This timeline of Christian missions chronicles the global expansion of Christianity through a listing of the most significant missionary outreach events.
Earliest dates must all be considered approximate
A Christian mission is an organized effort to spread Christianity to new converts. Missions involve sending individuals and groups, called missionaries, across boundaries, most commonly geographical boundaries, to carry on evangelism or other activities, such as educational or hospital work. Sometimes individuals are sent and are called missionaries. When groups are sent, they are often called mission teams and they do mission trips. There are a few different kinds of mission trips: short-term, long-term, relational and those that simply help people in need. Some people choose to dedicate their whole lives to mission. Missionaries have the authority to preach the Christian faith, and provide humanitarian aid. Christian doctrines permit the provision of aid without requiring religious conversion.
Christianity is India's third-largest religion after Hinduism and Islam, with approximately 31.9 million followers, constituting 2.3 percent of India's population. According to the tradition of Indian Christians, the Christian faith was introduced to India through conversions by Thomas the Apostle, who is said to have reached the Malabar Coast (Kerala) in 52 AD. According to another tradition Bartholomew the Apostle is credited with simultaneously introducing Christianity along the Konkan Coast. There is a general scholarly consensus that Christian communities were firmly established in the Malabar Coast (Kerala) of India by the 6th century AD, which were communities who used Syriac liturgies. Starting from European colonisations from 15th century several Western Christian communities like Latin Rite Catholics and Protestants were created in different parts of the country.
Christianity in Japan is among the nation's minority religions. Between less than 1 percent and 1.5% of the population claims Christian belief or affiliation. Most large Christian denominations, including Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodox Christianity, are represented in Japan today. Since the mid-1990s, the majority of Japanese people are of the Shinto or Buddhist faith. The majority of Japanese couples, typically 60-70%, are wed in Christian ceremonies. This makes Christian weddings the most influential aspect of Christianity in contemporary Japan.
Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg was a member of the Lutheran clergy and the first Pietist missionary to India.
In the early 19th century, Western colonial expansion occurred at the same time as an evangelical revival – the Second Great Awakening – throughout the English-speaking world, leading to more overseas missionary activity. The nineteenth century became known as the Great Century of modern religious missions.
Christianity in Myanmar has a history dating to the early 18th century. According to the 2020census, Christianity is the country's second largest religion, practiced by 6.2% of the population, primarily among the Kachin, Chin and Kayin, and Eurasians because of missionary work in their respective areas. About four-fifths of the country's Christians are Protestants, in particular Baptists of the Myanmar Baptist Convention; Roman Catholics make up the remainder.
Missionary work of the Catholic Church has often been undertaken outside the geographically defined parishes and dioceses by religious orders who have people and material resources to spare, and some of which specialized in missions. Eventually, parishes and dioceses would be organized worldwide, often after an intermediate phase as an apostolic prefecture or apostolic vicariate. Catholic mission has predominantly been carried out by the Latin Church in practice.
Christianity in Asia has its roots in the very inception of Christianity, which originated from the life and teachings of Jesus in 1st-century Roman Judea. Christianity then spread through the missionary work of his apostles, first in the Levant and taking roots in the major cities such as Jerusalem and Antioch. According to tradition, further eastward expansion occurred via the preaching of Thomas the Apostle, who established Christianity in the Parthian Empire (Iran) and India. The very First Ecumenical Council was held in the city of Nicaea in Asia Minor (325). The first nations to adopt Christianity as a state religion were Armenia in 301 and Georgia in 327. By the 4th century, Christianity became the dominant religion in all Asian provinces of the Eastern Roman Empire.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Salem is a diocese located in the city of Salem in the Ecclesiastical province of Pondicherry and Cuddalore in India.
Christianity is a minority religion in Maharashtra, a state of India. 79.8% of the population of Maharashtra are Hindus, Christian adherents being 1.0% of the population. The Roman Catholic archdiocese whose seat is in Maharashtra is Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bombay. There are two different Christian ethnic communities in Maharashtra: one is East Indians who are predominantly Roman Catholic and another is Marathi Christians, predominantly Protestant with a small Roman Catholic population. The Catholics in Maharashtra are mainly concentrated in coastal Maharashtra, specially Vasai, Mumbai, Raigad and are known as East Indians, were evangelised by Portuguese missionaries during 15th-16th century. Protestants, who reside throughout the Maharashtra, being significant in Ahmednagar, Solapur, Pune Aurangabad and Jalna are called Marathi Christians, Who are more recent converts evangelised by British and American missionaries during British rule in India. The Church of North India has dioceses in the state and is a large Protestant church with full communion with the Anglican Church.
The 15th century is part of the High Middle Ages, the period from the coronation of Charlemagne in 800 to the close of the 15th century, which saw the fall of Constantinople (1453), the end of the Hundred Years War (1453), the discovery of the New World (1492), and thereafter the Protestant Reformation (1515). It also marked the later years of scholasticism
In 16th-century Christianity, Protestantism came to the forefront and marked a significant change in the Christian world.
17th-century Missionary activity in Asia and the Americas grew strongly, put down roots, and developed its institutions, though it met with strong resistance in Japan in particular. At the same time Christian colonization of some areas outside Europe succeeded, driven by economic as well as religious reasons. Christian traders were heavily involved in the Atlantic slave trade, which had the effect of transporting Africans into Christian communities. A land war between Christianity and Islam continued, in the form of the campaigns of the Habsburg Empire and Ottoman Empire in the Balkans, a turning point coming at Vienna in 1683. The Tsardom of Russia, where Orthodox Christianity was the established religion, expanded eastwards into Siberia and Central Asia, regions of Islamic and shamanistic beliefs, and also southwest into the Ukraine, where the Uniate Eastern Catholic Churches arose.
Christianity in the 18th century is marked by the First Great Awakening in the Americas, along with the expansion of the Spanish and Portuguese empires around the world, which helped to spread Catholicism.
Characteristic of Christianity in the 19th century were Evangelical revivals in some largely Protestant countries and later the effects of modern Biblical scholarship on the churches. Liberal or modernist theology was one consequence of this. In Europe, the Roman Catholic Church strongly opposed liberalism and culture wars launched in Germany, Italy, Belgium and France. It strongly emphasized personal piety. In Europe there was a general move away from religious observance and belief in Christian teachings and a move towards secularism. In Protestantism, pietistic revivals were common.
Christianity in the 20th century was characterized by an accelerating secularization of Western society, which had begun in the 19th century, and by the spread of Christianity to non-Western regions of the world.
The Roman Catholic Church in the 20th century had to respond to the challenge of increasing secularization of Western society and persecution resulting from great social unrest and revolutions in several countries. It instituted many reforms, particularly in the 1970s under the Vatican II Council, in order to modernize practices and positions. In this period, Catholic missionaries in the Far East worked to improve education and health care, while evangelizing peoples and attracting numerous followers in China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan.
Christian missionaries arrived with Francis Xavier and the Jesuits in the 1540s and briefly flourished, with over 100,000 converts, including many daimyōs in Kyushu. It soon met resistance from the highest office holders of Japan. Emperor Ogimachi issued edicts to ban Catholicism in 1565 and 1568, but to little effect. Beginning in 1587 with imperial regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi's ban on Jesuit missionaries, Christianity was repressed as a threat to national unity. After the Tokugawa shogunate banned Christianity in 1620 it ceased to exist publicly. Many Catholics went underground, becoming hidden Christians, while others lost their lives. Only after the Meiji Restoration was Christianity re-established in Japan.
Telugu Christians or Telugu Kraistava are an ethno-religious community who form the second-largest religious minority in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. According to the Census of India, there are over a million Christians in Andhra Pradesh constituting 1.5% of the state's population, although a decrease from the 1971 census figure which was 4.2%, as a result of low birth rates and emigration.
Christianity and colonialism are often closely associated with each other because Protestantism and Catholicism participated as the state religions of the European colonial powers and in many ways they acted as the "religious arms" of those powers. According to Edward Andrews, Christian missionaries were initially portrayed as "visible saints, exemplars of ideal piety in a sea of persistent savagery". However, by the time the colonial era drew to a close in the last half of the twentieth century, missionaries became viewed as "ideological shock troops for colonial invasion whose zealotry blinded them", colonialism's "agent, scribe and moral alibi."