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Christianity is booming - in the global South

This is stimulating reading for Christians in the West, where Christianity is no longer the all-pervading influence it once was. It highlights the distinct shift of Christianity in recent times, in terms of its adherents, its influence and its phenomenal growth, to the ‘global South’.The book is The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity by Philip Jenkins - revised and expanded edition (Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-518307-8).

Jenkins has done an amazing amount of research—the bibliography and footnotes are an encyclopaedia in themselves—to come up with detailed figures and trends that show Christianity destined to become, and to stay, by far the biggest religion in the world. In fact it’s there already. Mind you, you may have to take a rather more elastic view of ‘Christianity’ than you would personally choose, but hopefully you can cope with that.

Most of us become all too easily locked into our own little world of church life and activity. We forget that there are Christians in other ‘streams’ and denominations enjoying God’s blessing and, in many cases, astonishing growth. Read this book and grasp the bigger picture.

Over the last century the centre of gravity in the Christian world has shifted inexorably southwards to Africa and Latin America. Today, the largest Christian communities on the planet are to be found in those regions.  (p1)

…modern Africa, where the number of Christians increased, staggeringly, from 10 million in 1900 to 360 million by 2000. lf that growth does not represent the largest quantitative change in the whole of religious history, I am at a loss to think of a rival. (p4)

Founded in the Near East, Christianity for its first thousand years was stronger in Asia and North Africa than in Europe, and only after about 1400 did Europe (and Europeanized North America) decisively become the Christian heartland. This account challenges the oddly prevalent view of Christianity as a white or Western ideology that was foisted on the rest of an unwilling globe, under the auspices of Spanish galleons, British redcoats, and American televangelists. (p19)

Kenyan leader Jomo Kenyatta complained that “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land."  (p48)

Although African Independents today claim an impressive 40 million members, that represents only one tenth of all African Christians. Africa's Roman Catholics alone outnumber its Independents by more than three to one.  (p65)

According to one recent estimate, some forty new Pentecostal churches are opening in Rio each and every week.  (p74)

The Church of England claims the loyalty of 25 million baptized Anglicans, even though less than a million of those are ever seen within the precincts of a church. (p101)

The most successful new denominations [in the global South] target their message very directly at the have-nots, or rather, the have-nothings.  (p107)

Half of London's people are now nonwhites and by the end of the twenty-first century, whites could form a minority within Great Britain as a whole. The empires have struck back.  (p111)

If there is a single key area of faith and practice that divides Northern and Southern Christians, it is this matter of spiritual forces and their effects on the everyday human world. (p143)

The separation of church and state is a wholly foreign idea in African nations, which follow the quite different models offered by former colonial powers such as Britain or Portugal. In these older views, church establishment was a perfectly familiar idea. We may yet see many more “Christian states," perhaps in which one denomination occupies the dominant role—what European scholars term a Staatskirche.  (p176)

The parochialism of Western public opinion is striking. When a single racial or religious-motivated murder takes place in Europe or North America, the event occasions widespread soul-searching, but when thousands are massacred on the grounds of their faith in Nigeria, Indonesia, or the Sudan, the story rarely registers.  (p190)

If Northerners worry that Southern churches have compromised with traditional paganism, then Southerners accuse Americans and Europeans of selling out Christianity to neo-paganism, in the form of humanistic secular liberalism.  (p235)

In Brazil, Protestant pastors already outnumbered priests by the mid-1980s, and today they outnumber priests two to one.  (p253)

Christianity is deeply associated with poverty. Contrary to myth, the typical Christian is not a white fat cat in the United States or western Europe, but rather a poor person, often unimaginably poor by Western standards.  (p256)

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