It wasn’t until years after my first experience with the global church that I began to understand how desperately Christians in America need Christians whose culture and language differ from our own.
This new understanding grew as I began to discover that Western nations are no longer the centers of the Christian faith that they were one hundred years ago. Traveling abroad, reading books about the current state of Christianity, talking with missionary friends, and looking around my community all pointed me to this reality. These facts from Mark Noll’s The New Shape of World Christianity helped me comprehend the magnitude of the geographic redistribution and growth of Christianity throughout this century. They also made me pause in amazement as I read them:
- “This past Sunday more Anglicans attended church in each of Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda than did Anglicans in Britain and Canada and Episcopalians in the United States combined.”
- “The number of practicing Christians in China may be approaching the number in the United States.”
- The average Christian is no longer a European or American male. Instead, it is better to think of a poor woman living in either Africa or a Latin American country.
These facts can evoke a sense of unease and raise many questions in the hearts and minds of an American people who are used to yielding political, military, economic, and cultural power around the world. I’ve heard some Americans wonder what this shift may mean for the church of their grandchildren. I’ve talked with others who bemoan the way many global Christians take miracles, demons, and exorcisms in Scripture seriously, and I’ve encountered a few who would prefer to continue doing theology and being the church without regard to the shifting reality around us.
However, when I see this new rise of Christianity around the world, I see an exciting opportunity. I see an opportunity for the church to grow in faith and knowledge as we are given the ability to see the fullness of Christ more clearly.
While you’re at it, browse around Seedbed–a great new resourcing center for Christians in the Wesleyan tradition.
To read this article in Spanish, click here.