There is a mountain of books out there on Church History. Each comes from a different perspective, however, which makes it hard to figure out which one to read. For people just getting started, I recommend the exciting and truly motivating Series by Roberts Liardon. They give you a flavor of several of the most important moments: Pentecostal History, Reformers and Revivalists. There are a number of motivating biographies out there including 50 years on the battlefront by Mordecai Ham, the Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, The Heavenly man and others. The Ten Greatest Revivals ever by Towns and Revival Fire by Duewel are also stirring starters on Revival history.
For those looking for a more comprehensive Church History textbook to understand the big picture, I think the best place to start is Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley. Of the several standard introductory texts out there, I appreciate it’s perspective and readability the best. The entire history of the church is covered quickly, and that serves as a good jumping off point. For a strictly mission perspective, I also liked A Concise History of the Christian World Mission by Herbert Kane and found The Dynamics of the Christian Mission by Paul Pierson most fascinating.
More recently, historians are starting to realize the significance of talking about the chuch’s impact on culture not just the church itself. There are several good books on this topic. For the more academic types, I really like Rodney Stark’s “Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism and Western Success” as a bold presentation of the importance of the church. The documentary “The Birth of Freedom” by the Acton Institute is really fabulous and worth ordering if you haven’t seen it. Alvin Schmidt also did one called “How Christianity Changed the World” which is a good starter text for this kind of approach.