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The Christian Century

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The 21st century will be The Christian Century. Christianity is booming throughout the world and most of us in North America aren’t even aware of this trend. Throughout the Western world, Christianity is on the wane. In Europe, the Christian faith has given way to a secular faith and most churches are empty on a Sunday morning. Only in America is Christianity continuing to grow and this is due to immigration and faster birthrates than seen in Europe.
The center of the Christian world is presently moving south to Africa and South America. In Nigeria, there are more practicing Anglicans than in England and Uganda is catching up as well. The Philippines have more baptisms per year than France, Spain, Italy and Poland combined. Not only that, but there could be a theological schism developing between the new Christians in developing countries and their counterparts in the West. Another trend rarely noted; Christianity is faring very well in the competition for the soul of the world’s poor against Islam.

In 1900, Africa had only 10 million Christians, who represented about 9% of its population and today, nearly half of all Africans profess their faith in Jesus Christ. Latin America is practically all Christian and even in Asia, there are over 300 million practicing Christians. The growth of the Church in the developing nations is phenomenal and Professor Phillip Jenkins wrote, “In its variety and vitality, in its global reach, in its association with the world’s fastest-growing societies . . . it is Christianity that will leave the deepest mark on the twenty-first century.” The largest populations of Christians now live in Africa and Latin America.

This boom will redefine the regions, politics and Christianity theology. The more secular West is pushing for greater reform in its churches whereas Southern Hemisphere Christians are requesting a return to either a more traditional Catholic Church or are flocking to the evangelical version of Christianity. While Europe and America control the leadership of the major denominations today, theologians in the developing world will soon be challenged for leadership roles. Many believers in the Southern Hemisphere look to spiritual revelation and exorcism of demonic forces and are creating a new version of early Christianity.

As many of these countries move toward democracy, the newfound Christian faith is going to play a key role in the nature of these nations. In Africa and Asia, Church leaders stand for the Christian principles of justice and morality. During the 1980s, it was the Catholic Church and its leader that kept alive the hope of democracy under the nose of the Marxist regime in Nicaragua. The church played a key role in ending apartheid in South Africa. The real problem will be the direct competition for souls with the growth of Islam. We are seeing conflicts in Sudan and Nigeria. In Sudan, Christians are persecuted and occasionally enslaved by the government. It is estimated that Muslims in the North have killed two million Christians and animists in an attempt to Islamicize the entire country.

While some predict a split between the Church in the Southern Hemisphere and in the North, others see a more ominous threat as Islam and Christianity veer on a collision course for converts and influence in the developing countries. Crusades and jihads may yet bring ruin to various developing countries. In Nigeria, this conflict has the potential of spilling in the street where Christians and Muslims are almost equal in population and some in the Islamic community pushing for the imposition of the strict Islamic rules that could preclude the open practice of Christianity.

For the Christian, all persons stand equal to the eyes of God and such equality can secure peace, freedom and representative government that protects the rights of all. As Christian influence grows in the developing nations, new civilizations may yet grow as these nations go from developing to being developed.

Ed/Pub:LisaM

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