Though the term “missions” does not enter Christian vocabulary until the sixteenth century when the Jesuits coined the term to describe their activities, mission has always characterized the church. That is, proclaiming the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus across barriers of culture and belief has been evident in the history of the church though the fervor for mission has, of course, varied at different points in the story. One important element to consider is the means or structures for mission. Following the rise of modern mission movement in the nineteenth century, the primary vehicles of Protestant mission to the world were missions societies. Among medieval Roman Catholics, the key structures were monastic missionary orders that included the Franciscans, Dominicans, and later the Jesuits.
What were the means and structures of mission in early Christianity, particularly between AD 100 and 500? In this paper, I will argue that the church itself—expressed in local communities and networks of communities—was the primary locus of mission. Aided by preaching, catechism, liturgy, good works, and cultural engagement, and fueled by some church leaders who championed all of the above, the church itself was the primary missions society in the first five hundred years of Christianity. This paper will conclude that in the early church, there was never a church-less Christianity or a mission-less church.
The full draft can be accessed HERE.