2010 Christianity Today Book Award Winner!
How does the American church fit into the global picture of Christianity?
Most accounts of Christian history locate the center of Christianity in the West-Europe as its cradle, North America as its greatest success-and the global majority relegated to the periphery. But the field has changed, world Christianity has taken on a new shape and new prominence.
In The New Shape of World Christianity, Mark Knoll articulates the historical progression of the North American church from its beginnings to its current state: a highly entrepreneurial, voluntary enterprise that often neglects its connection to the overarching thrust of the historical church. But connected it is: to what extent, Noll asks, does this American experience illuminate or inform the growth of the church in the majority world.
Adding complexity to older missiological arguments about American global influence, Mark Noll suggests that how Americans have come to practice the Christian faith is just as globally important as what the American church has done in the world. Now in paperback.
Christians around the world rely on intellectual leaders such as Mark Noll to synthesize, challenge and propose. This book synthesizes the rising literature on global Christianity, challenges received conceptions about the American role and proposes new ways of seeing which take the issues of global reflexivity seriously. Wrapped in Noll's measured, insightful prose, this is a book which should be read by thoughtful Christians seeking to understand the most significant questions of our day.
associate professor and dean of academic advancement, Southern Cross College, Sydney, Australia
Scholars have become increasingly attentive to the changing tides of world Christianity and the implications for historiography, doing theology and understanding contemporary patterns of mission. Mark Noll looks back into the nineteenth century when America appropriated and transformed inherited European Christian traditions. The startling conclusions are that the contemporary currents in the Global South resemble the American Christianity at the turn of the century, that it is this emergent form that America shared with the world, and that neither money nor military power and influence could explain the American contribution to world Christianity. This refreshing and robust profile of American Christian influence has many implications: it explains why, among the industrialized nations, Christianity has remained resilient in the American public space; it counters the discourses in which Americanization appears as a negative epithet, a sign of hegemony and negative, extravenous influence. This lucid account has introduced a new dimension that will certainly stimulate the debate on the encounter between the local and global processes in the interpretation of contemporary Christianity.
-Ogbu U. Kalu,
Henry Winters Luce Professor of World Christianity and Mission, McCormick Theological Seminary, and director, Chicago Center for Global Ministries
The United States has emerged as a crucial frontier of the worldwide Christian awakening, in part because of America's role as a global power but in large part because of similar experiences rooted in history and civil society. From his own evangelical background, Mark Noll has explored these connections with lucid sensitivity and lively attentiveness, and in so doing has offered a welcome and valuable contribution to the literature on world Christianity and its critical interface with American religious history.
professor of world Christianity, professor of history and professor of international and area studies, Yale University, and director, World Christianity Initiative at Yale Divinity School
Mark Noll's novel thesis is that the real influence of American Christianity lies in its principle of voluntarism, which global Christianity has also found to be the most effective means to spread the gospel with or without American aid. This modest account of American influence should give pause for thought to both advocates and opponents of American hegemony in contemporary global Christian mission.
Earnest Lau Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Theological College, Singapore
This fine book is one more in a long list of insightful and thought-provoking works by Mark Noll, although it gets him into new territory, that of world Christianity. Here once again is Noll's gift for deftly summarizing other scholars' findings and adding his own creative analysis to make for a stimulating product. This book is a fine antidote to the tendency toward either extreme triumphalism or self-flagellation on the issue of America's place on the world Christian scene.
-Daniel H. Bays,
professor of history and Asian studies, Calvin College
This book provides deep insight into the relationship between American evangelicalism and the growth of Christianity around the world. Master historian Mark Noll argues that American experience provides the template for much of world Christianity today. Readers will enjoy these thoughtful reflections written with Noll's typical clarity and creativity.
-Dana L. Robert,
Truman Collins Professor of World Mission, Boston University
Here is a book that both critics and supporters of missions must read. Noll helps us move beyond the simple praise and blame associated with Western missions to see the complexity and glory of the growth of Christianity, and, in the process, opens up new frontiers of understanding and new lines of research.
professor of theology and culture, Fuller Theological Seminary
Why does much of Christian worship and witness today in Africa, Asia and Latin America resemble American Christianity? Mark Noll argues that the rising churches of the Global South and East develop 'American' forms because the social forces they encounter resemble those that shaped American Christianity. Even though thousands of American missionaries have served in these lands, local trends and needs influence the churches far more than Americans do. In making his case, Noll offers a deft overview, filled with fascinating examples, of world Christianity today. For Americans who want to learn something about Christianity as a world religion, this book is a fine place to start.
Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity, Calvin College
The best teachers are also learners, and this book is eloquent testimony to Mark Noll's stature as both wise teacher and continuing student. His thesis is simple: that similarity of historical conditions, rather than direct influence, is what links (white) American evangelicalism with much of non-Western Christianity today. One need not agree with all his arguments to recognize that Noll's nuanced approach is a very important counter to ideologues of both the left and the right.
author of Subverting Global Myths
Listed in the article Ten Theology Books for Your Beach Bag.
Christianity Today Online (christianitytoday.com), June 15, 2009
The author is a masterful story teller, so that while the text is well documented, the selection, brevity, and clarity of the illustrations make the volume a welcome introduction to the vast literature on the global inculturation of Christianity and the transformation of the intent and content of what missionaries presented through the linguistic and cultural translation that is characteristic of the growth of Christianity through the ages.
Missiology, January 2010
With insightful research and poignant historical observation, Noll effectively demonstrates that American individualism, voluntarism, and anti-institutionalism have had a much greater impact on the global church than have money, resources, or power. Noll adds an innovative thesis to our understanding of the contribution of U.S. churches to the amazing growth of the non-Western church.
-The 2010 Christianity Today Book Awards,
Missions/Global Affairs Category Winner, February 2010
A valuable contribution for those who would like an excellent introduction to a growing area of historical scholarship.
-Benjamin L. Hartley,
What happens when a superb scholar who studies both North American religious history and global Christianity decides to bring those fields together, to understand how each informs the other? The answer is The New Shape of World Christianity.
Christian Century, October 20, 2009
Noll's mix of interpretive insight and survey information makes this both an important book for church historians and a helpful book for Christians wanting to grow in their knowledge of the worldwide body of Christ.
Themelios, November 2009
Noll has offered both a remarkable picture and a challenge. He offers keen insight into the new shape of world Christianity. And he has challenged others to tell the rest of the story.
-Robert Bruce Mullin,
First Things, December 2009
Noll argues for a new historical perspective. With convincing interpretations of recent scholarship, he argues that the 'template' of American Christianity rather than its direct influence has been the main American contribution to world Christianity, especially in its evangelical and Pentacostal forms. Recommended.
Choice, November 2009
This is an important and engaging book, not only for the serious question that Noll poses and explores, but also because it offers a richly textured look at global Christianity through an assortment of sources and from a variety of angles.
Calvin Theological Journal, April 2010
This lively, readable narrative is highly recommended for students of global Christianity, indigeneity and contextualization, recent church history and missiology.
-Roger E. Hedlund,
Dharma Deepika, January-June 2010
I heartily recommend The New Shape of World Christianity, especially to those who are not conversant with contemporary missiology. Noll opens for readers a door into an important discussion about mission practices and theology that could be of great consequence in an academic or congregational setting.
-Benjamin T. Conner,
Interpretation, July 2010
Noll offers a deft overview, filled with fascinating examples of world Christianity today. This book will help American readers begin to understand Christianity as a world religion and to examine the claims that it is a mere export of American evangelicalism.
-Joel A. Carpenter,
The Journal of American History, June 2010
Noll remains one of the most important observers of the American evangelical scene.
-Alan D. Strange,
Mid-America Journal of Theology, October 2010