Aaron Earls has posted on global Christianity trends in an article at the Facts and Trends blog. We Americans have a tendency to assume that the USA is the world, and so we think that what happens here determines how the rest of the world thinks and behaves. But the fact is that we are but one nation out of many, and most Christians live somewhere else.
4. Christianity is no longer a Western-dominated religion.
In 1900, there were twice as many Christians in Europe as the rest of the world combined. By 2017 both Africa and Latin America will have passed Europe in the number of Christians living there.
By 2050, Africa will be home to 1.25 billion Christians. In a few decades, more than 1 in 8 people in the world will be an African Christian.
You should see the Friends I have on Facebook. Increasingly, my readers are native missionaries and teachers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. And they are energetically preaching the gospel as fast as resources allow.
In many parts of the world, the Internet has shown how Hindu and Muslim life compares to life in a Christian nation. Countless Bible versions, commentaries, and other Christian resources are available on the Internet for free. And although American influence has been on the decline as the generation that remembers World War II is dying, the American influence is being replaced with native missionaries — men and women who know their people, language, and culture better than any American possibly could.
It’s a big deal. The old model of finding a young man with a Bible major and shipping him off to a foreign shore with a box of Bibles and tracts no longer works. In fact, our missionaries tended to recruit just enough new Christians to form a church of about 100 members, and then the American missionary became the American located preacher — more focused on the flock than evangelism — and numerical growth ended. Worse yet, the presence of the highly educated American tended to make the church too reliant on the preacher for Bible knowledge and leadership, stunting the development of leadership from within the church itself. When the preacher died or retired, the church soon died as well.
But we’re learning better ways to do missions and to train missionaries. And we’ll likely have to relearn our methods yet again in another generation. The old methods rarely work today, but God is still alive, the Spirit is still powerful, and Jesus will still draw believers — if we’ll pay attention to where God is active and work together to share victories and defeats and learn from our experiences together.