The world is now bringing Christianity back to Europe
According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, by the year 2020, 65 percent of the world’s Christians will live in Africa, Asia or Latin America. That makes increasingly secular Europe and North American nations fertile ground for converts, by missionaries from Africa, Asia and Latin America.
About 200 years ago, the impulse to spread the gospel came from European missionaries. Like a Home and Away football match, Africans, Asians and South Americans are now playing the second leg of the “Return Match” in a growing trend of “reverse missionaries” that’s led thousands of missionaries from the South of the globe to set out for Europe and North America to spread Christianity.
Only a few missionaries came from Europe to Africa, about two centuries ago. But in 2015 there were an estimated 27,400 African missionaries in Britain.
You could easily number the European missionaries who came to Africa, men like Thomas Jefferson Bowen, a Baptist missionary from Georgia, USA, who went to Christianize the Yoruba in 1850, only to survive internal warfare and an attempt on his life. Two of his fellow missionaries and his first-born child died of disease. Riddled by malaria, Bowen himself died a vagabond in the U.S., addicted to alcohol and painkillers.
While some of the challenges faced by African missionaries in Europe are much different than those faced by Bowen in the 1850s, spreading the gospel to people of a different culture is no easy task, as foreign missionaries in Europe are equally faced with the culture shock, inhospitable natives and language barrier.
The mission field has shifted
Christianity’s centre of gravity has shifted – so too is the flow of missionaries. Thousands of Christians from places like Brazil, Nigeria and South Korea – where Christianity was first brought by European and North American missionaries are now traveling to Europe and North America seeking to convert the natives.
Those who used to be on the receiving end of Western missionaries have matured enough to give back the gospel.
21st Century Britain is a country where “traditional” church attendance is plummeting. Britain is a society that is so saturated in secularism, that Christianity is now becoming a second class subject, as a result this country is dying spiritually. If the 18th and 19th Century British missionaries were able to see the current spiritual climate of the country, they would weep bitterly. Perhaps they would stay at home in Britain rather than come to African. Britain has now become a mission field.
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