In his book, “The Reason for God,” Tim Keller argues that Christianity is the only truly global religion. Indeed, within a few generations of Christ, the Christian faith had spread across much of the known world—from India to North Africa to furthest reaches of the Roman Empire and into the barbarian lands of Northern Europe. Yet up until a hundred years or so ago, for all kinds of historical and sociological reasons, Christianity became a predominantly Western religion.
The missionary efforts of the last hundred years began to change that, and now Pew Research predicts that Africa will be the most Christian continent within about 40 years.
The story behind this geographical relocation is overwhelmingly a story of missions. For centuries, the West sent evangelists to Africa, Asia, and South America to preach the Gospel, plant churches, and create Christian communities where none existed. Whereas the heroes of the faith in the ancient church were theologians and bishops, and those during the Reformation were, well, reformers, most of the names we recognize since the Reformation are the missionaries: William Carey, Hudson Taylor, Gladys Aylward, Eric Liddell, Jim Elliot, Amy Carmichael.
This move of the Gospel from the West to the South and the East could be one of the largest scale fulfillments of the Great Commission since Jesus first gave it.
Yet, as a fascinating piece in The Economist explains, the direction of the flow of Christian missions has now largely reversed. As it did, the geographic center of the faith also shifted. A century ago, as Pew reports, over ninety percent of the world’s Christians lived in Europe and the Americas, and less than six percent in Africa and Asia. Today, over a third of all Christians hail from those continents.
As this Christian population shift has taken place, something else interesting has also happened. Poor, developing countries that once benefited from Western missionaries coming into their cultures have started sending missionaries of their own back to the rich and increasingly irreligious West.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, John Stonestreet and G. Shane Morris