No, the Church Is Not Dying; But It Is Changing

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You’ve heard the grim statistics: Self-identifying Christians are on the decline in America, while “nones”—those with no religious affiliation at all—are on the rise and not particularly looking to change their minds. Each successive generation is increasingly unchurched, and half of our congregations aren’t growing at all. Only 20 percent of us are sitting in a pew on any given Sunday.

The conclusion seems obvious, right? The Church is dying, right? Millennials have traded God for Google and soon the only time any of us will be in a church building is if it happens to house our swanky new apartment.

In many ways this is an alluring meme, but it has the significant flaw of being patently false. Now, I don’t deny that the American church has hit a rough patch. But a crucial, little fact that all of us Americans, religious or not, have often had a long habit of forgetting is that we are not the most important people in the world—and we’re definitely not the center or pacesetter of the global church. So while the statistics about the American church are troubling, American Christianity is far from the only thing going. Consider:

• In 1900, Europe and North America housed 82 percent of Christians worldwide.
• By 2010, just 38 percent of professed Christians lived on these two continents.
• By 2050, that projected figure is a mere 27 percent.

So where is the church definitely not shrinking? In the Global South: Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

The explosive growth of the church in the Global South means many things, but for us in the West it particularly requires a reformation of what we picture when we think about the broader church. “We are currently living in one of the transforming moments in the history of religion worldwide,” writes Philip Jenkins, author of The Next Christendom, a definitive (and very readable) work on global church demographics which is the source and inspiration for much of what I’ve written here.

As the church transforms, our understanding of it must transform too. So what does that look like?

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Relevant Magazine
Bonnie Kristian

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