What is the Global South?

sdfvgdfgWithin the 20th and beginning of the 21st century, there has been a mighty shift in the demographic of Christian adherents worldwide. American believers bemoan the rampant secularism and the rise of militant atheism while Christianity booms worldwide. As Christian numbers slowly dissipate in the West, the Global South is becoming preeminent in terms of numeric figures. The Global South is a missiological term that refers to the growth of Christian church in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The center of Christianity (in regards to where the most believers are located) is changing. Dana L. Robert, Professor of World Mission at Boston University School of Theology, has noted:

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Europeans dominated the world church…Yet by the end of the twentieth century, the European percentage of world Christianity had shrunk to 28 percent of the total; Latin America and Africa combined provided 43 percent of the world’s Christians. Although North Americans became the back-bone of the cross-cultural mission force after World War II, their numerical dominance was being overtaken by missionaries from the very countries that were considered mission fields only fifty years before. The typical late twentieth-century Christian was no longer a European man, but a Latin or African woman.[1]

The figures are astounding. World Christianity is changing in drastic ways. When one thinks of a Christian, if the figures are taken into account, a dark-skinned African, a Latin American, or an Asian should come to mind. Mark Noll stated:

  • “Active Christian adherence has become stronger in Africa than in Europe.”
  • “The number of practicing Christians in China may be approaching the number in the United States.”
  • “Live bodies in church are far more numerous in Kenya than in Canada.”
  • “More believers worship together in church Sunday by Sunday in Nagaland than in Norway.”
  • “More Christian workers from Brazil are active in cross cultural ministry outside their homelands than from Britain or from Canada.”
  • “Last Sunday . . . more Christian believers attended church in China than in all of so-called ‘Christian Europe.’”
  • “This past Sunday more Anglicans attended church in each of Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda than did Anglicans in Britain and Canada and Episcopalians in the United States combined.”
  • Last Sunday “more Presbyterians were in church in Ghana than in Scotland.”
  • “This past week in Great Britain, at least fifteen thousand Christian foreign missionaries were hard at work evangelizing the locals. Most of these missionaries are from Africa and Asia.”[2]

The rise of the Global South presents certain challenges and encouragements for those involved with cross-cultural ministry. My upcoming blogs will address some distinctives about the Global South and possible challenges that exist for missions.


[1]Dana L. Robert, “Shifting Southward: Global Christianity Since 1945.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 24, no. 2: 50. Academic Search Premier (2000): 50.

[2] Mark Noll qtd. in John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions (3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Inter-Varsity, 2010),17-18.

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2 responses to “What is the Global South?

  1. While we were still on the mission field, Venezuelans already were being trained and sent to countries in the mid-east where people from the US were not welcome. IMB presence in Venezuela is down by a factor of 10 since we were there.

    • I’ve heard similar things concerning missionaries from South Korea. Because of our military presence (right or wrong) in the Middle East, American missionaries are seen as an extension of American imperialism. They’re viewed not as mediators of the Gospel but salesmen of American culture (which is distasteful to Arabs). I do not think the day of Western missions is over (far from it!), but new ways of missions need to be discussed. We have the bulk of both theological and financial resources in the West. What would happen if we came alongside these Global South pastors or those in Korea to reach what we cannot because of political instability? It is sad because missionary giving has dwindled in most churches leaving our missionaries on the ground without resources (or worse…back home). Something has to change.

      My youth class that meets twice a week prays for an unreached people group and missionaries trying to engage them. It would be awesome if the Youth at Cove Baptist joined us in praying for those souls without the Gospel and those attempting to take it to them/

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