Articles

Posted by - Julian Mann, July 2012
HOW DID CHRISTIANITY COME TO THE BRITISH ISLES?

In essence, the answer is that Christian people who were not native to this island obeyed the Great Commission of the risen Lord Jesus Christ: ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (Matthew 28v18-20 - RSV).

The first disciples who first heard Jesus’ words in 1st Century AD Palestine crossed great racial, cultural and social barriers to proclaim the gospel in their generation. Their efforts led to the gospel arriving in Britain, we don’t precisely know when. There are references to Christian believers in Britain in the writings of the church leader Tertullian in around AD 200. It is likely that the Christian message was brought here by Roman believers.

Into the vacuum left by the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century AD the pagan Jutes, Angles and Saxons from Germany and Scandinavia invaded and pillaged. Christians were forced west into Wales and Cornwall. From most of what we now know as England, Christianity was virtually eliminated.

It was at the initiative of Pope Gregory in AD 597 that a small band of evangelists, led by the monk Augustine, went from Rome and landed in Kent. The gospel fanned out from there during the 7th Century. The Roman evangelists took great personal risk and made great sacrifices to preach Jesus Christ to the pagans of England. They crossed land, seas and significant cultural barriers to preach the gospel to the Anglo-Saxons. 

So, without that cross-cultural courage and commitment in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ’s Great Commission, this island would never have been re-evangelised after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Christianity would have been a marginal faith, if it was allowed to exist at all in the teeth of violent paganism.  Thank God for the love of Christ that moved them to preach the good news of forgiveness and eternal salvation on this barbaric island.

Julian Mann
July AD 2012
BibleGateway Reform Diocese