World Christianity has a new address, a new look and many names

Global Christian Forum examines ‘profound realignment’

October 17, 2011

MANADO, Indonesia

“The story of Christianity as a worldwide faith is being written before our eyes,” declared Dana Robert of Boston University’s School of Theology as she addressed a group of world church leaders at the Global Christian Forum (GCF) here on the fundamental realignment of Christian faith around the globe.

“Christianity has undergone one of the greatest demographic and cultural shifts in its 2000 year history,” Robert said.

The gathering has brought together leaders from all major church traditions, all theological perspectives and major world communions including the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the Anglican Communion, the World Council of Churches, the World Evangelical Alliance, the Pentecostal World Fellowship and representatives of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for promotion of Christian Unity.

In a statistical analysis of the changing demographics and practices of global Christianity, Peter Crossing of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, told the GCF that a century ago 66 percent of the world’s Christians lived in Europe, but today it accounts for only 26 percent of the world’s Christian population.

He said the “Global North (defined as Europe and North America) contained over 80 percent of all Christians in 1910 falling to under 40 percent by 2010.” In 1910 less than 2 percent of all Christians lived in Africa but by 2010 this had skyrocketed to 20 percent of world Christianity by 2010.

Crossing, who is a researcher for the Atlas of Global Christianity, said that while the overall number of Christians globally had remained fairly constant over the last one hundred years there has been “dramatic change in the center of gravity of global Christianity.”

A century ago the statistical “center of gravity” for Christianity was near Madrid, but “in 2010 the statistical center had shifted to somewhere just south of Timbuktu in Mali. This 100-year shift is the most dramatic in Christian history,” Crossing said.

One thing has not changed: where the financial resources reside. “Finances are still firmly in the (global) North. Sixty percent of Christians live in the South, but they have only 17 percent of Christian income,” Crossing said.

He also noted that a century ago Christianity was largely a Western phenomenon, “including strong European Roman Catholic presence in Latin America, where few church leaders were Latin Americans.” Today the new expressions of Global Christianity are coming from Africa and Asia.

Crossing said the change was most dramatically illustrated by in the “mother-tongues” used in worship and the number of denominations: today Mandarin Chinese is the fifth most prevalent language used by Christians to worship God ― 100 years ago China hardly registered. The top four languages spoken by Christians today are Spanish, Portuguese, English and French. 

Globally, there are some 41,000 Christian denominations, reflecting “the fragmentation” of the global church, Crossing said.

Within these profound changes, Crossing said, there have also been major developments in existing churches: revivalism, indigenous churches and renewal churches had flourished in every continent but, again, especially in the South.

Another presenter, Sang-Bok David Kim of the World Evangelical Alliance, told the GCF that the huge changes in the church internationally means “Christianity is no longer a ‘white man’s religion. Christians are now everywhere.”

Looking at comparative numbers Kim said Christianity was still the world’s largest faith grouping with 32.9 percent of the global population followed by Islam at 22.9 percent. “Muslims are increasing faster than Christians, not so much from conversions, but due rather to their higher birth rate (1.9 percent, Christians 1.2 percent),” he said.

Although the Global North has declined in numbers overall, evangelical, Pentecostal and charismatic communities continue to grow there, as well as in Africa, Latin America and Asia, Kim said.

He noted one of the most “astonishing success stories” has been the work of evangelical missions post-World War II and the subsequent growth of indigenous evangelical movements globally. “Evangelicals numbered 82 million (2.9 percent) in 1960 and they have reached 546 million in 2010 (7.9 percent),” he said.

Robert said these changes raise critical questions for all churches. “Contemporary Christians are focusing on mission for multiple purposes,” she said, “both to recover tradition and to recover from tradition.

“Conversations about mission and witness have become an urgent agenda for declining mainline Christians… as they struggle to reframe their identity in a global marketplace. At the same time, adherents of new ministries often see their witness as a recovery of primitive Christianity that challenges the older denominations.”

Robert opined that “today’s urgent need for Christian unity does not look like the 1950s and 1960s, when self-satisfied Protestant leaders pushed for organic unity at the expense of diversity of witness. The growth that characterizes world Christianity today means that unity will be taken seriously only where mission is taken seriously,” she said. 

That mission however is varied. Kim noted that “re-evangelization” is the prime task of many churches such as in the Russian Orthodox, which was “concentrating more on evangelization of the 80 percent nominal Orthodox Christians” rather than concerns of proselytism of the 1990s.

And Crossing said statistics showed there was over 1.136 billion hours of evangelism across the globe per year: “enough evangelism for every person to hear a one-hour presentation of the gospel every other day all year long,” but “it was mostly directed at other Christians!” 

  1. Jesus threatens to destroy one (actually two) of His churches in Revelations because of idolatry and the practice of the Nicolatians. ( this is thought to be nico-subdue latians- laity) to subdue the lay members of the churches. He commends the church for keeping the faith in Him but He hates idolatry , which He considers spiritual fornication. In Revelations Jesus talks about the great whore that sits on 7 hills or mountains. This is commonly thought to be Rome, (which was also the head of the roman empire) The mark of the beast is a mark in the right hand or forehead, which is the name , number or mark of the beast The mark is the number of a man, and we are told to count the numbers in this mans name. The Pope has a title VICARIUS FILII DEI which equals 666 in roman numerals if you count a U for a V. This title means in Latin, to “act in the place of the Son of the Deity” God also said in Revelations that He would put His seal in the foreheads of men. I believe this is spiritual, not a tattoo . (God doesn’t like tattoos, see old testament law) I think Satan will pervert Gods word to convince people that the mark is Gods seal. Satan tried to use Gods word against Jesus when He tempted Him in the wilderness, but Jesus knew satan was taking the word out of context. If the great whore talked about is the first beast, then the image of the beast would be the likeness of a woman. I believe Mary is blessed among women, but I don’t think she answers prayer or does miracles like the Catholic church teaches. Also in Revelations it says the second beast will have awesome power in the presence of the first beast. In the 1800’s it was decided by the Bishops that the Pope was infallible when deciding something on behalf of the Catholic church. A lot of Catholics believe that the Popes word is Gods direct word from heaven. I believe the Pope is a fallible, mortal man. It is also talked about in Revelations that the beast shall receive a deadly wound but recover and the whole world will wonder after the beast. The Catholic church has been devastated by sexual perversion on the part of many priests, could this be the deadly wound talked about? I try to be careful who I share this belief with because not everyone can receive this teaching. (If it’s true) Also, I have seen great temptation come on some who believe this and teach this.

    by tim june

    November 6, 2013

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