In the beginning there was a man who called himself Jesus. He was born under some questionable circumstances, mainly because of their similarity to the birth of another Middle East Superstar, Mithra. Anyway, his birth isn't really important,neither is his life for that matter, at least not to the early church. The important factor for the early church is Jesus' death...or rather his tendency not to stay that way for more than three days.|
The early church never would have lasted long if Jesus hadn't risen from the dead. Much of the preaching hinged on this very concept. This is probably because the average life expectancy of your average God at the time was, well, forever. After all, it would look really bad for the Christians if they had the son of God and he died after thirty some years. Besides, the idea had great salability; lets face it, Christianity is like the religious version of Tupperware: Keep the dead fresh.
So, Jesus had come back from the dead, and after he had finished some other business, he was going to return and clean things up a bit. Unfortunately for the early Christians he didn't say when. So they all packed up their bags and waited for his return. They really thought he would be back any minute.
Really, any minute.
First weeks went by, then months, then several years, and Jesus still didn't appear. Some of the Christians probably got together and conceded that, well, Jesus wasn't showing up and maybe they had misinterpreted his words. So they finally decided to move on, what with the boredom of sitting around twiddling their thumbs waiting for the second coming of some messiah with a really bad sense of timing. They decided to go out into the world to spread his word on the misguided assumption that- hey! - he would be back any minute now; you could practically smell him.
The majority of the early Christians were Jewish, and the Jews weren't really into spreading much of anything. But once the religion hit the Gentiles, it spread like wild fire §. It eventually spread throughout the world like a gaseous vapor dispersing into the atmosphere, slowly seeping into every corner and crevice. Eventually it snuck into the domain of the Roman Empire.
In the Big R.E. Gods grew like blades of grass. There was a veritable menu of Gods to choose from. Some were, of course, mere appetizers, but others were main courses to reckon with ("Yes, I'd like a double order of Serapis, hold the Isis"). Many say that Christianity had a tremendous impact on the fall of the Roman Empire. No offense meant to the Church, but fighting the Roman Empire at that time is much like getting into a fist fight with a man who has recently drunk half his weight in alcohol. He might injure you lightly as he accidentally keels over, but no matter how hard you hit him, he was on his way down anyway.
Early preachers of the Church were considered to be any member of the group who were suddenly possessed by the Holy Spirit. In fact, it was not uncommon for members of the group to spontaneously experience psychotic episodes during services, which seemed to be standard operating procedure for most of the respectable religions of the day. It was considered the highest order of religious experience. If true, this probably means that the largest percentage of the world's holy men are presently confined to sanitariums, and which also adds more clout to the statement, "You've got to be crazy to believe in God."
The one idea that separated the early Christians from the Roman pagans was the idea of brotherly love, and non-violence which extended to all. This might tend to make one wonder what a "Christian Soldier" is. I'm pretty sure the Crusades were a bit more than just a bunch of men traveling all the way to the Holy Land to issue the occupants a stern warning. But with nonviolent affection like that, who needs a shot of Drano on the rocks chased by a hydrochloric enema?
§ Or like a bunch of Gentiles who have caught on fire.