The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith, By Mark A. Noll
The New Shape of World Christianity
  • Length: 212 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: March 04, 2013
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 3993
  • ISBN: 9780830839933

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  • 2010 Christianity Today Book Award winner

With characteristic rigor and insight, in this book Mark Noll revisits the history of the American church in the context of world events. He makes the compelling case 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.

Noll backs up this substantial claim with the scholarly attentiveness we've come to expect from him, lucidly explaining the relationship between the development of Christianity in North America and the development of Christianity in the rest of the world, with attention to recent transfigurations in world Christianity. Here is a book that will challenge your assumptions about the nature of the relationship between the American church and the global church in the past and predict what world Christianity may look like.

"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."

Vinoth Ramachandra, author of Subverting Global Myths

"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."

Joel Carpenter, Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity, Calvin College

"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."

William Dyrness, professor of theology and culture, Fuller Theological Seminary

"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

"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

"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."

Simon Chan, Earnest Lau Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Theological College, Singapore

"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."

Lamin Sanneh, 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

"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

"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."

Mark Hutchinson, associate professor and dean of academic advancement, Southern Cross College, Sydney, Australia

"Noll remains one of the most important observers of the American evangelical scene."

Alan D. Strange, Mid-America Journal of Theology, October 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

"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

"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

"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."

Kurt Selles, Calvin Theological Journal, April 2010

"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."

W.B. Bedford, Choice, 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'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."

Mark Rogers, Themelios, November 2009

"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."

Phillip Jenkins, Christian Century, October 20, 2009

"A valuable contribution for those who would like an excellent introduction to a growing area of historical scholarship."

Benjamin L. Hartley, PRISM, 2009

"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

"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."

Jeffrey Gros, Missiology, January 2010

Listed in the article Ten Theology Books for Your Beach Bag.

Collin Hansen, Christianity Today Online (, June 15, 2009


Tables and Figures
1. Introduction
2. The New Shape of World Christianity
3. Nineteenth-Century Evangelical Identity, Power and Culture as Anticipating the Future
4. Posing the Question
5. What Does Counting Missionaries Reveal?
6. Indictment and Response
7. American Experience as Template
8. American Evangelicals View the World, 1900-2000
9. What Korean Believers Can Learn from American Evangelical History
10. The East African Revival
11. Reflections
Guide to Further Reading


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Mark A. Noll

Mark A. Noll is emeritus professor of history at Wheaton College and the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of many books, including America's Book, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, Clouds of Witnesses: Christian Voices from Africa and Asia, The New Shape of World Christianity, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity, and The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.