Five reasons why no large body of Christendom exists in North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia Minor

Students of missionary movements are accustomed to reading about pagan lands that became Christian through sustained evangelistic effort. Rarely, though, do they find the story of a major part of the world that, though once almost solidly Christian, after centuries of brilliant growth and witness lost its faith and accepted another.

Both church and secular history record that from the third to the seventh century there were many Christian churches throughout large areas of North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. But no large body of Christendom exists in these lands today. There has been much speculation about why the Church vanished in much of this vast area, and further investigation is needed. Our chief concern in this study will be with the North African church; the wider area of the Middle East and Asia Minor is included, however, because these are the primary areas of early Christian expansion.

The Rise Of The North African Church

One tradition holds that the first church in North Africa was founded at Cyrene (modern Tripoli) by Simon, who bore Jesus’ cross. His two sons, Rufus and Alexander (Mark 15:21), may have been leaders in that church. Other leaders came fleeing from the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century, and still others followed from Asia. Christianity spread rapidly throughout North Africa.

Besides being strong in numbers, the North African church produced three of the greatest churchmen and theologians of Christendom in the early centuries: Tertullian, skilled apologist of the faith in the second century; Cyprian, dynamic churchman and administrator of the third century; and Augustine, profound theologian ...

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