The Lost History of Christianity by Philip Jenkins is a must read. I am saying that even though I've only read two chapters! I think this book is going to be promoted in many places as a must read. There's so much in it. I do hope the BBC or Channel 4 or someone turns it into a documentary.
Its title sums up the main thread of the book: a lost story of how the Christian faith spread East and thrived for a thousand years after the fall of Rome. That story in itself is one that is little known and unfamiliarity makes it all the more exciting - you really don't know what's going to happen next!
In reality though, it is much more. A feel for the complex relationship between Islam and Christianity emerges from stories of interaction between Christians and Muslims. The refreshing approaches to mission of the Jacobites and the Nestorians, who despite their theological shortcomings were intent on winning the world for Christ. The towering figure of Bishop Timothy and the vast spiritual empire that he led. And perhaps most surprisingly, the relative backwardness of the Western Church and the darkness of the European continent.
There are pointers as to how faiths survive persecution and setback and why reversal comes about in the first place.
And supremely, the brute fact that even an expression of Christianity as vibrant as that described in the pages of The Lost History of Christianity can be swept away almost without a trace. And therein lies the strength of the book - to engage you emotionally as well as intellectually.