I spent most of last weekend walking around the gardens of Werribee Park Mansion hand in hand with Michelle.
The rest of the time I spent wondering about the decline of the Catholic church in the West and reading Philip Jenkins new book: The New Faces of Christianity.
The spread of Christianity throughout the developing world has been unprecedented. In Africa between 1900 and 2000, the number of Christians grew from 10 million to 360 million, from 10 percent of the population to 46 percent.
How is this happening? According to Jenkins, at least three factors are at work: 1) the Bible as a living Word from God; 2) a supernatural worldview 3) the adaptation of the faith to the culture of the recipients. They own it.
While missionaries began the process of Christianization, they had little control over how or where that path might lead. As we trace the spread of Christianity across Africa and Asia from the nineteenth century onward, we see the role of grassroots means of diffusing beliefs, through migrants and travelers, across family and social networks. As it passed from community to community, the message was subtly transformed. Missionaries might introduce ideas, but these would only succeed and gain adherents if they appealed to a local audience, if they made sense in local terms. . . . Missionaries could successfully introduce the Christian framework and the texts that supported it, but once they had done so, these beliefs acquired lives of their own.
As Jenkins has shown in his earlier book, Next Christendom, the future of Christian movement is African, Asian and South American.