and beyond.  It is interesting to see that Southern Europe, as well as parts of Africa and Asia became Christianized first.  It took 600 years for the ancestors of the English to embrace Christianity. The Germans accepted Christian faith at least a century later, and the Russians converted just before 1000 AD.  Notice how Christianity once also covered much of the Middle East and North Africa, but was displaced by Islam around 650 AD.

The next segment

This video was created and originally originally posted by Ollie Bye.  I will follow up this presentation with another post by the same person featuring a video of the spread of Christianity from 1000 AD to the present.  If you are of Christian faith, I think you may find these videos encouraging.  If you are not of Christian faith, you may at least learn some facts that you were unaware of.  Either way, enjoy.

Meanwhile, tell me what you think, and feel free to share this post with your friends.

Watch the Video: Christianity’s Spread: 30-1,000 AD

How Should We Pray?

How should we pray?  Many people are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer.  You know, the prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples recorded in Matthew 6 and Luke 11.  It begins: “Our Father which art in heaven….”.  Jesus taught this prayer to his followers  not so that they should merely repeat its words, but to provide a guide for regular prayer.

Who are we talking to?

Focus for a moment on the first section of the prayer: “Our Father which art in heaven: hallowed by Thy Name.”  These are significant words. What are they teaching us about prayer?  First, these words remind us that we are talking to a person. We are speaking with the God who is real and personal, not an impersonal Force as the Star Wars movie series depicts God.  Then, God is called Father.  According to Jesus, prayer is to be directed primarily to the Father–the first person of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Yes, there is only one God, but he apparently exists in a way that is beyond our understanding: one in essence, yet three in personhood.  Jesus, the incarnation of the Son, teaches that our prayers should be directed to the Father.   Jesus emphasizes that God is “our Father”.   Remember that Jesus taught this prayer to his disciples rather than to the crowds.  Those who have put their trust in the Father’s Son may call God Father.

What kind of God are we praying to?

The prayer reminds us that God is in heaven.  That means that he is in a position to hear our prayers and do something about them.  An earthly father is limited in what he can do, but our heavenly Father is not limited in either wisdom, or power.  Finally, God is said to be holy (hallowed be Thy Name).   Many people don’t have trouble thinking of God as loving, —possibly because this concept of God is so appealing.  But a holy God – one who is pure and perfect, one who is not like us, one who has no sin or wrong associated with him in any way – is a problem for some folks.  We need to be reminded of this aspect of God’s nature because it determines both our attitude in prayer and the kinds of things we request of Him.  He doesn’t think like we do.  He is not motivated by some of the things that motivate us.  He is holy.

What is the goal of prayer?

Once we understand who we are addressing in prayer and what kind of being he is, we can focus on the next portion: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  When we pray like this, we are asking God to do those things which will honor Him and serve His own purposes.  Praying like this should immediately remove any selfish elements in prayer.  By focusing on the goal of God’s Kingdom coming on earth, we are wiping the slate clean of wrong, self-centered, or impure motives.

Praying for God’s Kingdom to come also causes us to focus on exactly those things which he has already promised to hear and answer.  Though we may not always know what to ask for specifically, praying like this automatically narrows our requests and intercession to the kinds of things that we are aware of that God favors and is likely to grant.  For example, the types of things the Bible says are according to God’s will might include:

  • that people will hear and respond to the good news that they can be forgiven, remade, and restored to God through faith in Jesus
  • that people may grow in personal goodness and godliness
  • that God’s people may be purified and have a positive influence in the world
  • that the basic needs of family, friends and people’s in general will be met.

Maybe you can think of more.

But if we are praying for God’s will to be done above all else, then we must submit each our will to God’s will before our prayer can proceed to other things.  Submitting our wills to God’s will means that we must consent that God’s will can take place in our lives — if nowhere else.  We must be willing for His Kingdom to have its effect in the things that are dearest to us, even if it means that our plans are changed, and the direction of our lives alters drastically.  We must not harbor those sins of attitude that resist the coming of God’s Kingdom.  In other words what we are saying to our Heavenly Father as we pray is that our greatest desire is to have what God desires.  We are saying that we will be pleased to see his glory and his purposes worked out in our lives.  We are saying that God has permission to use us in this process of accomplishing his will on earth.

What kinds of requests should we make?

Jesus teaches that prayer should include things that we are concerned about. He lists several types of things that are legitimate requests in prayer:

Daily bread.  God knows that we need basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing, the means to make a living and the health necessary to maintain life.  Notice that there are no luxury items mentioned.  The Bible does not condemn extras in life by any means.  But Jesus’ prayer focuses on the basics needed to maintain life and productivity.  This focus reminds us that we can be content with simple things, and that we should not become caught up in chasing more and better as so many people in contemporary society are.

Forgiveness.  Aside from the very few people who really don’t see that they have ever done anything wrong, all of us know we have sinned.  We know in our hearts that we have hurt people, that we have shamed ourselves, and that we have offended God’s standards in one way or another.   We know this because we recognize that we have violated common standards of right and wrong, but also because we feel guilty and ashamed.  At the core of the good news is that Jesus died to secure our forgiveness, cleansing and empowerment to live differently.  In asking to be forgiven of trespasses, we are in effect asking to receive the  benefits of Christ’s atonement.  Part of that request is the realization that forgiveness has indeed been granted in Christ.

The partner to the request for forgiveness is that we forgive others.  How can we who have experienced God’s forgiveness refuse to forgive those who have offended us?  While perhaps our forgiveness from God is not contingent on whether we fully forgive others, Jesus presents them as a package deal: “…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Protection.  “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”  Very simply, we beg God to protect us from ourselves when under temptation and from people and situations that would bring harm.

Though not all experts agree that this final phrase was part of Jesus’ original teaching, traditionally Christians have included, “For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, Amen.”  It is certainly fitting that our prayers may end with a recognition that all good things belong to God.  So, with these things in mind, let us pray in the way that Jesus taught His disciples!

How to Pray for People

Have you ever wondered how to pray for people?  Are you tired of the standard prayers typically prayed by Christians? Perhaps you can relate to what I am talking about: “Dear God, please bless so-and-so with (health, a job, salvation, a renewed spiritual interest, an easier life, etc).” Not that there is anything wrong with these things. They may be legitimate matters for prayer, but it seems to me that we Christians often settle for so little when we make requests of God.  What follows is what I hope is a remedy for these routine kinds of prayer

Do we know what God wants?

Maybe the problem is that we don’t really understand what to ask God for. Maybe we just get caught up in responding to the urgent felt-needs of those around us. Maybe we have become creatures of habit, falling into the set patterns of our particular circle of friends and church associates. Whatever the reason, I sometimes find typical prayer sessions to be bland and all-too predictable: the same categories of prayer; the same focus on immediate physical and material needs; the same salvation requests.

The problem of group dynamics

Prayer sessions can easily be dominated by two or three people who either don’t mind sharing most of the prayer requests or who enjoy being the perpetually needy ones. Maybe you can relate to feeling like this at a prayer gathering, “Here we go again. Brother Sam has been feeling upset again this week. He is requesting that we ask to God to remove the source of his frustration. Beside him, brother Ned needs a job for the third time in the past year. Sister Sue is asking for her son’s salvation just as she has since we have first known her years ago. Another Christian lady has urgent health issues and can hardly function in her daily routines. (But, if so, how is she well enough to come to this prayer-gathering?) Across the circle, sister Mary is sharing another compelling story she came across on the Internet this week. She wants prayer for an individual a continent away who has been “on her heart” for days but whom none of us has ever met. So we bow our heads and ask God to intervene.

Let me be clear: I am not condemning such prayers or the people who pray them. In my experience, the motives of those who make these kinds of requests are usually good. They care about people and they want God’s blessings on those people and circumstances they care about.  Yet I have become increasingly discontent with prayer requests which go no further than these kinds of things.  It is entirely possible that, as a pastor, I have simply been jaded by attending many dozens of these prayer sessions.   Part of the solution is to set ground rules for prayer times that limit one or two people from dominating the agenda.

Getting beyond the routine

Maybe I am also frustrated by the lack of discernible growth in these dear folks whose prayers seem to be on the same level year after year. It could be argued that these types of prayers simply reflect poor biblical teaching on the part of their leaders, including me. What I do know is that we ought to be asking God for much more.  So, I have put together a collection of prayer requests that I believe are more in line with those modeled in scripture. I am urging that, along with praying for jobs, and protection, and the solving of various problems—-all of which may be valid—that my fellow believers should consider praying “outside the box”. But what does a biblical, yet edgy prayer request look like? Let me give some examples. Try praying for these things:

  • That people develop a deep love for God
  • That people have thoughts, words and actions controlled by the Holy Spirit
  • That our friends become willing to accept a life-changing direction from God
  • That we experience a sacrificial attitude in marriages, families and other relationships
  • That those we are concerned about come to genuine repentance
  • That together we are a voice for Christ’s Kingdom when one is needed
  • That people develop the mental commitment and toughness to resist temptation
  • That Christians demonstrate our oneness in Christ
  • That we all become competent in applying the truths of scripture to our own lives
  • That we strive for personal excellence as a visible result of honoring God in all we do
  • That Christians are seen as models of tolerance in situations in which tolerance pleases God
  • That Christians model godly family living
  • That Christians face their own blind spots
  • That we decide to be content with what cannot be changed
  • That we develop consistency and skill in their work
  • That believers respond to conflict with truth, righteousness and mercy
  • That our friends acquire the ability to persevere through hardship and failure
  • That we all learn true forgiveness
  • That our churches grow in their ability to speak about their faith in ways which ring true with the unchurched and unbelieving people around them
  • That we discover joy in giving to others
  • That Christians commit themselves to basic spiritual disciplines
  • That we develop healthy eating and exercise routines
  • That we stop judging others’ motives
  • That folks learn the difference between explicit biblical teachings and their own inferences based on certain verses of scripture
  • That we all become amazed at God’s care and provision in their lives
  • That troubled people find God to be the acceptance and beauty that they have been looking for
  • That stubborn folks find God to be tougher and smarter than themselves
  • That all of us desire to become more than they have dreamed possible for God’s glory
  • That we find deep enjoyment in the life God has blessed them with
  • At all times that God’s people show themselves as models of God’s grace

I could add many more requests that are biblically-based and relevant to the society we are currently living in.  It could be that if we consistently prayed for ourselves and others like this, we might actually turn the world upside down!

Michael Bogart