Summary: A data heavy look at the state of Christianity around the world.
Earlier this year I read Philip Jenkins’ Lost History of Christianity. Jenkins was writing about the strength of the early church in Asia and Africa. That early church was stronger than in Europe and while it is only a remnant now, it survived under significant persecution for generations.
The Lost History of Christianity is actually a follow up to the original Next Christendom. Originally written in 2002 and then updated in 2006 and again in 2011, Jenkins is trying to help the western church understand the vast shift in Christianity to the Global South.
Jenkins is a helpful reminder to a US Evangelical Christianity that often is ignorant of the global church. But Jenkins is also a researcher that primarily uses demographic statistics, so that number heavy research can be a bit dull. There is also a bit of overlap in content, especially early in this book, with the Lost History of Christianity, as Jenkins is trying to set the stage for presenting the church in Asia and Africa as not new, but revitalized.
What some may be scandalized about, is that Jenkins does not favor a definition of Christianity that is limited to an Evangelical orthodox stream. Basically, Jenkins says if someone calls themselves Christian we should allow them to. This become problematic for groups like Mormons that consider themselves Christian. But I understand his problem, he is a demographer, not a theologian.
Jenkins, like Rodney Stark, is a bit of a reactionary academic. He is trying to help the academy see some of its blind spots around Christianity. But like Stark, I think he over plays his hand sometimes and goes too far.
One of the helpful aspects of the book is how much Jenkins gives illustrations of the different groups that are growing and how and why they are growing. I believe this is why the book received so much attention when it originally came out in 2002. As a concept it is worth paying attention to. But some of the detailed reviews or articles about the book is probably enough for the average lay reader that is not interested in the full treatment.
One of my complaints is that the books seems to have been unevenly updated. There are several places with dated statistics and several places where something was updated in one place but the implication of the update was not present in another place.