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After yet again another humbling experience with Jesus Christ, a disciple’s desperate desire to be accepted and acknowledged as a worthy follower of the Messiah was manifested through this poignant question: “What must we do to do the works of God?”1 Jesus answered: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”2 Thus, the mission of the Church in contemporary times is the same as the mission of the Church in the 1st century A.D. Nevertheless, Global North Christians must work hand-in-hand with Global South Christians if they want to share the gospel and expand the Kingdom of God in territories whose inhabitants share the same social and economic circumstances as Global South Christians.
Global South Christians vs Global North Christians
Before going any further it is important to clarify the meaning of Global South Christians. According to recent literature, the emergence of Global South Christians is traceable to the impact of missionary activity in favor of countries outside the United States and Europe.3 Expansion of Christianity was significant in the aftermath of the Second World War, and significant strides were made after a significant number of nations were liberated from colonial powers4.
At the turn of the 21st century, observers pointed out that Christianity was decreasing in the West but increasing in countries like Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Scholars coined the term Global South Christians in contrast to the believers living in North America and Europe. As a result, Christendom in the 21st century is simplified by the demarcation lines that separate the Global South believers from the Global North believers.
It is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss in detail why Global South Christians are going to eclipse Global North Christians in numbers in the year 2025. However, the main focus of this paper is to figure out why Global South Christians are effective in reaching out to the local residents of Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
It is also imperative to point out that when tasked to determine the mind-boggling success of Christianity outside the U.S. and Europe, church growth was always attributed to the zeal of the Christians in this part of the world. In addition, the population growth in these territories is also seen as a critical factor at play and explains the dizzying success rate of the said churches. Be that as it may, the proponent of this study will attempt to point out that aside from the spiritual revival and population growth in these territories, another important factor to consider is the impact of the theology adopted by Global South Christians.
It is easy to understand why Global North Christians were not impressed by the church growth potential of the messages that gets delivered to the congregation. Westerners made commentaries regarding the messages that seems to them as “simplistically charismatic, visionary, and apocalyptic.5 Many are uncomfortable with the idea that present day christians are still into faith healing, exorcism, and dream-visions.6
For many in the West, this type of Christianity was a throwback to the old day when believers had to travel on foot if they desired to visit remote and difficult to access territories. However, Global North Christians learned too late that spectacular church growth experienced by churches in the Global South was also the direct result of how the stories, concepts, and ideas espoused in the Bible resonated with the hearts and minds of the people living in the continents of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
As a result, new converts and those that are continuing the process of learning more about the Christian worldview experienced a great deal of encouragement and guidance when they discovered that they can relate to the characters and the setting of the stories in the Old Testament and the wisdom-filled teachings found in the New Testament. According to one commentary: “Cultures that readily identify with biblical world-views find it easier to read the Bible not just as historical fact but also as relevant instruction for daily conduct.”7 In other words, there is a big difference in the way Global South Christians appreciate the authority of the Bible to speak into their personal circumstances.
For example, it is easy for them to accept teachings regarding the power of prayer and the impact of faith in their lives, if the illustrations used in the Bible mirrored the circumstances that they experience in their daily routine.
Insights gleaned from the review of related literature underscores four main characteristics shared by Global South Christians, and these are listed as follows:
- intense social stratification;
- omnipresence of poverty;
- the transience of life; and
- philosophical detachment.8
People groups living in the Global South continually experience “intense social stratification” based on race, religion, and other factors. The caste system in India is a good place to start.
However, there are other examples, such as human trafficking in East Asia and child labor in Latin America. People groups confronted with this issue can find comfort in the fact that God’s people experienced the same fate. For example, the Israelites had an intimate understanding of what it means to be under slavery. They did it twice in Egypt, and then when the cream of the crop of the Hebrew race was carted away to foreign lands as exiles in order to serve foreign kings.
It is interesting to note that Global North Christians are far removed from this kind of sentiment. The forefathers of African Americans were once slaves, and the ancestors of Caucasian Americans were once-upon-a-time under the hegemony of the British Empire. However, these things occurred a long time ago, and present day American citizens had no inkling as to the meaning of working as slaves or working under extreme conditions even without the assurance of getting paid.
In the case of the “omnipresence of poverty” the struggle to acquire the basic necessities of life is a recurrent theme in both Old and New Testament scriptures. For example, famines that struck Canaan created forced people to do strange things in order to survive. In the New Testament, the thousands of people following Jesus came from some of the poorest sectors of society so that they endured listening to the preachings on an empty stomach.
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However, there was a time when the physical toll was too much, Jesus knew that without a bit to eat these people will collapse on their way home. Jesus demonstrated his concern for the crowd, an attitude that was not expected from an influential political or religious leader. Thus, the decision to find ways to feed the people resonated with the poor Christians living in the territories under the Global South.
It is not possible to compare the lifestyle and earning capability of Global South and Global North Christians. The disparity between the two groups is impossible to harmonize. Most Americans had no idea what it feels to live in a house with a dirt floor and no running water.
When it comes to the concept called “the transience of life” Americans and Europeans with ever improving life expectancy rates, the problem has never been about premature deaths, because the urgent challenge is all about creating an acceptable retirement package. Men, women, and children are dropping like flies in sub-Saharan Africa due to untreatable and treatable diseases. It is rare to find a case of polio or malaria in some of the upper echelons of Western society. However, death from a rabid dog or death from malnutrition is a common occurrence in Africa and Asia.
Global North Christians will also find it extremely difficult to understand and appreciate the concept called “philosophical detachment.” There is nothing wrong when Christians in North America and Europe decide to camp out of an Apple Store or toy store in order to be the first group of consumers able to get hold of a prized commodity. It is hard for someone immersed in a “consumer” driven culture to let go of entitlements and desires.
Theoretically, Global North Christians have the capability to understand the Epistle of James when he talked about the need to endure when going through a difficult trial. However, there are only a few personal experiences regarding severe testings of faith, that it is difficult for them to fully appreciate the core message of the said epistle.
Biblical Wisdom Literature
Global South Christians draw inspiration from biblical wisdom literature like the Epistle of James, the Book of Proverbs, and the Book of Ecclesiastes. The type of wisdom generated from these sources is the type that enables them to survive grave difficulties and to mitigate the impact of trials and tribulations. Consider for example the passage found in the Epistle of James reads: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”9
In this verse, Christians find strength to fight back. However, in the Book of Proverbs one can find the following verses: “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster.”10 This passage provides encouragement for Global South Christians living in areas affected by a pandemic. In the Book of Ecclesiastes, the reader is encouraged to see life from a different perspective. For those whoa are overly ambitious and work tirelessly and endlessly during the summer months must be ready to share what they own.
It is good to know that an in-depth look at biblical wisdom literature enables us to understand where Global South Christians draw their strength and quiet fortitude. Nevertheless it is of practical importance to point out that the wisdom literature they completed, are not only good sources of wisdom. The same group of biblical wisdom literature are available for use as a mechanism for building bridges. Nonetheless, the same source that were highlighted also serves a different purpose, and that is to serve as a bridges connecting Global South Christians to members of the same community.
It is not a good idea to send Global North Christians to do the work that only Global South Christians can accomplish. Global North Christians always have a great deal of difficulty handling the challenges faced in the Old and New Testament. In other words, send only the Global South Christians to reach out to those who are in great need. Furthermore, it must be made clear that the said group of Christians have access to wisdom literature that are not only for the edification of believers. The said wisdom literature contain statements and ideas that are not offensive to non-believers. Thus, they can use the same to build bridges to other faith in the places where they live.
Jenkins, Philip. 2006. “Believing in the Global South.” Web.
Kim, Elijah. The Rise of the Global South. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2012. Print.
Kramer, Joe, Bruce Martin, Lillie Pickens, and Walter Powell. Poverty and Religiosity as Bridged to Other Faiths. 2012. Web.
The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
- Jn. 6:28 [NIV].
- Jn. 6:29 [NIV].
- Elijah Kim. The Rise of the Global South (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2012), 1.
- Philip Jenkins. “Believing in the Global South”. 2016. Web.
- Joe Kramer, Bruce Martin, Lillie Pickens, and Walter Powell. “Poverty and Religiosity as Bridged to Other Faiths”. 2012. Web.
- Js. 1:4 [NIV].
- Pr. 3:24-26 [NIV].