Why is Christianity booming in the global South, but seemingly stagnant in the global North? A new fascinating book offers an answer.
Dr. Glenn Sunshine is a long-time Fellow at the Colson Center, and he's that rare sort of historian who sees the sweep of intellectual and cultural history, and then brings it all together in a way that not only explains the past, but advances our understanding of the here and now.
His new book, co-authored with Jerry Trousdale, is called "The Kingdom Unleashed: How Jesus' 1st-Century Values Are Transforming Thousands of Cultures and Awakening His Church."
In the book, by telling compelling stories of God at work through ordinary people—both today and throughout history—Sunshine and Trousdale counter the prevailing myth that Christianity is in decline around the globe.
Take, for example this story from Africa.
Hassan, president of a ministry to Muslims, "reached out to one particularly resistant Muslim community that had martyred six Christian evangelists a few years ago." Hassan saw the community needed a school, so he "approached the Muslim leaders and offered to send a qualified teacher (who was also a trained church planter) if the community provided the necessary resources."
This practical assistance opened the door to these closed communities. In two years, Sunshine and Trousdale describe, seven churches were planted.
But there's more to this story. Some of the local Muslim leaders, upset by the spread of Christianity, hauled Hassan before the Muslim governor of the state. He used the opportunity instead to speak about the grace of God, and how God had helped the ministry provide this community with mobile medical clinics, dentists, safe water programs, seed banks, and schools—all to serve Muslims.
As Sunshine and Trousdale conclude, "Many of the Muslim clerics who had entered that meeting burning to have Hassan deported walked away with his business card or plans for further conversation."
And that's just one story of what's happening in the global South. Here are some amazing statistics: In 1900, there were only nine million Christians in all of Africa; by 2000, there were 335 million. In Latin America, there were a mere 50,000 Protestants in 1900; today, there are more than 64 million, and most of them since the 1960s.
As Glenn told me on the BreakPoint podcast, "The fact is, the church is growing faster than it ever has in human history." We're seeing disciple-making movements boom across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
The story is not the same, however, in the global North. One reason may be the bifurcated vision of the Kingdom and the Gospel that's so prevalent in Europe and North America. We tend to focus either on individual salvation or social justice.
But since the time of Jesus right up until today, wherever the Gospel has flourished and spread like wildfire, believers were steeped in prayer, and committed to a "full-orbed" vision of the Gospel. That vision includes preparing souls for heaven, but also includes advancing kingdom truth, values and restoration in social structures and institutions.
Throughout "The Kingdom Unleashed," Sunshine offers amazing historical examples of Christians who lived this way. For example, Baptist missionary William Carey sought to save souls in India, but he also introduced libraries, agricultural improvements, hospitals, and schools. Not unlike what we see today with Christians like Hassan in Africa.
Glenn writes frequently at our website BreakPoint.org, and his latest article addresses another malady afflicting the Church in the global North: Secularism. He's spot on. And while you're at BreakPoint.org, click on the BreakPoint podcast to hear Glenn describe his new book "The Kingdom Unleashed."
And for a full picture of what God is doing through His Church around the world, get a copy of this powerful book, "The Kingdom Unleashed."