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A great demographic shift is taking place – Part 11



We have repeatedly said what is happening in the Church scene in Nigeria is not a revival; at best it could be described as a spiritual renewal. That the Holy Spirit is evidently at work in His Church is not in doubt. One evidence of this is the harvest of souls in a country plagued with many social contradictions, namely; the problem of national identity, corruption, economic inequality, poverty, insecurity, unemployment, high mortality rate, rapid population growth, tribalism, poor leadership, etc. These problems notwithstanding, many still increasingly seek God for personal solutions since governments have failed to meet the needs of the populace. Though critics of the Church would describe the resort to religion for solace as nothing more than what Karl Marx called “the opium of the people.”

In the last twenty to thirty years, millions of souls have been saved and brought into the kingdom. We have prayer gatherings attracting as much as two million seekers. We have churches with over one hundred thousand worshippers. On the music scene, songs composed by Nigerian artists have gained international acclaim. The Experience, an yearly music concert anchored by Pastor Paul Adefarasin, the Senior Pastor, House on the Rock Churches, is in its fourteenth year and attracts over five hundred thousand youths and music lovers each December of the year. These happenings are only samples of what God is doing. Who would have thought these things would be possible?

The converts from these prayer meetings, music concerts and churches may not exhibit the religious piety of converts of the 1970s, but there is the evidence of the Spirit’s work in their lives; they are hungry for God. The harvest of the past three decades has brought about a remarkable shift in the continental and global demography of the Church.


According to Professor Philip Jenkins, “In 1900 Africa had ten million Christians representing about ten per cent of the population, by 2000, one hundred years later, this figure had grown to 360 million (from ten), representing about half the population. Quantitatively, this may be the largest shift in religious affiliation that had ever occurred anywhere.”

Someone else writing in a similar vein said, “At the beginning of the 20th century Europeans dominated the world church with approximately 70.6 per cent of the world’s Christian population. (So 70 per cent of the Christians in the world a century ago were in Europe.) Yet by the end of the twentieth century, the European percentage of world Christianity had shrunk to 28 per cent, (70 to 28 per cent) Latin American and Africa combined to provide 43 per cent of the world’s Christians.”

Mark Knoll, a historian at Notre Dame, has written a book called The New Shape of World Christianity. Here are some bullets points from his book as summarised by John Piper:
• The number of practising 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…Last Sunday more Presbyterians were in church in Ghana than in Scotland. This past week in Great Britain at least 1,500 Christian foreign missionaries were hard at work evangelising the locals. Most of these missionaries are from Africa and Asia.

Exciting as the shape of things may be, something greater is in the offing. God is not finished yet with the Church in Africa, especially the Church in Nigeria. If we believe so, then we must prepare for what is coming?


In this article:
Austen C. Ukachi
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