The Progress of the Gospel

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Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
Over at, there is a review of Mark Noll's book The New Shape of World Christianity. While I don't agree with Noll's assessment of everything, Tim Challies gleans some interesting statistics from the book that are quite encouraging when considering the growth of the gospel in the non-western world. I blog about this here.

  • This past Sunday it is possible that more Christian believers attended church in China than in all of so-called “Christian Europe.” Yet in 1970 there were no legally functioning churches in all of China; only in 1971 did the communist regime allow for one Protestant and one Roman Catholic Church to hold public worship services, and this was mostly a concession to visiting Europeans and African students from Tanzania and Zambia.
  • This past Sunday more Anglicans attended church in each of Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda than did Anglicans in Britain and Canada and Episcopalians in the United States combined–and the number of Anglicans in church in Nigeria was several times the umber in those other African countries.
  • This past Sunday more Presbyterians were at church in Ghana than in Scotland, and more were in congregations of the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa than in the United States.
  • The past Sunday more people attended the Yoido Full Gospel Church pastored by Yongi Cho is Seoul, Korea, than attended all the churches in significant American denominations like the Christian Reformed Church, the Evangelical Covenant Church or the Presbyterian Church in America.
  • This past Sunday the churches with the largest attendance in England and France had mostly black congregations. About half of the churchgoers in London were African or African-Caribbean. Today, the largest Christian congregation in Europe is in Kiev, and it is pastored by a Nigerian of Pentecostal background.
  • This past week in Great Britain, at least fifteen thousand Christian foreign missionaries were hard at work evangelizing the locals. most of these missionaries are from Africa and Asia.


Staff member

Interesting statistics. I'm not sure of the veracity of all the numbers, but I won't dispute the general assessment.

I happen to be preaching on Philippians 1:12-20 tomorrow, "The Greater Progress of the Gospel." While I won't be discussing comparative church attendance around the world, I will be talking about the progress of the gospel in the midst of difficult circumstances. One of the greatest difficult circumstances in post-Christian America is a hard heart to spiritual matters. I am convinced that God is judging America to a certain degree by allowing our society to move further away into a godless state. But while this nation by not be as fertile as it once was, the gospel still saves sinners. My prayer is that God will allow His Spirit to sweep through this nation again; another Great Awakening after and equally great slumber.


Ordinary Guy (TM)
Yes, fascinating. Read Philip Jenkins too. His book, The Next Christendom, would make a good companion book to read after you are done with Noll.
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Puritan Board Freshman
Most of the books in modern times on the spread of Christianity don't take much, if any, account of the type of Christianity to which their statistics refer and should be taken with a large grain of salt. I think a true Christian can be found in almost any "Christian" denomination or anywhere there is a Bible, but I worry a little that those countries where such growth in numbers of Christians has occurred in the last half century may have got their ideas of religion from us in the West. I lived two years in Ukraine among those who received the "gospel" from Western missionaries, and they had become just like Western Christians for the most part. I'm not so sure this is a good thing.

"At the present day, I am afraid that nine people out of ten do not believe in the God who is revealed to us in the Bible. “What?” you say. It is so, I grieve to say. I can point you to newspapers, to magazines, to periodicals, and also to pulpits by the score, in which there is a new god set up to be worshipped; - not the God of the Old Testament, he is said to be too strict, too severe, too stern for our modern teachers. They do not believe in him. The God of Abraham is dethroned by many nowadays; and in his place they have a molluscous god, like those of whom Moses spoke, “new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.” They shudder at the very mention of the God of the Puritans. If Jonathan Edwards were to rise from the dead, they would not listen to him for a minute, they would say that they had quite a new god since his day; but, brethren, I believe in the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob; this God is my God; - ay, the God that drowned Pharaoh and his host at the Red Sea, and moved his people to sing “Hallelujah” as he did it; the God that caused the earth to open, and swallow up Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and all their company; - a terrible God is the God whom I adore; - he is the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, full of mercy, compassion, and grace, tender and gentle, yet just and dreadful in his holiness, and terrible out of his holy places. This is the God whom we worship, and he who comes to him in Christ, and trusts in him, will take him to be his Instructor, and so shall he learn aright all that he needs to know. But woe unto the men of this day, who have made unto themselves a calf of their own devising, which has no power to bless or to save them!" - Spurgeon

"The message of this book does not grow out of these times but it is appropriate to them. It is called forth by a condition which has existed in the Church for some years and is steadily growing worse. I refer to the loss of the concept of majesty from the popular religious mind. The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic. The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking. With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit. The words, “Be still, and know that I am God,” mean next to nothing to the self-confident, bustling worshiper in this middle period of the twentieth century. This loss of the concept of majesty has come just when the forces of religion are making dramatic gains and the churches are more prosperous than at any time within the past several hundred years. But the alarming thing is that our gains are mostly external and our losses wholly internal; and since it is the quality of our religion that is affected by internal conditions, it may be that our supposed gains are but losses spread over a wider field. - A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), Preface to The Knowledge of the Holy
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