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IN OUR TIME, we are witnessing an extraordinary phenomenon: the virtual wiping out of the church in a place it has existed for nearly 2,000 years. The plight of Iraq's Christian community reminds us that church expansion is not a constantly upward slope.
In his 2002 book The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, historian Philip Jenkins told the world where Christianity was heading. In his latest--The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died (HarperOne, 2008)--Jenkins looks at where it has come from. The Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Humanities at Penn State University, Jenkins first notes that the faith is not rooted in any one culture. "The more you look at history, the more you realize Christianity is not solely a European religion," he says. "It's European, but it's also Asian and African, and it has a long history of developing in very different societies."
Second, Jenkins shows how and why churches in entire regions have died. CHRISTIANITY TODAY'S managing editor for special projects, Stan Guthrie, spoke with Jenkins.
What causes church death?
In no case …