It is impossible to capture everything that has happened in this period without a meaningless barrage of statistics. Instead will give seven vignettes into world Christianity.
Pentecostalism in Latin American
Growth of Global Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism is the fastest growing Christian movement in history. With over half a billion adherents it is second only to Roman Catholicism as a block within Christianity. 75% of all Latin American Protestants are Pentecostals.
Pentecostals and Christendom
For centuries, Latin Americans were christianized and introduced into a monolithic Catholic Christendom. This has broken down, as more and more people become Pentecostal believers. However, the rise of Pentecostalism has also been met with genuine revival within the Catholic church.
This is not a repeat of the reformation and counter-reformation, but there are similarities.
Pentecostal Influence on Theological Discourse
It has taken a while but the Western world is now taking the impact of Latin Pentecostal theology seriously.
African Independent Churches in Sub-Saharan Africa
The demise of colonialism in Africa was matched by a growth in the church. Now about 46% of Sub-Saharan Africans identify themselves as Christians.
Much of this growth is among the traditional, Anglican, Catholic and Protestant churches, however, there is significant growth in African Independent Churches or AICs.
“The AIC represents vital new theological and ecclesiastical developments within African Christianity, which will have a tremendous influence on the future of Christianity all over the world.”
The Rise of the AIC
The first AIC in the modern period were established in Sierra Leone in the mid 1800s. In order to make their voice heard, the AIC tried to join established conciliar bodies, but in 1978 the Organization of African Independent Churches was founded. The ‘I’ was eventually changed from Independent to ‘Instituted’. In 1998 the OAIC was invited to become an associate council of the World Council of Churches.
Causes in the Emergence of the AIC
- The rise in nationalism led to a desire to have African based churches.
- The desire to have churches which take pride in African identity and heritage.
- The need to address doctrinal issues which were ignored by the Western church.
Broad Categories of AIC
It is extremely difficult to categorise such a diverse movement.
Nationalistic or Ethiopian Churches
These were formed as a specific response to the colonial presence in Africa. They did not broadly change the theological background of the churches from which they sprung, but they insisted on African leadership and governance.
Zionist or Spirit Church
These are identified by their strong emphasis on the presence and power of the Spirit. They can be traced, to some extent, to Charismatic sects in the late C19 USA.
Messianic or Prophetic Churches
These have a similar stress on the Spirit as the Zionist churches, but they are formed around a single dominant personality. The Harrist Church of Ivory Coast is a good example as are the aladura churches in Nigeria.
Muslims Who are Following Christ in the Mosque
Not all Christian movements are large and attract huge numbers of people. There are numbers of people who are coming to Christ in the Islamic world, but who are rejecting the Western forms that the Gospel often comes wrapped up in. There are degrees to which these people identify as Christians – and a huge amount of controversy around the whole question.
South Indian Missionaries to North India
There are a serious number of South Indian ministries reaching out to the North of India.
The Non-Registered House Church Movement in China
Three Self Patriotic Movement
After the missionaries were removed from China, the Protestant churches came under the control of the state sponsored TSPM, which sought to control belief and have all pastors sign an oath of allegiance to the state. Those who refused where treated very badly.
Despite this, the unofficial church grew.
Today it is estimated that there are about 90M independent Christians in China as opposed to 15 in the TPSM.
Back to Jerusalem
This movement goes back to the 1940s and envisages taking the Gospel back along the Silk Road, by which it first reached China to the Muslim nations to the West.
It is not an organisation, but as a movement and aspiration it is very powerful.
The Korean Missionary Movement
Andrew Walls wrote:
“The greatest missionary nation is now Korea; in every continent there are Korean missionaries by the hundreds, in coming years we can expect hundreds more, preaching from Tashkent to Timbuktu, and reaching where westerners have long been unable to tread.”
Post-Christian Vibrancy in Europe
The impact of immigrant churches breathing new life in Europe and established churches learning how to live in post-Christendom is a fascinating story which is still unfolding.
This post consists of my personal notes taken from Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century (Invitation to Theological Studies Series) by Timothy Tennent. Once you have read all my notes, please buy the book!