Mark and Rex discuss the explosive growth of Christianity in Africa, Latin America, and Southern Asia.
Welcome to Jessup think I’m your hosts are one of your hosts, Mark Moore, and your co host, Rex Gurney. Our occasional co host, occasional, you know you’re on you’re more reoccurring co hosts are sure. And today, we’re starting kind of part one of a two part series that might turn into an 18 part series and easily do that of global Christianity. And talking about how the numbers are just exploding in the church outside of Western Europe and America. And we’ve kind of we’ve noted the decline in Western Europe for a long time. But I think it’s really good for American churches to start recognizing, hey, The kingdom of God is so much bigger and so excited to In this episode, just kind of talk about that shift that’s happening. Right, right. And then looking forward to part two, we’ll be looking at some more stories from African churches, and Latin American churches. Right, looking forward to it. So hope you enjoyed this part one as we kind of dive into global Christianity.
Well, no, today on there, on the episode, we’re going to be talking about global Christianity. And we’re going to kind of with that we’re going to be defining some terms and defining maybe exactly what we mean by global Christianity. And I’m excited and maybe some other episodes, we’re able to pull in some other faculty to kind of talk about their experience exactly with the with the global church. But I think just kind of maybe I think what brought this issue up with you, Rex, and kind of why how you brought it kind of to the table. And and I think something that I’ve seen in my own life is, it’s really easy to view your own faith, kind of through only the lens or simply the lens of your culture. Right. Right. And maybe not just your culture, but your country. And I think that that is particularly a part of maybe American Christianity.
And, you know, I guess one of the reasons for that, as you could probably make a historical case that for around 100 years or so, probably, you know, the most vibrant, you know, center as far as numbers and money and yeah, theory endeavor and things like that. Were from here, right? That is actually no longer true. Maybe the money thing is
right, but is, is Yeah, is the United States still the the number one on population of country? I think it still is still is. But yeah, the numbers are shifting, they’re showing those numbers are really radical. I guess, when we bring up that term global Christianity, what do we mean by that term?
Well, I think we’ve already kind of sort of answered the meaning of it already. Yeah, Christianity is not the, you know, property or, or it doesn’t belong to anybody. You know, it’s interesting. So when you look at the geographical sort of center of Christian vibrancy over the last 2000 years, it’s always shifted. I mean, you start with Jerusalem, you know, then you end up I don’t know, Antioch, then somehow gets to Rome, sort of sticks with Rome for a while, then we start talking about Christendom. And when we start talking about Christendom, we’re really talking about Western Europe. Right. And then, you know, you could make a case that it kind of jumped the Atlantic, and then North America became a real center of Christian vibrancy. And now that train has already left the station and it is gone somewhere else. And yeah, a lot of us really aren’t aware of that. And and I guess it’s just sort of important to know and and to understand what that might or might not mean for us as Christians here in the United States. Yeah. And a lot of the kind of studies in the statistics you look at talk about the center of the of the, of Christianity shifting from what is termed the global north to the global south. Well, I was just looking at some stats just recently and in 2010 of the 10 countries with the largest Christian populations and you know, you can always you know, bicker with what you mean by Christian and all this kind of,
right. Yeah, like, it just got to me is that maybe a little bit of a Baptist Sunni to me, like, is that true Christian? I got enough to take
ugly but you know, with with a fairly broad definition of Christian and Christian, you know, adherence of the 10 countries with the largest Christian populations, only three were in North America or Europe. But if present 10 trends continue, and I think it’s even accelerating actually. Right. Um, by 2050, only two will be and five of them in the top 10 population wise will be in Africa. Yeah. Which is which It’s really interesting. And that does sort of say something about the center of gravity of the Christian faith moving to the global south.
Right? And it’s really, really interesting. Yeah, when you start looking at the numbers and that shift, and, again, Pew Center did a research in actually in 2010. So we’re another decade removed from that. But they showed it was a really interesting graphic where they showed kind of Christian population in 1910 versus 2010. And then, you know, in 1910 60%, of Christians were in Europe right now. And they put 27% in the Americas. And so including North and South America, and only 1.4% are in sub Sahara Africa. And right, no longer the case in 2010. There now, there were 23% of Christians in Sub Saharan Africa. And I think in this this last decade, and like you’re shown with those numbers, they trend trend is accelerating. Right. And and Africa is definitely the the has the most Christians of any other continent when you separate continent out. And and yeah, that shifts that I like how you word that, that it shifts gravity, right into, into the global south, which I think is also including South America and South America and
perhaps Southeast Asia. Yeah. So I mean, it’s a it’s a kind of an omnibus term, as long as we’re tossing out statistics here, not Hey, it’s good. I have a full of our research. I have a few of them here. 1970 116 million Christians in Sub Saharan Africa. I could say Africa because almost anything above the Sahara is gonna be Muslim. Anyway. So would you write Africa right? But 2025 which is only six years from now? 628 million in Asia 92,000,019 74 75,002,025. Europe, however, we’ll have 20 million less Christians. Yeah. 2025 then in 1970 we’re probably holding our own here in the United States, but that’s slipping too. I remember you know growing up in the in the denomination I grew up in I’m trying not to say Southern Baptist, but I guess I’ve already been out at that ever, upward ever outward. I mean, honestly, that’s right. And then something strange happened about six or seven years ago. It’s like, you know, baptism started going down. Gross membership started going down, and we thought that would never ever, ever happen. Yeah. So um, you know, shifts are changing.
And that’s, that’s interesting, too, when you look at the issue denominationally right, especially kind of medium sized denominations or that, that have had some type of missions focus in many of those denominations. The the church outside of America out numbers. Exactly.
Exactly. Even some large ones. Most Anglicans in the world actually are not in England. Wow. They’re in Sub Saharan Africa. Yeah. Which is really interesting. And and that has really had some effect on the worldwide Anglican Communion. I think in the last decade, worldwide Anglicanism has something called the Lambeth conference, which you know, I guess bishops from all over the world meet it with the Archbishop of Canterbury in England and they just do whatever they do with worldwide reaganism. Yeah, well, I think the Lambeth conference, either the latest one or the one before that, was boycotted by most of the African Anglican bishops for the very first time, they basically said if American Episcopalians are going to be there, we’re not going to be there. Wow. And and so even the Anglican Communion sort of breaking apart because of the difference between me You know, a lot of theological and even moral teachings in the American and European versions of Anglicanism versus the sub Saharan African version. Yeah, much more conservative, much more conservative.
And that seems to to be maybe a trend with with global Christianity and Christianity outside of of America and this shift with that gravity shifting. It also then affects what we would call maybe power structure within the church you know, we like it used to be these conferences were were maybe controlled by this right Mahler few right in this one country telling other right countries what to do. And now as those numbers change, the African churches, the Latin American churches, and wait What exactly why are you telling us what to do what to believe? Right?
Right? And so we’ll just not show up. Yeah. And you can’t make us. And that’s just fascinating from a historical standpoint. And it’s probably happening in a number of other comedians, too. One thing that’s really interesting in Sub Saharan Africa is that a lot of the crew Christian growth are actually in denominations, and many of them have these names, which just sound really, really foreign to our European or American ears, you know, the church of the seraphim and cherubim, and things like that. Yeah. It’s like, what kind of cult is that? Well, you know, I don’t know, but it’s a huge church in maybe Nigeria, right? And a number of these very fast growing Christian denominations, because that’s what they are, actually have no organic connection to European or American missionaries. They actually started themselves, let’s Yeah, how dare they? Right. They started themselves. And there’s a lot of different names, give these things. They kind of go under the rubric. aiic, like African initiated churches, African indigenous churches, African independent churches, African institutional churches, however you want to describe them? Yeah. They don’t really have a connection with with us. And that. That’s really interesting. Yeah, because some of the things that are taught in these churches, I know that a lot of European and American theologians and just regular Pew sitters might have some issues with, but they’re not asking us.
Right. Well, that’s what’s interesting about the missionary movement. I mean, part of these numbers, I think, really shows the effect of missionary move. Right. And that’s how it got there in the first Yeah. And the effect. And it also maybe then highlights the the purpose behind the Miss Sherman was was the gospel spread, so that then we could control how the gospel you know, I mean, I brings up those issues, I think, right, right. Especially if you’re British, it brings up a whole lot of, yeah. That’s a whole other project that is as a different podcast, but it it, it was kind of it was kind of blended for a long time, kind of the politics and the religion. It definitely was, and, and I think that it was paternalism and colonial right, and a lot of things. Yeah. And, and I think that may be one of the the things to note from, from this shift, and the center shifting is, is not just looking at the global churches or churches in Africa as Oh, yeah, that was where we sent people and they, but now looking at them as, as having a rightful seat at the table. Right. Right. And, and a rightful part of the kingdom of God and
sending missionaries to Europe and America, which is really fascinating. It’s like, you know, some of these churches already have, you know, congregations in the United States, but we just sort of always assumed that they’re with, you know, African expats, you know, right. But actually, that’s not necessarily true. They are out knocking on doors, because they consider a lot of, you know, I don’t know, Americans, sub Christian. I mean, we need evangelize. Yeah. Which is very different than when I grew up with.
Yeah, it was I mean, they’re, and they’re probably right, I’m right, honestly, probably, right. Yeah. With this with this kind of shift, and maybe some of those differences. What, what do you see as maybe some of those differences within the global church that has maybe caused tension?
Well, it’s interesting. Um, let me read a quote by Philip Jenkins, who has actually written a number of books on global Christianity. And the subtitle I think of one of his books is not the title, but the subtitle is believing the Bible in the global south. Because this gets really, really interesting once we start trying to talk about what beliefs are biblical or not. But anyway, Jenkins says, at least by the 1970s, churches were acknowledging at least in theory, that concepts of mission had to reflect changing realities. That mission can no longer be seen as a blessing bestowed by Europeans and Americans upon those less fortunate dwellers beyond the pale. But for all the well intentioned, egalitarian talk of mission in six continents, we still find people asking, semi humorously, whether someday we might even find African or Asian missionaries coming to evangelize Europe or North America, as this as if such missionary efforts were not already widespread and thrive right as to the intellectual effects of the epochal southward movement of Christianity. No less a celebrity that Andrew really once said, we will depend on them for vitality, but they will continue to depend on us for the ideas. And then Jenkins says aha I somehow doubt that the global selfs contribution to theological inquiry will be confined to rhythmic dancing or hand-clapping. Yeah, we’re already seeing that now. Yeah. For example, in some of these thriving and growing African initiated churches, a fairly common phenomenon or practice in these churches, looks to a lot of us, like ancestor worship, honestly. Yeah. Which, which, of course, is sort of, you know, pre Christian cultural accretion from, from indigenous African societies, right. And I know that that bothers a lot of North American and European theologians, because they would consider that sub Christian, right, you can’t have these pagan sort of, you know, carryovers, into into Christianity. But two things are really interesting, but that, first of all, they don’t need our money. And they don’t need our people. And so you know, they don’t need us telling them what to do. But okay, we’ll just bracket that on the others. Right, yeah. But then they’ll also come back with another theological argument. And they’ll basically say something like this, and it often happens. It’s like, Well, you know, we just believe the Bible more than you do. So what do you think, you know, the author of Hebrews is talking about in Hebrews chapter 12, about this great cloud of witnesses that surround us. It’s like, we believe that, yeah, and they’re here, and they’ve always been here, right? And then of course, we’ll say, Well, no, no, no, that’s not what he’s talking about. He’s talking about, but they’ll say, Well, that seems to us exactly what he’s talking about. And so he goes around and around with that, and I’m not trying to say these aren’t important questions, because they aren’t right. A lot of it, though, brings up some interesting sub questions as to who gets to determine, you know, what is or what is not theologically kosher? And of course, I want to say I do, because I know I’m educated to seminary degree, you know, theological award winner, apparently. That’s right. That’s right. Right. And, but they’re not asking me, darn it, they’re not paying my way to Africa. Right? What’s the right way to interpret that verse, right. And it brings up even even more things about, you know, about the miraculous and the supernatural. And we were talking about that just a little bit before the podcast.
Yeah, that that definitely, when you look at Latin American churches and African churches, there is a much more openness to the movement in the Holy Spirit. And, and the supernatural. Right. And, and it’s interesting to, to, to maybe correlate that with growth, and decline, you know, in Western Europe and America, that’s a fascinating, fascinating question, the idea that there’s this more dependence or, or more understanding, or reality that God is here and is moving, right, like, in this world, it’s
interesting, supernatural way. So even even those of us that are, you know, conservative Bible believing Christians, you know, we’ll read the Old Testament. And, and we will believe that this is, you know, God’s inspired word. All this stuff happened, I believe all these miracle stories, but I don’t exactly expect them to be happening now. That was then this is now Yeah, you know, and we’ll even do that with some of the New Testament stuff, right? But but then you get, like, for example, you know, on an African believer for the first time opening up the Old Testament, it’s like, this just describes life, like, real life, because they live in an enchanted universe, and we have disenchanted it after the enlightenment. Yeah. And that’s sort of fascinating. It’s like, it’s like, so we live more in, I guess, a biblical world than you do. We expect this stuff to happen, because we’ve always believed that happens all the time.
Yeah. And, and that, that is a claim being made by the church in the global south or African churches of, of Yeah, of, and that’s a really interesting claim of, actually, we’re just trying to be more biblical, and live in this world. That is still enchanted. I think that’s really interesting use of language.
I didn’t come up with that word. But several people when they talk about the global south and world Christianity will talk about disenchantment and chin, you know, and the Enlightenment did a job on us. Oh, the issue is, though, I can’t go back. You know, I’m on the other side of the Enlightenment, right? And I read things and I think things through an enlightenment lens, it’s a Christian lens. It’s a conservative Christian lens, right. And enlightenment is is affected by this. And so and, you know, I guess if you just sort of looked him poorly, it’s like, well, aren’t they just on the other side of the Enlightenment to what happened like 300 years ago? Well, actually, no, right because it is not a phenomenon that happened in the global south. If it was with the global north, right, and and it, it has implications and repercussions about how people both read the Bible and believe the Bible and what the expectations are of how God works in the world.
And I think one of them implications for us then could be, how can we learn from the churches in Africa and Latin America and Southeast Asia? That can be viewing it from such a different lens than reviewing it? And and what can we learn about that experience and learn about a you know, not what can we go and correct in their theology? Right, but what can we learn to be able to see Christianity through this lens that is that is maybe completely different than ours? Right. And it’s so important. And it’s so important. I mean, and that’s why we I think that’s one of the reasons why we send people out and and why even here, Jessup we send students out because we want them to engage in different cultures and to learn from them.
And that is a very good thing. You know, we do. One thing I do when I teach Christian perspective, when we’re talking about global Christianity is we’ll kind of go around, and I’ll ask a question to all the students. Have you ever attended a worship service in a church outside of the United States? And so you know, if I had asked that question, like, 40 years ago, it’s like, maybe a couple of people would have right, but now it’s like three quarters of the class because of the mission trip phenomenon. We’ve all been on mission trips, right easily. It’s like, you know, Mexicali, or something? That still sounds like mission II does guarantee and I think that’s a good change my life. That’s totally it’s a good thing. Yeah. And it does send it does engender more awareness as to the global church. But yet still, I think, in a way, that’s not quite the experience we’re thinking about, because we always go to our places that we sort of found it in these other places. And so what we expected, because I’ll also ask them, like, so what was different? Well, it’s like, well, it was longer and they sing louder. Right? And that’s kind of it. Yeah, they still saying the same stuff? Because our missionaries taught them to sing these right? Yeah. cetera. Oh, yeah. And
I’m not knocking that that’s better than nothing. I really believe that. Brian really didn’t. But but it goes deeper than this whole question goes deeper. Yeah. It really does. It goes deeper to kind of how you fundamentally see the world. Exactly. And, and to be able to learn from brothers and sisters who, who view the world just differently, who don’t have that. When they read a miracle in the New Testament. They don’t have maybe that same skepticism that just creeps into even if even if you affirm right miracles and experience Well, yes. Yeah, it’s still really easy to, to not expect that that is a reality that we live in. Now.
And I’m not trying to suggest, because I think it’s easy to go there with this, with what can we learn? And you know, how can we explore the differences? And, you know, between, I guess, Euro American Christianity and Christianity in the global south? Yeah, I’m not trying to suggest that there aren’t any questions. All right. Questions. All right. Horton. Yeah. It’s not like everything goes or anything goes. It does, however, bring up really interesting conversations about what is core? And what is cultural about the gospel. Yeah, you know. And I will often say, and sometimes students will have to unpack it a little bit before they try to figure out what I’m talking about. Christianity is not a cultural religion. And then we keep on trying to make it one. Islam is Islam as a cultural religion. Yeah, Christianity is not and never has been, although we try to make it right. Right. And that’s what then the questions get really interesting about what’s, you know, what’s core to the gospel? And what’s just cultural? Yeah, you know, what’s okay and what’s not okay. Right. You know, and I know, we can point to a lot of things in some of the churches in the global south, especially with these independent churches, and we can say, you know, you’re messing with the core. And I do think that there’s some legitimate questions there. Right. But they’ll also put the finger back at us. Yeah, say, well, you messed up with the core A long time ago. Can you just have normalized it? Right? You know, but yeah, not Christianity. It’s something else. And so I think we can learn from those
right you know, those and that’s the give and take of the dialogue, right? You learn and and maybe areas where you’d be like, Oh, I don’t know about that. They also can look at Christianity in America and be like, whoo, I don’t know about that. And, and we can and and learn from that. I do think the Korean culture is really important. And we’ve kind of recognized that I feel like in kind of maybe recent missionary endeavors, we’ve started to recognize like, Hey, we don’t need to go into and change this culture. We need to fix You’re out how the core, but that still always is apart. And it’s hard in is to not, you know, do that even if it’s subconsciously.
It’s fascinating. So when I was in Colombia for a couple of years, there was a, I guess this is in the 1960s. There was this, I think he was a shoe store magnate from the south or something that, um, decided that he was going to build a bunch of huge Baptist churches in the major cities in Colombia. Okay. Because to sort of compete with the Catholic cathedrals, right, because he was just
saying he was a shoe magnate from south in North America. Yeah, yeah.
This is Southern Baptists. Yes. All right. Anyway, anyway, I’m trying, I’m tracking and assessing because his, his, his, you know, whole idea was, if they build issues, churches, when people are going to come to them, because you know, the architecture is going to make it feel like it’s more of a church. And so we call them German churches, because that was the guy’s name. Okay. And almost all of them are empty. Now in Colombia. It’s not, you know, he just people want the gospel, not necessarily, let’s build buildings as big as the Catholic buildings, and therefore, people will all leave the Catholic Church and become Baptist or something. Right. And then he got mad at something. So we stopped doing it. But that’s, you know,
yeah. Which also maybe seems to highlight another issue within within global Christianity, in the sense of that, the divide between Catholic and Protestant, sometimes caused, I think, Protestant missionaries to, to not only spread the gospel, but try to maybe spread some type of anti Catholic message, you know, or that, like, it’s totally happened. Yeah. And it was, I’ve seen that in different mission fields. And I’m like, I don’t think you need to convert them from like, I think the gospel Now, again, there’s core issues, and we can talk about those core issues. Right. But that seemed to be also a misstep.
But a very common one. Yeah. Very, very calm. And then understandable. One, I mean, I think, but yeah, that has sort of limited effect. It is really interesting. I remember talking to people in Colombia, it’s like, in the end, it’s like, you know, I really resonate with this, but you’re, I’m, I’m Colombian, I’m, I believe in Jesus, I’m Catholic. But you’re trying to say I can’t be those things if I really want to be a Christian and right conversation goes into really interesting places with that. And so, you know, there’s plenty people that need Jesus. Yeah,
yeah, definitely. One, I think this is such a good topic. I mean, and it’s only going to get more and more of a topic, obviously, not going away, not going away. And and I think it’s important for the specifically American church to recognize the power shift and recognize how can we be working with right, the church globally, not working against or working just to spread our kingdom in that sense? And I think that’s, that’s really important. And so we’re excited. And another we’re going to do another episode on this. And we’re going to have Dr. Daniel Gluck on who’s who’s done a lot of work with African churches, right. And excited to hear some stories from him. And some stories from here are some more Colombian churches. Yeah, have some
Ecuador experience. Yeah, you know, we can we can tell missionary stories for
and and i think i think on this one just kind of land a want to kind of end with this is actually a quote, it was in a Philip Jenkins article. He’s not the only one that writes on daily, but it was it was interesting that we both were read by him. Right. And he’s actually quoting Vincent DePaul, and in 1640, like, it was a really dark time when he was writing. And, and he just made the recognition Vincent DePaul made the recognition in 1640 that Jesus promised the church would last until the end of the time, right to the end of the ages. But he never mentioned Europe. Right. That was where the Paul points out. Forward Yeah. And and I think that that’s really important and maybe global Christianity can help us and America recognize the church. Like God’s kingdom God’s people on earth is so much bigger than one country and always has been Yeah, it’ll be bigger than the African church right
like It Will the Lord Terry then I’m sure it’ll shift again Yeah, some way and and recognize now, but you’re right, people would have laughed about some of this stuff hundreds of years ago they really would have
they really and and and I think it’s getting that like, global Christianity should help us get a bigger vision for the kingdom of God.
I know that that Two years I spent in Colombia going to just kind of local body or churches, not a missionary inside except for me, I guess. Friendships missionary, but I wasn’t Yeah, or anything really changed my life, about everything you know about who Christian is and what, you know, what it means for God to bless and bless and how one looks at that. Yeah. And it’s so important, really important thing to happen to me.
Yeah. So important. And at the end of the book of Revelation, we have this scene of, of the kingdom of God kind of worshipping right and coming together. And I love the phrase, right? every tribe, every nation, right. And, and I feel like that picture like if we could put that to an image looks so different than many of the times that the church we have in our head that is maybe very homogenous, and and the same in it. And it will be it’s so important for us to think to start to capture that vision now, of the Church of God, global Christianity, being so diverse in and really seeing the beauty in that and, and, and trying to reach for the unity in that and think is really important to to kind of bring this topic up and kind of expand, expand our vision. I totally agree with that. Thank you for listening to Jessup. Think Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Jessup think we would love to hear your thoughts on the episode and engage with any questions you have. Our aim is to provide a framework for further reflection and deeper exploration of these important topics. You can also help the show by leaving a review on iTunes these reviews help the podcast reach new listeners. Until next time, I’m Mark Moore and this is Jessup.
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