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Disciples of All Nations

Pillars of World Christianity

Lamin O. Sanneh

Publication Date - 30 November 2007

ISBN: 9780195189612

384 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

A revealing new look at the history of Christianity, seen from the perspective of the religion's expansion in Africa, Asia, and Latin America


Long the dominant religion of the West, Christianity is now rapidly becoming the principal faith in much of the postcolonial world--a development that marks a momentous shift in the religion's very center of gravity. In this eye-opening book, Lamin Sanneh examines the roots of this "post-Western awakening" and the unparalleled richness and diversity, as well as the tension and conflict, it has brought to World Christianity.

Tracing Christianity's rise from its birth on the edge of the Roman empire--when it proclaimed itself to be a religion for the entire world, not just for one people, one time, and one place--to its key role in Europe's maritime and colonial expansion, Sanneh sheds new light on the ways in which post-Western societies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America were drawn into the Christian orbit. Ultimately, he shows, these societies outgrew Christianity's colonial forms and restructured it through their own languages and idioms--a process that often occurred outside, and sometimes against, the lines of denominational control. The effect of such changes, Sanneh contends, has been profound, transforming not only worship, prayer, and the interpretation of Scripture, but also art, aesthetics, and music associated with the church. In exploring this story of Christianity's global expansion and its current resurgence in the non-Western world, Sanneh pays close attention to such issues as the faith's encounters with Islam and indigenous religions, as well as with secular ideologies such as Marxism and nationalism. He also considers the challenges that conservative, non-Western forms of Christianity pose to Western liberal values and Enlightenment ideas.

Here then is a groundbreaking study of Christianity's role in cultural innovation and historical change--and must reading for all who are concerned with the present and future of the faith.


  • A revealing new look at the history of Christianity, seen from the perspective of the religion's expansion in Africa, Asia, and Latin America
  • Explores Christianity's role in cultural innovation and historical change by paying close attention to issues of cultural interface and the inter-religious encounter with Islam, with primal religions and secular ideologies such as Marxism and nationalism
  • An Instructor Guide containing chapter summaries, discussion questions to lead your class, and supplemental assignments is now available to download in the Instructors Resource Center

About the Author(s)

Lamin Sanneh, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Gambia and the scion of an ancient African royal house, was educated on four continents. He is Professor of History and World Christianity at Yale University, and chair of its Council on African Studies. His books include Whose Religion is Christianity?: The Gospel Beyond the West and The Changing Face of Christianity: Africa, the West, and the World (coedited with Joel A. Carpenter).


"Disciples of All Nations offers extraordinary insights into world Christianity today."--Journal of the American Academy of Religion

"I am lost in admiration for Lamin Sanneh's magnificent study of world Christianity, for the work's geographical scope and historical sweep, and for the breadth of the author's learning. Throughout, Sanneh asks the critical question: how can we reconceive Christianity in a way that frees it from its European and imperial contexts, permitting the faith to adapt to the kaleidoscopic realities of different societies around the globe. This is a splendid achievement." --Philip Jenkins, author of The Next Christendom and The New Faces of Christianity

"Been looking for a solid read on the historical advancement of Christianity through the work of missions? Then look no further." --Evangelical Missions Quarterly

"...this work is an historical tour de force, throughout which Sanneh's pastoral voice inspires readers to embrace Christianity's 'peculiar temper' and resulting indigenous articulations. It thus merits warm recommendations, even if not as splendid as anticipated due to its uneven coverage."-- Jayson George, Brethren International

"Disciples of all Nations...is written with exquisite elegance and uncommon grace..."--Peter C. Phan

Table of Contents

    Introduction: New Testament Revolution: The Missionary Pillar
    1. Whither Christianity? A Study in Origin, Thought, and Action
    2. The Comparative Pillar: The Christian Movement in Islamic Perspective
    3. Old World Precedents and New World Directions: The Trans-Atlantic Pillar
    4. The Yogi and the Commissar
    5. Renewal and the Charismatic Spirit
    6. Resurgence and the New Order in West Africa: Primal Pillar
    7. Civilization and the Limits of Mission
    8. Christianity and the New China
    9. Conclusion: Christian Dynamism and Concurrent Cultural Shifts
    Select Bibliography