The Next Christianity – What is next for the Church? How does America fit in? Does the world still need American missionaries? what about “the Global South” – South America and Africa?
We stand at a historical turning point—One that is as significant and “world changing” for Christians as the original Reformation.
In reading the book, “The Next Christendom” by Philip Jenkins, I have learned a lot about the future of the church – meaning the global body of Christ (His followers worldwide), and the rapid expansion of the Church throughout Africa and South America. I use the “Church,” capital “C,” to indicate “the true church” or all those that make up the actual physical representation of God’s kingdom on earth, rather than any one particular group of followers (or to make a judgement regarding who is included and who is not). The book however focuses on the expansion of the Protestant church, and largely the Evangelical/Pentecostal churches, since that is where most of the growth is occurring. (More after image…)
What does this mean for “Westerners” or the Church in America? I think it is important to understand that new missions growth, new church-planters and leadership is going to come from outside the USA and Europe (and it already is!), and that the Church in the West needs to be ready to listen, to understand that they do not have a corner on truth and that their emphases and biases are not shared by other churches in other parts of the world.
Already, according to “Clouds of Witnesses: Christian Voices From Africa and Asia” by Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom, new theological centers such as BEST and NEGST for Africans, in Africa, by Africans, have been publishing serious theological journals (View the last eight years here) and books , South Americans have been raising up new missions centers (such as COMIBAM), and worldwide conferences on the future of the church such as the Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization have recognized the Global South. These efforts have been hampered by Western biases and sectarianism, by lack of local resources and preoccupation, and lack of worldwide promotion (or even awareness), but that has not hampered their effort or active participation.
Where should we expect new missionaries to come from? Christianity Today has a very interesting article that fits right along with Philip Jenkin’s findings.
The Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary calculates that Christians sent out approximately 400,000 international missionaries in 2010. And nearly half of the world’s top missionary-sending countries are now located in the global South.
The CSGC reports that “of the ten countries sending the most missionaries in 2010, three were in the global South: Brazil, South Korea, and India.” Other notable missionary senders included South Africa, the Philippines, Mexico, China, Colombia, and Nigeria.
Ironically enough, believers in other nations see America in need of renewal, because:
In regards to Pentecostals, Philip Jenkins notes that as far as movements and ideologies go, since there were only a handful of Pentecostals in 1900, and several hundred million today, is it not reasonable to identify this as perhaps the most successful social movement of the past century? (Compared to Fascism, Communism,…) According to current projections the number of Pentecostal Christians should surpass the one billion mark by 2050.
So fear not, Christianity is not “dying out,” or suffering from lack of attendance, the faithful have simply moved – To the Global South!
Christianity is not only surviving in the global South, it is enjoying a radical revival, a return to scriptural roots. We are living in revolutionary times.
Read a sample of Philip Jenkins book here: http://fryett.org/files/Jenkins_NextChristianity.pdfOr here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/sample/read/9780195183078
Read the article in The Atlantic Magazine: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2002/10/the-next-christianity/302591/
Or watch a two-part series of lectures on this topic at YouTube: