The Global Shift of World Christianity

In 1900, 70% of the world’s Christian population resided in Europe; now, two-thirds are in the Majority World, mainly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Philip Jenkins reveals that the number of African Christians has grown from 10 million in 1900 to 360 million in 2000! Mark Noll shows that, on a typical Sunday, there are more Anglicans, Presbyterians, Catholics, and Pentecostals in various countries in the Majority World than compared to the number of attendees in the Western countries where the denomination originated. Furthermore, the largest attended churches in the West are made up of Majority World immigrants. So, not only do the statistics identify a geographic shift in the center of gravity of Christianity, but also a rise in Majority World Christian influence in the West. 

While Christianity is growing in the Majority World, it is declining in the West. Lamin Sanneh believes that secularism has replaced the Christendom model in the West. As a result, Andrew Walls sees the Western modern missionary movement as “the last flourish of Christendom.” While Christianity has been able to thrive in multi-religious environments in the Majority World, pluralism has been a “new issue for the West.” David Bosch sees the Enlightenment having created a superiority complex in the West that requires a repentance of deep-rooted problems such as ethnocentrism. He says, “They confused their middle-class ideals and values with the tenets of Christianity.” Lois McKinney Douglas explains that these principles have been “too pragmatic, too much social sciences...that we lost sight of what God is doing in the world.” This Enlightenment-based Christendom approach has brought the rise of secularism and the decline of Christianity in the West.

As a result of this shift, there are a growing number of amazing resources coming from the Majoirty World. Among the many areas, we will focus on Latin American leaders, who are helping to inform the world about the global shift of Christianity and the need for holistic Gospel living. While some may lament this shift, it is an opportunity to grow. No longer can we rest on our own successes in America, we need to seek the beauty of diversity and interdependence between cultures. We need to hear from our Majority World brothers and sisters who see the Gospel differently, which will renew and refresh our understanding of the God’s story.

Books:

Christian Mission: How Christianity Became a World Religion by Dana Robert

The New Global Mission: The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone by Samuel Escobar

Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the 21st Century by Timothy Tennent

The Missionary Movement in Christian History by Andrew Walls

The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History by Andrew Walls

Transforming Mission by David Bosch

Disciples of All Nations by Lamin Sanneh

The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society by Lesslie Newbigin  

Videos:

Mark Noll - Recent World History of Christianity

Sarah Williams - Decline of Western Christianity