In a must-read for missiologists, church planters, and Christians seeking a deep understanding of how the church intersects with history, not to mention where we are going, Mark Noll sums up and analyzes the magnitude of recent changes in world Christianity in The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith (IVP Academic, 2009). A few highlights (from p. 19):
1. There might be more Christians in China than all of “Christian Europe” (which, I’d add, has been sliding toward secularism and Islam for years).
2. There are more Anglicans any one of several African states (Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda) than in Britain and Canada combined (even if you tack on all the Episcopalians in the U.S.).
3. There are more Presbyterians in the United Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa than in Presbyterian churches in the USA.
4. There are more members in Brazil’s Pentecostal Assemblies of God denomination than the combined total of the two largest U.S. Pentecostal denominations (the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ) in the United States.
But this book is far more than factoids about changing demographics. Noll explains:
“The main point of this book is that American Christianity is important for the world primarily because the world is coming more and more to look like America. Therefore, the way that Christianity developed in the American environment helps explain the way Christianity is developing in many parts of the world.”
Noll is a graduate of Wheaton College (B.A., English), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A., Theology), and Vanderbilt University (Ph.D., History of Christianity). He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.