17 Ways Modern Christianity Has Changed in 100 Years

Written By Jill Taylor

Christianity is a very different religion from what it was 100 years ago. The ways that people practice it and its cultural influence have changed a lot, so we’re about to look at 17 ways that it’s changed over the years.

A Shift to the Global South

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Over the past century, Christianity has seen a significant demographic shift from the Global North to the South. Now, over 1.3 billion Christians live in the Global South, a massive chunk of the overall world population. The Pew Research Center tells us that this is especially true in Africa and Latin America.

Rise of Pentecostalism and Alternative Movements

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Christianity was very traditional 100 years ago but charismatic movements such as Pentecostalism have changed the way a lot of people practice the religion. A vibrant style of worship like this is particularly popular in the Global South, home to a huge amount of the world’s Christian people as a whole.

Decline in Traditional Denominations

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The number of members of traditional denominations of Christianity has declined significantly over the past 100 years due to the rise of cultural secularization, including those who are not religious at all. It’s difficult for churches to remain relevant in such a rapidly changing cultural landscape.

Digital Transformation of Community

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The digital revolution has transformed how communities engage with Christianity all over the world. People are participating in online religious services and even digital prayer groups through Zoom and other platforms. If you showed all this to a Christian from 100 years ago, they’d have a heart attack!

Interfaith Marriages and Religious Pluralism

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In the past, the idea of a Christian marrying someone of another faith would’ve been truly bizarre and, in fact, banned in many parts of the world. However, interfaith marriages are more common today, and this reflects the fantastic religious diversity of the modern world.

Globalization of Christianity

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Britannica talks about how, ironically, the end of “established Christianity” actually gave way to the rapid globalization of the religion. It became more accessible as a religion over the past 100 years and is now practiced in more countries than ever before.

Renewed Focus on Social Justice

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Modern churches are deeply involved in campaigns against poverty, inequality, and injustice which reflects on Jesus’ teachings about social responsibility. These teachings were somewhat overlooked by Christianity 100 years ago, when fewer religious people cared about social justice, but the world is a changing place!

Adaptive Use of Church Properties

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Economic pressure on churches and declining memberships have led to the buildings being sold and used for other things. A lot of churches these days have been converted into homes and apartments as well as community or commercial spaces. It can be sad to see this happen if it isn’t done tastefully.

Transformation of Missionary Work

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The Christian Century talks about how missionary work has changed throughout history. Previously, the work was focused on education and medical care and there was a hands-on approach to converting people. Nowadays, it’s more about rebuilding and compassion, with modern missionaries aiming to guide people with a softer hand.

Expansion of Women’s Roles in Church Leadership

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Women would never be seen in any pastoral or clerical positions in Christianity 100 years ago, but in recent years there has been a drastic change in this. Many women are now ordained and even allowed to take up senior leadership roles within the church.

Influence of Christian Media

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There’s a lot of Christian music, TV and film to consume these days, alongside Christian online blogs and more. The Christian media industry is booming even as the number of Christians lowers overall, with something available for all kinds of tastes.

The Role of Christian Education

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We’ve seen a growing emphasis on the integration of faith into educational settings, all the way from primary school through to university. On top of that, there are many Christian schools and colleges, which were rare 100 years ago. This is great for those who are religious and want their children to grow up in this environment!

Increased Focus on Mental Health

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Once upon a time, poor mental health could be considered a sign of possession by the devil, as discussed by the National Institutes of Health. Of course, that’s not the case anymore as the church has fully recognized the importance of dealing with mental health compassionately.

The Impact of Immigration on Church Demographics

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As people have moved around the world over the past 100 years, congregations have become more racially and culturally diverse, especially in Western countries. This has led churches to adapt their services and practices to try to welcome these people from across the globe.

Revival of Ancient Christian Practices

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Christianity has always been highly interested in tradition, but in the past few years, we’ve seen somewhat of a resurgence of ancient Christian practices among contemporary Christians, such as lectio divina, the liturgy of the hours, and monasticism. These ancient traditions encourage a deeper spiritual formation, which many people are looking for.

The Role of Art and Music in Worship

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We discussed earlier how the world has seen an increase in Christian media, including music and film. But art and music now also play a direct part in worship when neither of these things had much of an impact on faith before.

Strengthening of Lay Ministries

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Laypersons are taking more active roles in church ministries now than they were 100 years ago. The roles that they are getting involved in were traditionally reserved for the clergy, but the breakdown in church hierarchy has changed that. There are actually extensive training programs for lay ministries these days.

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