The Next Christendom

by Philip Jenkins

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The main characters in The Next Christendom are the Christians of the Global South, in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. According to Phillips, their Christianity is much closer to the primitive Christianity of the New Testament: a world of scarcity and want, where demons, miracles, and healings are still part of daily life. Phillips claims we are rapidly approaching an era where 80 percent of Christians will be non-white, non-Western, and poor. These Christians often face conflict and persecution from governments and religious rivals. Phillips asks if their conflicts will become ours.

Phillips points out that Western Christianity has always been something of a misnomer, as Christianity is an Eastern religion that once had just as many adherents in the East, especially before the advent of Islamic imperialism. He notes with irony that while the attempted defense of Eastern Christians by Western Christians historically is denounced, the military conquest of these Eastern Christians and their lands by foreign invaders is not.

Christian missionary efforts in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are routinely condemned in the West, yet Christianity's popularity in the developing world continues to expand, and the end of Western territorial imperialism has not diminished this popularity. The demographic expansion of the third world and the demographic decline of the West will reinforce the influence of these new fundamentalist Christians with their belief in supernatural healings and Biblical literalism.

Phillips wonders what the impact of this third-world charismatic conservative Christianity will be on the increasingly secularized North, where their native fundamentalist counterparts are called backward and ignorant. These African, Asian, and Latin American Christians do not have the desire to separate church and politics and may eventually become their own power block in the West. Will they have an impact on Northern Christianity or lead to the North’s final rejection of Christianity? Phillips sees Christianity thriving among the world’s poor, even as it increasingly fades in influence in the advanced nations.

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