We’ve just got back from Summer Encounter 2012, the CMS South Australia conference, at which Lindsay Brown was a keynote speaker. His roles have included the International General Secretary of IFES and International Director at the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (Cape Town 2010).
Lindsay shared a series of snapshots of the state of world Christianity, including 3 aspects of growth:
1. Growth has followed in the wake of the fall of world powers, especially communism. The years since 1989 have seen Christianity’s most widespread growth ever; it is thoroughly worldwide. Mongolia had just 6 Christians but now has more than 160 churches, while the Christian population of Albania has grown from 2 to 2000. The number of Christians in Nepal, which was entirely cut off from Christianity until 1954, is now approaching 1 million. Russia had 80000 Christians but now has ten times that. As an example of contributing factors, this Russian growth is largely due to a local movement, the once-closeted Christians of Ukraine who had been forcibly incorporated into the USSR many years ago.
2. Evangelicals now form a truly worldwide movement. The five biggest evangelical populations are found in China, India, USA, Brazil and Nigeria. There are more than 70 million evangelicals in China, making up three quarters of its Christian population. Ethiopia’s evangelical student movement is the most explosive of its kind, having grown tenfold since 1989 to around 25000 members today. Europe is the only continent where evangelical Christianity is not expanding rapidly.
3. The most substantial missionary force is now non-western, including probably 60% of all cross-cultural missionaries. Nigeria has run at least one massive student conference entirely focused on cross-cultural mission, and the relationship between Nigeria and Europe has now flip-flopped entirely, as they tell it: there are now 4000 Nigerian missionaries in Europe when once it was the other way around. The growth of Christianity in France stems significantly from African immigration.
What do you make of this? For us Western evangelicals, much of this is still “new news” for our church life and ministry headspace. For one thing, it strikes me that the voices worth listening to are those that are conversant with world Christianity. Speaking as an Australian evangelical, do our horizons extend beyond our own back yard? Is our current enthusiasm for church planting just about “home renovation” or is it genuinely tied in with global growth? In terms of what we’re reading and talking about, what do our RSS feeds and Facebook walls say about our headspace?
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.