- Sunday, March 01, 2009
To illustrate that our current cultural calamity is a uniquely Western problem and in no way indicative of global prophetic fulfillment, Mark Hutchinson, chairman of the church history department at Southern Cross College in Australia, said, "What many pundits thought was the death of the church in the 1960s through secularization of the West was really its relocation and rebirth into the rest of the world."15 In The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Philip Jenkins, professor of history and religious studies at Penn State, wrote, "For over a century, the coming decline or disappearance of religion has been a commonplace assumption of Western thought, and church leaders have sometimes shared this pessimistic view."16 However, Jenkins pointed out, "We are currently living through one of the transforming moments in the history of religion worldwide. . . . The era of Western Christianity has passed within our lifetimes, and the day of Southern [referring to the southern hemisphere] Christianity is dawning."17 Professor Jenkins added that "Christians should enjoy a worldwide boom in the new century, but the vast majority of believers will be neither white nor European, nor Euro-American."18
A Worldwide Rebirth
The fact is, the so-called passage of Christianity in the West is overshadowed by the extraordinary expansion of the church currently under way throughout the rest of the world. Indeed, the numbers are astonishing. Ed Vitagliano, writing for the American Family Association Journal, pointed out that
in Africa in the year 1900, for example, there were approximately 10 million Christians on the entire continent. By 2000, that number had grown to 360 million. The Anglican Communion is a perfect example of this worldwide trend. Whereas in its U.S. branch — the Episcopal Church — membership has declined over the last 40 years to 2.3 million, in Uganda alone there are more than 8 million Anglican Christians.19
Researcher David Barrett, author of the well-respected World Christian Encyclopedia, told us that "Africa is gaining 8.4 million new Christians a year."20 Vitagliano added,
South Korea is another example of a nation in which the growth of Christianity has been stunning. In 1920 there were only about 300,000 believers in all of Korea. But today, in South Korea alone, there are 10 to 12 million Christians — about 25% of the population. Worldwide, evangelical Christians are a thriving part of the Christian community. Yet today, 70% of evangelical Christians live outside the West.21
According to David Aikman, Time magazine's former chief in Beijing, "China is in the process of becoming Christianized. . . . It is possible that Christians will constitute 20 to 30 percent of China's population within three decades!"22
Gene Edward Veith, culture critic for World Magazine, pointed out that "it is not modernist, liberal Christianity that is sweeping through the Southern Hemisphere but a Christianity in which the gospel is proclaimed, that believes God's Word, that refuses to conform to the world."23 The fact is, according to the "American Religious Identity Survey" conducted by the City University of New York, "The number of adherents to Christianity [in the United States] is in significant decline while every other false religious system is experiencing unprecedented growth."24 These facts should challenge those who abandon their responsibilities to the culture on the assumption that the apparent decline of Christian influence in America is attributable to prophetic fulfillment. In fact, it could be argued that this very same attitude has only contributed to the church's decline and lack of relevance.
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