Monday, October 02, 2006

Syllabus: An Exploration of Modern Christian Demographics in Two Lessons

Teaching Christian Demographics: Two Lessons
David Whidden
Proposed, Southern Methodist University
Fall 2006

Objective: Help students think through the implications of broad demographic changes in world Christianity, as well as different theological proposals that may support different visions of Christian renewal movements.

Key Questions: What will the future of Christianity look like? How will different demographic and theological proposals influence this future?

Session 1 – The Exorcism of a Gay Man at Lambeth 1998

Reading assigned:
Dave Barrett, Todd Johnson, and Peter Crossing, “Missiometrics 2005: A Global Survey of World Mission,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Volume 29, number 1, January 2005, pp. 27-30.
Philip Jenkins, “Next Christianity”, Atlantic Monthly 290.3 (October 2002), pp. 53-55, 58.
Philip Jenkins, “After ‘The Next Christendom’,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Volume 28, number 1, January 2001, pp. 20-22.
Joseph Claude Harris, “The Future Church: A Demographic Revolution,” America, March 18, 2002, pp. 7-9.
Spiritual Tidal Wave: The Origins and Impact of Pentecostalism, podcast or transcript at:

Introduction: Lambeth 1998. A brief history of how world demographics have impacted the Anglican communion. What does this foretell for the future of Christianity?

Lecture: Broad areas of content to be covered
a) Demographic growth in the South
b) Declining birthrates in the West
c) The corresponding growth of Islam
d) The growth of Catholicism
e) The emergence and continued growth of Pentecostalism

Discussion: What kind of local impact do demographic changes have locally? What are the implications of global demographics on Christianity? What might the re-evangelization of Europe look like? Is there a possibility of religious reverse-colonization?

Summary: Religious growth is not just about demographics, but the demographic issues will have a huge impact on the future of Christianity. At our next session we’ll talk about some specific proposals for the future of Christianity.

Session 2 – Further Discussion

Reading assigned:
John Shelby Spong, Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile – A New Reformation of the Church’s Faith and Practice, San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998. pp. 3-21 (On Saying the Christian Creed with Honesty); 56-70 (Beyond Theism to New God Images); 184-199 (The Future Church: A Speculative Dream)
William Abraham, The Logic of Renewal, Grand Rapids Michigan: William Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003. pp. 1-8 (The Logic of Renewal); pp. 71-92 (Dying for Renewal); pp. 153-172 (Renewal and the Quest for Intellectual Integrity).

Introduction: To follow up on last session, we’ll discuss several proposals for the future of the church.

Discussion: Which of these visions of the future of the church do you find appealing? Which one, if any, do you think will win out? Why? Is either of them viable given the demographic information we discussed last time? Is there such a thing as Christianity without God? What would a successful renewal look like for each of these authors? How would they respond to the Pentecostal movement we discussed last time?


Blogger Buck Burch said...

For a more indepth discussion of the use of missiometrics in missions strategy, go to

12:48 PM  

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