University of Oxford

World Christianity and the Global South

Evangelical Christianity is growing twice as fast as any other religion of the world. Most Christians now live in the global south. The global south was once referred to as the developing world or the third world.

In 1949 there were an estimated 1 million Christians in China; today estimates are 80 to 100 million Christians. Christianity in India is growing; Christians in India have increased from 1.5% to 6% of the population. These are by far the two most populous countries in the world. The Christians in these countries are primarily Bible-believing evangelicals.

In the 13th century Kublai Khan asked for one hundred learned men to come to the Far East (China and Mongolia region) to teach the Christian faith and culture to his people. After World War II General MacArthur asked for a thousand missionaries to go and preach the gospel in Japan. Sadly the church largely failed both challenges.

Currently half the missionaries going out are from the Western world and half are from the global south. Here are the percentages of Christian missionaries going out from each area of the world:

North America 39%

Europe 11%

Asia 36% (South Korea having the biggest share here)

Africa 6%

Latin America 5%

The Pacific 3%

North America and Europe combined are the source of only 50% of the missionaries now, while a few decades ago the percentage was much higher. The last four categories combined make up the global south and add up also to 50%

Some churches in Africa are made up of over 20% orphans and widows. More and more churches, especially in the global south, serve the homeless, the jobless, the addicted, and those without either a Bible or Christian neighbors or relatives. Many of the global south churches have only a Bible or two, among the whole congregation. These are great challenges, but also great opportunities, for the church of Jesus Christ.

The Biblical model of making disciples of people groups (nations) of the world is evangelistic church planting. This is particularly evident in the book of “The Acts of the Apostles”, which would more appropriately be titled “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.” People and prayer are much more important than programs and property, in the book of Acts, and also today. Prayer, not new programs, is the Biblical strategy. God uses people who prove the greatness of their God and give all the glory to Him. As we do his Kingdom work, God receives the glory and honor due his great name.

Send us around the world with the news of your saving power and your eternal plan for all mankind. How everyone throughout all the earth will praise the Lord! How glad the nations will be, singing for joy because you are their King.”  Psalm 67: 2-4a (Living Bible, Tyndale House Publishers)

Look out among the nations, observe and be astounded, be amazed; for I am doing a work in your day, which you would not believe, if it were told you.” Habakkuk 1:5 (the Modern Language Bible: The New Berkeley Version, Zondervan Publishing House)

FOR FURTHER READING:

Bosch, David J, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Missions, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2005  (definite work on missions by a South African, who died in an accident)

Jenkins, Philip, The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006

Jenkins, Philip, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002

Sanneh, Lamin, Disciples of All Nations: Pillars of World Christianity, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008  (author from Gambia, educated on four continents, professor at Yale University)

Yohannan, K. P., Revolution in World Missions, Carrolton, Texas: gpa books, a division of Gospel for Asia, 2001  (author from India)

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