For the last few decades, there has been a growing awareness among American Christians regarding changes in world Christianity. Works by Philip Jenkins, Dana Robert, Mark Noll, Todd Johnson, and David Barrett have gone a long way toward addressing a knowledge gap among American Christians. A significant volume of literature now attests to the reality of the demographic shift from a Christian population centered in North America and Europe to a Christian population centered in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

In The Rise of the Global South: The Decline of Western Christendom and the Rise of Majority World Christianity (Wipf and Stock), Elijah Kim provides a worthwhile survey and overview of the history of world Christianity, particularly as it rose in its Western Christian form and moved into its non-Western expression. Drawing from an impressive breadth of research, Kim begins the text by covering what may now be considered familiar ground. The first chapter provides a good overview of the changes in world Christianity, as do helpful charts and graphs that make their appearance throughout the book. The illustrations offered in the text serve as a valuable starting point for the study of world Christianity and provide a helpful reference resource. Kim adds to the ongoing conversation by emphasizing the central role of renewal, particularly Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity, in the growth of Christianity both in the Western world and in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Kim's weaving of the renewalist thread, a crucial topic for 21st-century evangelicals, provides additional insights into the growing base of knowledge.

Kim moves from an overview of the changes in world Christianity to an analysis and reflection on European Christianity (focusing mostly on British Christianity), followed by a study of American Christianity. The analysis of Western Christianity covers a range of academic disciplines but provides the best insights in its historical description. Kim offers sociological and theological analyses of the decline of Western Christianity, drawing from the historical description and offering helpful tables and charts that dramatize this decline. In the final chapter of the work, Kim's description of the rise of non-Western Christianity emphasizes renewalist Christian movements. Kim suggests that indigenous movements in world Christianity often arise from Pentecostal and charismatic renewal contexts.

A Vision Worth Pursuing

The theme of the decline of Western Christianity alongside the seemingly meteoric rise of non-Western Christianity is an important topic for consideration. Kim's emphasis on the root causes of Western Christianity's decline will provide helpful insights for many in the West. In attempting to contrast the emerging strains of non-Western Christianity with the current state of American Christianity, Kim offers a necessary critique of Western Christianity. One concern, however, is that Kim employs language reminiscent of the culture wars of previous decades. Kim's analysis of Western Christianity is more helpful in looking back at the history of Western Christianity than in paving a new way forward.

Kim's work provides a much-needed voice on this important topic of conversation for the American evangelical church—particularly as it relates to renewalist movements as expressed through the Pentecostal and charismatic arm of the church. The hope in the rise of global South Christianity is for an evangelical renewal that bridges the global North and South. Kim gestures towards a hopeful vision of a reinvigorated renewalist movement that seeks to fulfill the Great Commission. This is a vision worth pursing regardless of our current place in world Christianity.

Soong-Chan Rah is Milton B. Engebretson associate professor of church growth and evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary. He is the author of The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity (InterVarsity Press).

The Rise of the Global South
Our Rating
4 Stars - Excellent
Book Title
The Rise of the Global South
Wipf and Stock
Release Date
April 6, 2012
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