How Christianity is Growing Around the World
In his book The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington predicts that demographics will decide the clash between Christianity and Islam. And, as he puts it, "in the long run, Muhammad wins out."
In this instance, Huntington is wrong. For the foreseeable future there will be many more Christians than Muslims in the world.
As Penn State professor Philip Jenkins writes in The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, predictions like Huntingtons betray an ignorance of the explosive growth of Christianity outside of the West.
For instance, in 1900, there were approximately 10 million Christians in Africa. By 2000, there were 360 million. By 2025, conservative estimates see that number rising to 633 million. Those same estimates put the number of Christians in Latin America in 2025 at 640 million and in Asia at 460 million.
According to Jenkins, the percentage of the worlds population that is, at least by name, Christian will be roughly the same in 2050 as it was in 1900. By the middle of this century, there will be three billion Christians in the world -- one and a half times the number of Muslims. In fact, by 2050 there will be nearly as many Pentecostal Christians in the world as there are Muslims today.
But at that point, only one-fifth of the worlds Christians will be non-Hispanic whites. The typical Christian will be a woman living in a Nigerian village or in a Brazilian shantytown.
And these changes will be more than demographic. Jenkins points out that who he calls "Southern Christians" -- those living in Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia -- are far more conservative, theologically and morally, than their counterparts in the West.
Thus, as Christianity becomes more Southern, it becomes more biblically orthodox. While people like Bishop John Shelby Spong and Templeton Prize winner Arthur Peacock insist that Christianity must abandon its historic beliefs to survive, it is precisely these historic beliefs that attract our Southern brethren.
And thats why in Spong and Peacocks own Anglican Communion African bishops are ordaining missionaries to re-convert the West.
This story of Christianitys explosive growth is one of the great untold stories of our time -- a story that North American Christians need to hear.
Its a story that repudiates those who say that Christians must compromise their beliefs to remain relevant. The opposite is the case. Biblical orthodoxy is winning converts while churches that have lost their biblical moorings languish.
This shift of Christianitys "center of gravity" is also a reminder to Western Christians that we are not the whole show, and we have to start thinking differently about ourselves. We are part of a much larger community: the worldwide Church.
Finally, its a sign that, no matter how bad things seem at home, God is at work throughout the world. Everywhere its proclaimed, the Gospel is changing lives and societies.
In this scary new world of globalization one thing remains true: Its Jesus who people of every realm and tongue bless.