Christianity is and always has been a global religion. For this reason, we should never think of it as becoming global.

Following the valuable work of prominent missiologists, it has become commonplace among 21st-century Christians to highlight the significant demographic shifts in the global church. The fact that the majority of Christians now live in the Global South has led many to speak of what the scholar Philip Jenkins has called the “coming of global Christianity.”

Contemporary missiologists have drawn needed attention to the demographic shifts of the 20th and 21st centuries and given helpful challenges to what North Park Theological Seminary professor Soong-Chan Rah calls the “Western, white captivity of the church.” However, in noting such developments, there has been an implication that global diversity is exclusively a 20th-century innovation of the Christian movement. Too many people, both Christian and non-Christian, still perceive Christianity as the white man’s religion.

Contemporary missiology has often advanced the church’s cultural self-understanding by highlighting the unprecedented recorded numbers of Christians in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. However, the modern global church has often been presented as emerging from centuries of a Western-majority church, when the reality is quite the opposite in several significant respects.

Take Egypt, for instance, which was home to many of the earliest biblical manuscripts and had an organized ecclesiastical hierarchy no later than the late second century. Ethiopia became a predominately Christian nation in the fourth century and, along with the ancient region of Nubia, functioned under the ecclesiastical hierarchy of Egypt. Syriac-speaking ...

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