Christianity is entering its post-Christendom phase. Throughout the world, the Traditional church—influenced heavily by Western Christian theology, tradition, and institutionalism (Christendom)—is in decline. In most of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and increasingly much of the United States, Christianity is in steep decline and many churches that are growing are taking a post-modern, post-Christendom posture in order to engage their secular societies. In the Non-Western world, however, Christianity is spreading at a very fast rate amongst people that are hearing the Gospel for the first time. The faith is being transmitted by non-Western Christians that are not deeply steeped in Western Christian thought. The result of all of this is the emergence of Three Worlds of Christianity—all of them processing the faith very differently.
This website aims to monitor the three different worlds because in time, these 3 parts of Christianity will have an increasingly difficult time relating to each other. Through our work as the Three Worlds Team doing ministry in Europe and the Middle East, we try to bridge the divide by introducing people to the three worlds, bringing leaders from the three worlds together, doing work in the three worlds, and chronicling how these worlds evolve on our blog and podcasts.*
1) The Traditional World: This is a world where churches are structured in a traditional style, people have an understanding that they are part of the Protestant Church, and the culture around them knows and understands the role of churches. The traditional world is in decline for the most part, but its emphasis on solid theology and its many institutions still do good throughout the world and remain very important. Traditional churches exist in most countries, especially in the West.
2) The Post-Christendom World: This is a world where Christianity was once widely understood and adhered to, but over the course of time the Christian church and its influence on the culture has declined so much that people rarely know much about the faith and may in fact be hostile or suspicious towards Christianity. Churches structured in a traditional way have a hard time growing in these places, so new churches are emerging to re-introduce Christianity to the secular world. Germany, New Zealand, Australia, much of Canada, and growing parts of the United States have churches that fit into this model.
3) Non-Western Christianity: In this world, society-at-large tends to be very religious and Evangelical or Pentecostal Christianity may be a new phenomenon that is seeing explosive growth. There is a strong belief in the supernatural and the miraculous. Community life may also be considerably stronger than in other parts of the world. People in this world may know a lot about the Bible, but little about Christian history or Western denominations. There is a great respect for the authority of Scripture, and people tend to be more conservative about moral issues, and issues of Biblical interpretation than in the other two worlds. India, Bolivia, and Uganda are examples.
Three Worlds also refers to the areas we work in which have very different foundations: Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
*All Three Worlds can exist in any one country or any one place. In Western places like the United States or Germany, non-Western immigrant churches are flourishing in the cities, while the locals may attend a Traditional or Post-Christendom church.
In the Non-Western World, traditional churches (started by missionaries or denominations) may exist. In Non-Western countries that are developing economically at a fast rate, upper class people are secularizing quickly and abandoning religion. They may fit the Post-Christendom world better, even though non-Western Christianity is growing amongst much faster in their country.