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"I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.- Revelation 3:8

Even during the frustrating Middle Ages, when the Church fell prey to so many problems, the Lord used those who truly knew Him to continue spreading the Gospel. In fact, in spite of the corruption of church doctrine and the unfortunate behavior of many clergymen, this thousand-year-plus stretch of time saw an immense missionary expansion to far-away places.

Furthermore, those who were missionaries at heart didn't always agree with the changing doctrine of the church. It is the same today. Missionaries to distant lands tend to be more faithful to the Bible than they are to traditions that have crept in over the years. They are also more conservative on moral issues than their mother churches are, for example, in the Episcopal and Methodist traditions.

Thyatira - The Church of the Middle Ages - Revelation 2:12-17
Open Door of Privilege

The circumstances that made this expansion possible grew out of the favor that the Roman Empire, and later, the Holy Roman Empire showed to the Church. Thus, the missionaries of this time enjoyed an "Open Door" of privilege. They had the blessing of the government as well as the financial support o f a wealthy ecclesiastical establishment.

Our list of vital missionary activity during the Middle Ages does not tell the full story, but it will hopefully demonstrate the fact that the message of Christianity was taken to ever-farther horizons. It is true that many of the converts of this period may not have known Christ in the personal way prescribed by the Bible, but many others did understand enough about the Story of Redemption to be true believers.

Interspersed among the missionaries sent out by the Roman Catholic Church, there were individuals, like Patrick, whom we just reviewed. He evangelized Ireland without a commission from the Church. And there were break-away "denominations" that left the Catholic Church even before the Reformation. The spread of these dissident groups was a type of missionary activity in itself.

Some of these were:

- The Nestorian Church - including the Assyrian Apostolic Church in areas now called Iraq, Iran, and Turkey; and the Nestorian Malabar Christians in India.
- The Oriental Orthodox Church - including the Coptic Orthodox (mostly in Egypt), the Abyssinian Orthodox, the Armenian Orthodox, the Jacobites/ Syrian Orthodox, and the Jacobite Malabar Christians (mostly in India).
- The Eastern Orthodox Church with its various branches, including the Greek, Russian, and many others.

There are many lists of Christian missionary activities. For simplicity, we have included some from the Wikipedia list, "Timeline of Christian Missions." (

Here are some of those major missionary developments during the Middle Ages:

496 - Frankish King Clovis I was converted, along with 3000 warriors in Gaul.
508 - Philoxenus of Mabug translated the Bible into Syriac .Bible translation was always a vital part of good missionary work.
509 - Loginus from Nobatia evangelized what is now Sudan.
596 - Augustine and a team of missionaries were sent to Canterbury, in what is now England, and baptized 10,000 people.
635 - Nestorian monks took the Gospel to China. An engraved tablet called the Nestorian Stele was erected in 781 to describe the early history of Christianity in China. After 878 the Christian church was evidently wiped out by the Mongol invasion.
647 - Amadeus, bishop of Maastricht, became a missionary to Frisia (Netherlands).
716 - Boniface took the Gospel to the Germanic tribes.
771 - King Charlemagne decreed that sermons should be given in the language of the people. He also commissioned Bible translations.
828 - First missionaries arrived at the area now known as the Czech Republic.
900 - Missionaries from Bremen-Hamburg reached Norway. By 1015 Olaf II Haroldsson became the country's first king and began its integration into Christian Europe.
965 - In Denmark, King Harold I was converted to Christianity.
966 - King Mieszko I of Poland was converted to Christianity.
1000 - Iceland was declared a Christian nation, and Leif the Lucky introduced the Gospel to Greenland. 1003 Transylvania received missionaries from Hungary.
1008 King Olof of Sweden was baptized by Sigfrid from England.
1015 - Russia was "comprehensively" converted to Orthodox Christianity.
1200 - The Bible had been translated into 22 different languages.
1210 - The Franciscan Order was established.
1216 - The Dominican Order was established.
1253 - Franciscan William of Rubruck began his journey to the Mongols. In 1266 the leader of the Mongols, Khan, asked the Pope to send 100 missionaries, but only two responded, and one of them died on the way. However, Nestorian Christians had evangelized some of the tribes, and when they conquered northern China in 1271, Christianity was re-introduced to China ( In 1368The Ming Dynasty abolished Christianity in China.
1382 - John Wycliff translated the Bible into English.
1462 Johannes Gutenberg began printing the Bible with his movable-type printing process.
1486 - Dominicans sent missionaries to West Africa.
1491 - Franciscan and Dominican priests took the Gospel to the Congo. The king was baptized and a church built at the capital.
1492 - Christopher Columbus discoverd America. In 1493 Pope Alexander VI commanded Spain to colonize the New World and sends priests with Columbus on his second journey.
1500 - Franciscans sent missionaries to Brazil.
1508 - Franciscans took the Gospel to Venezuela.
1510 - Dominican missionaries arrived in Haiti.
1514 - Franciscans began their work in California.

Rise of Islam

We will also have to admit that the rise of Islam cut deeply into the gains of the Church during this period of time. Islam was spread by military conquest rather than by any superior ideology.

Historian Tom Holland's book, "In The Shadow of the Sword," explains that Muhammad and his followers built their beliefs on the base of Jewish and Christian theology. Their emerging religion, stoked by revelations that Muhammad received periodically, made them unwelcome in their home, which was probably not Mecca but some place Southeast of the Judean wilderness. They immigrated to Yathrib (Medina), and armed with the belief that immigration and conquest were God's will for them, they began a process of violent conversions that would make them rich and powerful, and eventually affect the whole world.

Holland shows that in the Sixth Century the collapsing Roman Empire under Justinian, and the Persians under Khusrow I, practically destroyed each other in a Great War, and the Bubonic Plague wiped out approximately one-third of the population, leaving most of the world in a greatly weakened state (Tom Holland, In the Shadow of the Sword, 2012, Anchor Books, New York, p. 274). Arab tribes were not affected by the Great War. And because of their nomadic life-style, they were not weakened by the Plague. A Century later, Muhammad and his followers were in a position to sweep through the Arabian Peninsula and then country after country, conquering the struggling populace, and increasing their wealth.

Soon after Muhammad's death in 632, his successors conquered Palestine, Syria, Persian areas now known as Iran and Iraq, Egypt, and other parts of Africa. In 674 they tried to overrun Constantinople, the Capital of the Roman Empire, but were repelled for the time being. They conquered the rest of Northern Africa and then crossed the Straits of Gibraltar to occupy Spain and Tunisia. Muslim Arab traders carried their new religion to various parts of the known world. Colonies of Muslims were established in India, where they gradually grew alongside the Hindu and Buddhist people. The same thing happened in Indonesia. In the 9th and 10th centuries Muslims occupied Crete, Malta and Sicily and were a threat to other colonies around the Mediterranean Sea.

By the end of the 11th century Islam controlled Asia Minor (Turkey) and most of the coast of the Mediterranean.

From 1096 to 1291 a series of "crusades" were fought between the Holy Roman Empire and the Islamic caliphates. During part of that time (1099-1187) the Christians reoccupied Jerusalem and parts of Palestine, but Saladin the Great took it back, and Islamic forces maintained control until the end of World War I in 1918.

After several earlier attempts, Muslim forces from the Ottoman Empire occupied Constantinople in 1453.

Next: Revelation 3:9 - Continued 4


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