World Christianity

World Christianity July 24, 2009

Matthew Kratz at Sola Fide posts some factoids from Mark Noll’s new book, The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith:

This past Sunday it is possible that more Christian believers attended church in China than in all of so-called “Christian Europe.” Yet in 1970 there were no legally functioning churches in all of China; only in 1971 did the communist regime allow for one Protestant and one Roman Catholic Church to hold public worship services, and this was mostly a concession to visiting Europeans and African students from Tanzania and Zambia.

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—and the number of Anglicans in church in Nigeria was several times the umber in those other African countries.

This past Sunday more Presbyterians were at church in Ghana than in Scotland, and more were in congregations of the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa than in the United States.

The past Sunday more people attended the Yoido Full Gospel Church pastored by Yongi Cho is Seoul, Korea, than attended all the churches in significant American denominations like the Christian Reformed Church, the Evangelical Covenant Church or the Presbyterian Church in America.

This past Sunday the churches with the largest attendance in England and France had mostly black congregations. About half of the churchgoers in London were African or African-Caribbean. Today, the largest Christian congregation in Europe is in Kiev, and it is pastored by a Nigerian of Pentecostal background.

This past week in Great Britain, at least fifteen thousand Christian foreign missionaries were hard at work evangelizing the locals. most of these missionaries are from Africa and Asia.
For several years the world’s largest chapter of the Jesuit order has been found in India, not in the United States, as it had been for much of the late twentieth century.

In my own tradition, there are lots more Lutherans in Africa (12 million) than there are in America (9 million). The Lutheran church in Madagascar (3.5 million) is bigger than the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (2.5 million). (These are out of date numbers. Please correct them if you have better statistics.)

No longer can it be said that Christianity is a white, Western religion. In fact, white Westerners are the new mission field.

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  • Kirk

    As a case in point, my own church, Falls Church (the largest, conservative Anglican congregation in America) is a member of CANA, a mission of the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

    I know that many write off the explosive Christian growth in 3rd world nations as product of the populations’ uneducated, spiritual superstitions. We have had many bishops and arch-bishops from Africa and Asia come to preach to us and I have always been struck by the profundity of what they say. Their messages are always deeply intellectual and theological, and always spot on.

    Our rector said that the churchs in these regions are so healthy that they are creating their own systematic theologies, writing their own commentaries and then exporting them to the West, something which has never really happened before. From all appearances, the expansion of Christianity overseas is deeply rooted and sound and the people are receiving good, deep teaching that is bearing fruit in their own lives. It’s so encouraging and an excellent reminder that Christ’s power is for everyone, not just us WASPs.

  • Kirk

    As a case in point, my own church, Falls Church (the largest, conservative Anglican congregation in America) is a member of CANA, a mission of the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

    I know that many write off the explosive Christian growth in 3rd world nations as product of the populations’ uneducated, spiritual superstitions. We have had many bishops and arch-bishops from Africa and Asia come to preach to us and I have always been struck by the profundity of what they say. Their messages are always deeply intellectual and theological, and always spot on.

    Our rector said that the churchs in these regions are so healthy that they are creating their own systematic theologies, writing their own commentaries and then exporting them to the West, something which has never really happened before. From all appearances, the expansion of Christianity overseas is deeply rooted and sound and the people are receiving good, deep teaching that is bearing fruit in their own lives. It’s so encouraging and an excellent reminder that Christ’s power is for everyone, not just us WASPs.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Mark Noll and Phillip Jenkins are the two scholars with the best understanding of the spread of Christ’s Word to the Global South and Asia. The Word of Christ spread providentially to the gentiles of the West and is doing so now throughout the world. Those 19th and early 20th century missionaries, often vilified by the secularists, sowed very important seeds.

    Thy Kingdom Come; Thy Will be done.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Mark Noll and Phillip Jenkins are the two scholars with the best understanding of the spread of Christ’s Word to the Global South and Asia. The Word of Christ spread providentially to the gentiles of the West and is doing so now throughout the world. Those 19th and early 20th century missionaries, often vilified by the secularists, sowed very important seeds.

    Thy Kingdom Come; Thy Will be done.

  • I just sit and wonder at the miracle of so many Lutherans in Africa. I mean how did they get there. Everyone knows that Lutherans don’t know how to do missions, or evangelism. It has to be a testament to the veracity of the Lutheran faith, that God would endeavor to plant Lutherans all over Africa sans evangelism and mission work by Lutherans.
    What is peculiar though is how often it seems he did just that, starting a Lutheran Church among the heavily persecuted Christians of the Sudan, by allowing a Book of Concord, and Five Catechisms fall into the hands of a Christian pastor there.

  • I just sit and wonder at the miracle of so many Lutherans in Africa. I mean how did they get there. Everyone knows that Lutherans don’t know how to do missions, or evangelism. It has to be a testament to the veracity of the Lutheran faith, that God would endeavor to plant Lutherans all over Africa sans evangelism and mission work by Lutherans.
    What is peculiar though is how often it seems he did just that, starting a Lutheran Church among the heavily persecuted Christians of the Sudan, by allowing a Book of Concord, and Five Catechisms fall into the hands of a Christian pastor there.

  • At this year’s Moody Pastor’s Conference there was a break out session speaker who is a college professor somewhere (I can’t recall his name) who said that if current trends continue, in one generation there will be more authentic believers in China than the US.

  • At this year’s Moody Pastor’s Conference there was a break out session speaker who is a college professor somewhere (I can’t recall his name) who said that if current trends continue, in one generation there will be more authentic believers in China than the US.

  • Snafu

    Bror: I think the missionaries got there from here. Your ancestors (am I right?) and mine sent them. I was shocked when I learned in school that “Martti” is one of the most popular first names in Namibia, after the 19th century missionary Martti Rautanen (a Finn).

    (And now they start bringing the gospel back as bishop Obare proved.)

  • Snafu

    Bror: I think the missionaries got there from here. Your ancestors (am I right?) and mine sent them. I was shocked when I learned in school that “Martti” is one of the most popular first names in Namibia, after the 19th century missionary Martti Rautanen (a Finn).

    (And now they start bringing the gospel back as bishop Obare proved.)

  • Snafu,
    Yes in large part true. Though,I’m a fourth generation American of Finno Swede stalk, Åland is the homeland.
    But yes Scandinavia did well in sending missionaries to Africa. Of course, my dad was sent through Bleckmar Mission Society in Germany, from America, called from Canada, but was a U.S citizen. So others have had a hand in it too.

  • Snafu,
    Yes in large part true. Though,I’m a fourth generation American of Finno Swede stalk, Åland is the homeland.
    But yes Scandinavia did well in sending missionaries to Africa. Of course, my dad was sent through Bleckmar Mission Society in Germany, from America, called from Canada, but was a U.S citizen. So others have had a hand in it too.

  • Madagascar was to a large degree evangelized by Norwegian Lutherans, both from the homeland and from America. I know a number of people who grew up in Madagascar in missionary families.

  • Madagascar was to a large degree evangelized by Norwegian Lutherans, both from the homeland and from America. I know a number of people who grew up in Madagascar in missionary families.

  • fws

    I understand that the largest protestant church in indonesia is centered in the island of sumatra and was originally Lutheran but now seems to be sort of non denominational. anyone know anything about that church?

  • fws

    I understand that the largest protestant church in indonesia is centered in the island of sumatra and was originally Lutheran but now seems to be sort of non denominational. anyone know anything about that church?

  • I praise the Lord for what He is doing throughout the world. Southern Baptists like to boast that we currently fully support 5,000 missionaries worldwide–yet we are easily put to shame by the 15,000 that South Korean Baptists have sent out. Remember, Korea was a Bhuddist country less than 50 years ago. This number also does not include those from the huge Presbyterian movement in S. Korea.

    A friend of mine met some missionaries from Singapore who were sent to the US as their mission field. When he told me this, it made me realize how much the Church in America as a whole has played the whore.

  • I praise the Lord for what He is doing throughout the world. Southern Baptists like to boast that we currently fully support 5,000 missionaries worldwide–yet we are easily put to shame by the 15,000 that South Korean Baptists have sent out. Remember, Korea was a Bhuddist country less than 50 years ago. This number also does not include those from the huge Presbyterian movement in S. Korea.

    A friend of mine met some missionaries from Singapore who were sent to the US as their mission field. When he told me this, it made me realize how much the Church in America as a whole has played the whore.

  • Snafu

    Bror,
    So your family is from Åland, interesting. And you’re right, also others than Scandinavian Lutherans have sent missionaries, quite naturally.

    Btw. what are the areas where American Lutheran mission has been strong? When did LCMS start overseas mission? I’m familiar with mostly only the Scandinavian mission history.

    Someone might have thought based on my last message that bishop Obare is Namibian but he in fact is Kenyan.

  • Snafu

    Bror,
    So your family is from Åland, interesting. And you’re right, also others than Scandinavian Lutherans have sent missionaries, quite naturally.

    Btw. what are the areas where American Lutheran mission has been strong? When did LCMS start overseas mission? I’m familiar with mostly only the Scandinavian mission history.

    Someone might have thought based on my last message that bishop Obare is Namibian but he in fact is Kenyan.

  • Has anyone read Noll’s book? What does he mean by the subtitle?

  • Has anyone read Noll’s book? What does he mean by the subtitle?

  • Mike S

    Dr. Veith,

    I haven’t read the book yet, only scanned/skimmed it at the local B&N.

    My surface take is that Noll is claiming the global church is shaped by American theology/church history/religious issues than by any other national or cultural identity. Apparently this even includes the reshaping of the local indigenous culture and history.

    IOW, the American church has reshaped global Christianity into its own image. Noll doesn’t seem to take this as an always positive thing.

    But, as I said, I need to dig into the book to confirm or remove those initial impressions.

  • Mike S

    Dr. Veith,

    I haven’t read the book yet, only scanned/skimmed it at the local B&N.

    My surface take is that Noll is claiming the global church is shaped by American theology/church history/religious issues than by any other national or cultural identity. Apparently this even includes the reshaping of the local indigenous culture and history.

    IOW, the American church has reshaped global Christianity into its own image. Noll doesn’t seem to take this as an always positive thing.

    But, as I said, I need to dig into the book to confirm or remove those initial impressions.

  • Snafu,
    LCMS missions started pretty early. We sent a man to Brazil very early on, 1840s. We have done a lot of work in South America. And really just about everywhere. India and so on. Hard to tell where the mission work has been strongest. Holy Spirit blows where he will. Of course America has been a big mission field for us too. Here in Utah a very challenging one.

  • Snafu,
    LCMS missions started pretty early. We sent a man to Brazil very early on, 1840s. We have done a lot of work in South America. And really just about everywhere. India and so on. Hard to tell where the mission work has been strongest. Holy Spirit blows where he will. Of course America has been a big mission field for us too. Here in Utah a very challenging one.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Dr Veith, I haven’t read the book yet; Christian book.com quotes from several reviews, including:

    “The United States has emerged as a crucial frontier of the worldwide Christian awakening, in part because of America’s role as a global power but in large part because of similar experiences rooted in history and civil society. From his own evangelical background, Mark Noll has explored these connections with lucid sensitivity and lively attentiveness, and in so doing has offered a welcome and valuable contribution to the literature on world Christianity and its critical interface with American religious history.” —Lamin Sanneh, professor of world Christianity, professor of history and professor of international and area studies, Yale University, and director, World Christianity Initiative at Yale Divinity School.

    From what I understand of the reviews, Mark Noll’s view is that the American form of evangelical and voluntaristic Christianity played a crucial role in the development of churches in the Global South and Asia.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Dr Veith, I haven’t read the book yet; Christian book.com quotes from several reviews, including:

    “The United States has emerged as a crucial frontier of the worldwide Christian awakening, in part because of America’s role as a global power but in large part because of similar experiences rooted in history and civil society. From his own evangelical background, Mark Noll has explored these connections with lucid sensitivity and lively attentiveness, and in so doing has offered a welcome and valuable contribution to the literature on world Christianity and its critical interface with American religious history.” —Lamin Sanneh, professor of world Christianity, professor of history and professor of international and area studies, Yale University, and director, World Christianity Initiative at Yale Divinity School.

    From what I understand of the reviews, Mark Noll’s view is that the American form of evangelical and voluntaristic Christianity played a crucial role in the development of churches in the Global South and Asia.

  • Snafu

    Thanks for the answer, Bror.
    I understand that there are quite a lot of Lutherans in Brazil. Both German immigrants and “results” of the mission. E.g. the queen of Sweden is of Brazilian-German origin and Lutheran even before marrying the king. She was a member of SELK, the LCMS sister church in Germany. (So originally surprisingly confessional compared to the current catastrophical situation in church of Sweden.)

  • Snafu

    Thanks for the answer, Bror.
    I understand that there are quite a lot of Lutherans in Brazil. Both German immigrants and “results” of the mission. E.g. the queen of Sweden is of Brazilian-German origin and Lutheran even before marrying the king. She was a member of SELK, the LCMS sister church in Germany. (So originally surprisingly confessional compared to the current catastrophical situation in church of Sweden.)

  • fws

    #16 snafu

    I live in brasil and attend a congregation of the brasilian church. the brasilian church, like the canadian church in fellowship with the lcms were once districts of the lcms and were then spun off, so to speak, as separate churches.

    when the lcms sneezed my brasilian church catches the flu. the seminary actually translated the seminal church growth book into portuguese and was heavily pushing it about 7 years ago.

    the synod is cranking out more pastoral candidates from seminary now than they have vacancies for. the synod seems to be using this to change church polity by contracting pastors rather than calling (therefore permanently) to congregations. We stiil suffer from being weaned from lcms financial subsidies.

    Note to Dr Vieth: It would be very very good to see confessional pastors and congretations in the usa offer brasilian pastor-candidates a vicarage in the usa. they easily pickup spanish. most speak english that would improve very rapidly in the usa, and they would be greatly enriched by working with confessional pastors in the usa. Alot of pastoral stuff is best passed on by seeing and doing.

    as for the condition of the church here: we are intentionally trying to reach out from our white german stronghold in the south of brasil to the rest of brasil which is 85% black and strongly african in culture. This was not helped by the fact that when we passed through our church growth phase we watered down the holy liturgy. Dumbing down to a group or patronizing them is not the way to reach them. Only faith in the power of the Holy Gospel can equip pastors to minister “effectively”.

    Effectively is in quotes because effective in the sense of the Holy Gospel usually looks nothing like what americans think it should look like.

    On the other hand… I LOVE my church here… I remember the first time I hear the holy liturgy in Portuguese and took the Holy Supper. I could not understand hardly any of it at the time, but understood it almost completely because it was actually the page 15 liturgy from the TLH. to think that people on the other side of the planet would instantly be 100% in doctrinal agreement with the same hope and faith brought me to some tears.

  • fws

    #16 snafu

    I live in brasil and attend a congregation of the brasilian church. the brasilian church, like the canadian church in fellowship with the lcms were once districts of the lcms and were then spun off, so to speak, as separate churches.

    when the lcms sneezed my brasilian church catches the flu. the seminary actually translated the seminal church growth book into portuguese and was heavily pushing it about 7 years ago.

    the synod is cranking out more pastoral candidates from seminary now than they have vacancies for. the synod seems to be using this to change church polity by contracting pastors rather than calling (therefore permanently) to congregations. We stiil suffer from being weaned from lcms financial subsidies.

    Note to Dr Vieth: It would be very very good to see confessional pastors and congretations in the usa offer brasilian pastor-candidates a vicarage in the usa. they easily pickup spanish. most speak english that would improve very rapidly in the usa, and they would be greatly enriched by working with confessional pastors in the usa. Alot of pastoral stuff is best passed on by seeing and doing.

    as for the condition of the church here: we are intentionally trying to reach out from our white german stronghold in the south of brasil to the rest of brasil which is 85% black and strongly african in culture. This was not helped by the fact that when we passed through our church growth phase we watered down the holy liturgy. Dumbing down to a group or patronizing them is not the way to reach them. Only faith in the power of the Holy Gospel can equip pastors to minister “effectively”.

    Effectively is in quotes because effective in the sense of the Holy Gospel usually looks nothing like what americans think it should look like.

    On the other hand… I LOVE my church here… I remember the first time I hear the holy liturgy in Portuguese and took the Holy Supper. I could not understand hardly any of it at the time, but understood it almost completely because it was actually the page 15 liturgy from the TLH. to think that people on the other side of the planet would instantly be 100% in doctrinal agreement with the same hope and faith brought me to some tears.