Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Rise and Fall and Rise of Global Christianity

Next year we will celebrate the 100 anniversary of the Edinburgh World Mission Conference in 1910. At the beginning of the 20th century about more than 80 % of the Christians in the world lived in the West, i.e., in Europa and North America. And if we go a few centuries further back in time more than 90 % of alle Christians were either Europeans or North Americans. And today only about a third of all Christians live in the West.

The modern missionary movement, whose climax was the 1910 conference in Edinburgh, did not result in the conversion of all the world to Christianity – the perecentage of Christians is about the same today as it was in when mission leaders gathered in Edinburgh a hundred years ago under the slogan ”The Christianization of the World in Our Generation – but it led to an impressive globalisation. Christianity can no longer be presented as ”the white man’s religion”.

Reading Philip Jenkins’ excellent book, ”The Lost History of Christianity” (2008), I was once again reminded that the development of Christianity has not in any sens been linear and progressive in terms of extension and size. Globalisation of Christianity is not a new thing in Christian history. For many centuries in the middle ages Christianity just as globalised as it is now. Jenkins rightly observes that

”For most of its history, Christianity was a tricontinental religion, with powerful representation in Europe, Africa and Asia, and this was true into the fourtheenth century. Christianity became predominantly European not because this continent had any obvious affinity for that faith, but by defaltu. Europe was the continent where it was not destroeyed. Matters could easily have developed very differently” (p. 3).

We should keep this in mind as we celebrate the100 anniversary of Edinburgh 1910. And we should ponder this historical fact as we today celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, who on this day before ascending – so that He could and can be globally present with his church - gave his disciples then (and also his disciples today) the great commission that whereever we are or go to share the good news and call people to become His disciples.

Christiansfeld, Ascension Day, May 21, 2009
Mogens S. Mogensen

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