Yesterday Dr. Philip Jenkins addressed students and faculty at Indiana Wesleyan University regarding his book The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (2002) and discussed a number implications for North American Christians. This colloquium was sponsored by the Division of Religion and Philosophy and coordinated by the Department of Intercultural Studies. Approximately five hundred fifty students, faculty, and guests participated in the event.
Following Dr. Jenkins’ opening presentation, both Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church, and Dr. Jolly Beyioku, Associate Professor of International and Community Development gave their reactions. Then Drs. Jenkins, Lyon, and Beyioku responded to questions from those present.
Wholeness of Spirit, Mind, and Body
Following are a few of the highlights of Dr. Jenkins’ initial presentation:
- The center of Christianity is shifting from the more developed and wealthy societies of the west to less developed and poorer regions of the south, which can be represented by countries like Nigeria and Brazil.
- Christians in the global south—Africa, Asia and Latin America—find many similarities between the Biblical narrative and contemporary life.
- Key themes of Christianity of the global south include emphases on healing and charismatic holiness, with a message of wholeness in spirit, mind and body.
- In the global south, deliverance and liberation are embraced together. Deliverance focuses on the miraculous work of the Spirit through healing and restoration, while liberation involves God’s people joining together to bring change and transformation in the world.
Is Christianity in North America a Mile Wide but Only an Inch Deep?
Lots of good questions were submitted, although there was time to address only a few. Here I will share many of these questions for our continued discussion:
- Some have said that Christianity in Africa is a mile wide but only inches deep. How do you respond to this? Could it have anything to do with the fact that Christianity looks so different there that some do not know how to interpret it?
- How does the African Pentecostal Church avoid dangerous heresies, e.g., syncretism with former African religions?
- In what ways can we as North American Christians better understand and engage in the idea of holistic redemption, an idea that other cultures seem to grasp in deeper ways?
- What is the future of denominationalism in the global south? What are the implications for western denominations?
- How do we in the west and our institutions adapt and prepare for these changes?
- Would the decline of the western church contribute to the growing use of eastern worship practices in America’s churches?
- What hope can you offer for Western Christianity? What practical insights can you share regarding the West?
- Since a vast majority of us here will most likely be staying in the western context, how can we integrate this into our churches and youth groups?
- How does this play out practically in our lives? Should we teach and practice the gifts of the Spirit or is it more to live with an awareness of healing, exorcisms, etc.?
- Should the mission field include North America too?
- Do you believe that wealth is a liability for the preservation of faith? Are Christians who are converted poor more resilient in their faith?
- If Christianity is increasing among the poor, how does this affect the education of ministers? Would it primarily happen through mentoring?
- How does the matter of the new majority of Christians in the global south influence missions to places where there are the fewest number of Christians?
I will write more in response to these matters in future posts. In the meantime, please feel free to comment. (To do so, you will need to sign up for a Gmail address.)
So, what are your reactions to our discussion yesterday regarding "The Next Christendom: Engaging Global Christianity?"
I’m looking forward to our conversation!