7 Megatrends Affecting Global Missions in the 21st Century

Timothy Tennent is the president of Asbury Theological Seminary and the author of Theology in the Context of World Christianity. I had him for a class on World Missions in 2007 when he was still a professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

I’m including some of the highlights from a lecture he presented on the 7 Megatrends Affecting Global Missions in the 21st Century:

1st Megatrend: The Collapse of Christendom

› For the longest time, Christianity was at the center of American culture. It was socially acceptable and sometimes even profitable to be Christian in our society. In the 21st century, however, Christianity will move more and more towards the periphery.

› Hendrik Kraemer said, “The Church is always in a state of crisis; its greatest shortcoming is that it is only occasionally aware of it.”

› We are moving from a state of belief to a state of unbelief.

› We are moving from a denominational to a global identity. Being Presbyterian or Methodist is not as important today.

2nd Megatrend: The Rise of Postmodernism

› There are theological, cultural, and ecclesiastical crises that arise from postmodernism. People no longer believe that truth is true. The power of the word is lost for most people. For a preacher who believes that God has revealed Himself through words, this is a dangerous mindset.

3rd Megatrend: The Collapse of “the West Reaches the Rest” Paradigm

› The emergence of a Post-Christian West (4,200 people are leaving the Christian faith per day in Western countries).

› The emergence of a Post-Western Christianity (In non-Western cultures, Christianity is blossoming, for example, in Africa alone Christianity gains about 24,000 new members per day!)

4th Megatrend: The Changing Face of Global Christianity

› Top 10 people groups that are most accepting of the Gospel today are in India and China.

› Top 10 people groups that are least accepting of the Gospel today are in Europe and North America.

5th Megatrend: The Emergence of a Fourth Branch of Christianity

› Traditionally, there have been three branches of Christianity: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant. Today, there is an undefined and indistinct fourth branch emerging.

› Sometimes, this branch is referred to as “independent” but that is a very limited title.

6th Megatrend: The Impact of Globalization

› If it weren’t for the immigrant population in the U.S. the Western Church would be in serious trouble. Most of the growth in American churches are in minority populations. Contrast that with Europe where Islam is growing rapidly because of immigration.

› The rise of urbanization and new technologies also affect our approach to missions around the world. 19th century missions was geared towards rural communities. Today, most of the largest unreached people groups are found in cities.

7th Megatrend: The Rise of a Deeper Ecumenism

› There’s no reason to forsake our denominational identity but we can no longer be exclusive to our denomination or allow our denomination to be our overarching identity. Though Protestant, I can’t be confined or defined by some events that took place in the 16th century. There are millions of Christians around the world that don’t place the same emphases on what the Reformers emphasized.

Have you seen these (or other) changes over the past decade in the Western Church? What (if any) changes need to be made on a local church level to navigate through these megatrends?

Nathan is the pastor of City Life Church in Ridgewood, NY. He and his family are committed to making and multiplying disciples in the most diverse county in the US. Read more about Nathan here. Visit the City Life Church website here.

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