How and why did the early church grow in the first four hundred years despite disincentives, harassment, and occasional persecution? In this unique historical study, veteran scholar Alan Kreider delivers the fruit of a lifetime of study as he tells the amazing story of the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire.
Challenging traditional understandings, Kreider contends the church grew because the virtue of patience was of central importance in the life and witness of the early Christians. They wrote about patience, not evangelism, and reflected on prayer, catechesis, and worship, yet the church grew—not by specific strategies but by patient ferment.
“Alan Kreider has done it again. Here he utilizes his immense grasp of early Christian sources, texts, and scholarship to illuminate for us the virtue of Christian patience and its formative nature in articulating an approach to worship and life. Highly recommended.”—Maxwell Johnson, University of Notre Dame
“At a time when many scholars interpret the rise of Christianity in terms of power, Kreider provides a refreshing and warranted scenario of early Christian growth from the ‘inside.’ Although this approach is admittedly harder to document, the reader is invited to discover the slower and more subtle processes that have been neglected in arguments for the rapid rise of Christianity. Herein one will find a means to better balance the scholarly dialogues prevalent today.”—D. H. Williams, Baylor University
“Lively and insightful….Kreider has the rare ability to read ancient sources from a fresh perspective and to see the growing pains of ancient churches in a way that benefits from—and illuminates—modern pastoral insight. The Patient Ferment of the Early Church is a marvelous and inspiring book.”—Kate Cooper, University of Manchester
“In this remarkable book, Alan Kreider refocuses our attention on patience, the cardinal virtue of the early church’s witness, with rich attention to how this was cultivated in worship and catechesis. The allure and beauty of a patient people is something a triumphalist church forgot. I can’t imagine a more timely history for the church in our secular age.”—James K. A. Smith, Calvin College
Alan Kreider (PhD, Harvard University) is professor emeritus of church history and mission at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. For many years he lived in England, where he was director of the London Mennonite Centre and later director of the Centre for Christianity and Culture at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University. Kreider has authored several books.
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