A rural Christian church in south Asia
Excerpt from: Religion News Service
(RNS) — As 2019 begins, the world is becoming more religious, not less. Faith from diverse traditions grows as population expands throughout most of the Global South. Last year, nearly 50 million more Christians were added in Africa, making it the continent with the most adherents to Christianity in the world, 631 million.
In the U.S., a narrative of religious decline and growing secularism is now culturally popular. The percentage of “nones” — those claiming no religious affiliation — is growing, particularly among millennials. But what are the deeper trends and challenges, beneath the headlines, that are likely to shape the future of faith?
White U.S. congregations are withering. From 1991 to 2014, the number of white Protestants declined by a third, a trend that will continue as they age: Though 20 percent of Americans are 18 to 34 years of age, only 1 in 10 white Protestant congregations reflects that in their attendance. As a result, more than half of U.S. congregations now have fewer than 100 members. Hundreds will close this year.
Where there is growth in American Christian denominations, it is driven mostly by nonwhites, whether Catholic or Protestant, evangelical or mainline. Over the past half-century, 71 percent of growth in Catholicism, for instance, has come from its Hispanic community. In the Assemblies of God, one of the few U.S. denominations to show overall growth, white membership slightly declined while nonwhite membership increased by 43 percent over 10 years.
Multiracial congregations are also expanding to draw 1 in 5 churchgoing Americans, and surveys report a higher level of spiritual vitality among them compared with racially homogeneous congregations.
Globally, thanks to dramatic geographic and demographic changes, Christianity is recentering its footprint and becoming a non-Western religion. For 400 years, the faith has been molded by the largely European culture that came out of the Enlightenment. But today its vitality is coming from emerging expressions of Christianity in Africa as well as in Asia and Latin America.
Gary: Christianity is growing in Africa and Asia and dying in the West. Some Christians blame materialism and economic prosperity as the causes of Christianity’s decline in the West. They believe that people who are financially well off and comfortable are less likely to need God compared to those who are struggling economically. “People in the Third World exercise more faith than those in the West. This is why more miracle claims come from the Third World.” I suggest another cause: People who are less educated, poor, and living in countries where superstitions are a significant part of the culture will be more open to the fantastical supernatural claims of Christianity.
I believe that as Africa and Asia become more economically prosperous, their populations will become increasingly more educated and have better access to the Internet…the ultimate antidote for all superstitions, religious or otherwise!
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