Monday, August 25, 2008

Now what?

As we've looked over the history of the Bible and Christianity, we've seen that a significant historical event has occurred roughly every 500 years. Well, since the Reformation, roughly that amount of time has elapsed. Are we on the verge of something big? Has it already happened? Well, at the risk of being chronocentric, I think so.

As modeled by Philip Jennings' book The Next Christendom, there are several developments in worldwide Christianity that began within the last century. The 19th century was marked by a new wave of missions movements marked with the purpose of starting indeginous churches in nations around the world. These churches wouldn't just be European-style churches in non-European nations. Rather, they would be run by the people of the country, so that they could more effectively reach out.

In addition to this missions movement, two theological movements have gained a stronger foothold throughout the world. First, the Holiness movement led by Methodists, Wesleyans, and Nazarenes encouraged people to live more holy lives and to seek the sanctifying, cleansing power of the Holy Spirit. This message caught on throughout the world and sparked the sending of missionaries specifically to Asia, South America, and Africa.

Another movement that developed in many denominations (including my own) was the Pentecostal movement. This group took the Holiness message and ran with it, also encouraging the powerful inward change brought by the Holy Spirit. This change was an empowerment to ministry and service called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Armed with these message, missions thrived in a way it never had before. However, the missionaries were not the only ones spreading the gospel. Christianity has now become the native religion in several nations, and its growth is unstoppable. It is now believed that there are more Christians in China than in the U.S. Ethiopian Anglicans significantly outnumber British Anglicans. The Assemblies of God in Brazil has 10 times as many members as the Assemblies in the U.S. Christianity used to be primarily European, now Europe can lay no claim to the reigns of this change.

Christianity is expanding in the "Global South". South America, Asia, and Africa have seen explosions of converts, specifically in the Holiness and Pentecostal movements. God is doing something big in the world right now, and it has been going on for over 100 years. We should not be absent from the change in the world, but should become increasingly aware and involved in it.

What changes will God bring about in the next 500 years? I can't wait to see!

(This is part of the Half-Mil Bible history, focusing on key events in Judeo-Christian history every 500 years. The first post was on the Exodus, the second post was on the establishment of the monarchy, the third post was on the return from exile, the fourth post was about Christ, the fifth post was on the Council of Nicaea, the sixth post was on the Schism, and the seventh post was on the Reformation.)

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