TRENDS & 7 Surprising Trends Of Today’s Worldwide Growth of Christianity via #LifeWay

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 6/11/19.

…The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary regularly publishes the Status of Global Christianity. Evaluating their research and predictions provides an encouraging and potential surprising picture for the current and future state of Christianity.


Globally, Christianity is growing at a 1.27% rate. Currently, there are 2.5 billion Christians in the world. The world’s population, 7.7 billion, is growing at a 1.20% rate.

Islam (1.95%), Sikhs (1.66%) and Hindus (1.30%) are the only religious groups growing faster than Christianity, though followers of Jesus outnumber every other faith and are predicted to continue to do so at least through 2050.


Among Christian groups, Pentecostals (2.26%) and evangelicals (2.19%) are growing faster than others.

They are both also growing faster than they did just two years ago. In 2017, Pentecostals’ growth rate was 2.22% and evangelicals was 2.12%.


There are fewer atheists in the world today (138 million) than there were in 1970 (165 million).

Since 2000, atheism has rebounded slightly—only by 0.04%—but it is expected to decline again and fall below 130 million by 2050.

Agnosticism has maintained a small growth rate of 0.42%. After reaching 716 million this year, however, it is expected to drop below 700 million by 2050.


Today, 1.64 billion Christians live in urban areas, growing at a 1.58% rate since 2000.

But more than 55% of the world’s population lives in cities and that is only continuing to grow.

The global urban population is growing at a 2.15% rate.


In 1900, twice as many Christians lived in Europe than in the rest of the world combined. Today, both Latin America and Africa have more. By 2050, the number of Christians in Asia will also pass the number in Europe.

Currently, Christianity is barely growing in Europe (0.04% rate) and only slightly better in North America (0.56%).

Oceania (0.89) and Latin America (1.18%) have marginally better rates, but the faith is exploding in Asia (1.89%) and Africa (2.89%).

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THE GREAT COMMISSION & North American Christianity: Making Sense of the Big Picture

by Norman G. Wilson, Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, 10/26/11.

Countless global challenges face North American Christians and churches today as we endeavor to obey our Lord’s command to “go to the ends of the earth.” Long lists of issues are often cited, including but not limited to the following (Guthrie 2000; Pocock et al. 2005):

  • Supporting national workers
  • Finances and patron-client relations
  • Missionary care and attrition
  • Contextualization
  • Short-term missions
  • Women in missions
  • Globalization
  • Partnerships
  • Technology
  • Terrorism

Frequently one may wonder if there is any way to make sense of the big picture and how these issues are interrelated. For these reasons, identifying and analyzing several overarching realities of North American Christianity that interface with a number of the most prominent issues could be very helpful for believers and churches. In this way, vital topics for discussion can be identified and addressed, hopefully leading to more comprehensive and faithful approaches to addressing the current challenges before us.

A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep Abroad?

On one hand, from various perspectives Christianity in North America is prospering.   Protestantism, revivalism, the rise of evangelicalism, volunteering, and the modern missionary movement of the past century sensitized and mobilized the laity during the twentieth century to serve as missionaries in unprecedented numbers around the world.

The financial resources available to North American Christians are at record levels. Furthermore, multiple mission organizations now provide administrative infrastructures for a broad spectrum of ministries and represent over a century of institutional memories and wisdom regarding effective management of missionary endeavors. These developments have contributed significantly to the huge global impact of the modern missionary movement during the past century and helped to establish Christianity in many countries around the world.

Even then, at times and in many places around the world, rather shallow expressions of the Christian faith and doctrine were syncretized with local tribal customs, thus failing to penetrate deeply into the host cultures and thoroughly transform the people and their ways of life (cf. Cope 2001; Miller 2001; Sider 1999; Sider, Olson, and Unruh 2002; Stone 2004 and 2007).

Meanwhile Something’s Amiss Back Home

Meanwhile back home in North America, a number of debilitating weaknesses have emerged and are hindering North American Christians from fulfilling our Lord’s command. Worldliness is growing among many who call themselves Christians of the majority culture. Redemption and lift has created a Christian culture that is increasingly wealthy, materialistic, hedonistic, self-absorbed, parochial, and self-serving (Sider 2005).

Furthermore, many who consider themselves Christians allow their perspectives and passions to be formed more by the influences of this world than by a personal relationship with Christ and immersion in the Scriptures. This growing tendency of North American Christians to identify more with the world and its values than with those of our Lord’s kingdom is weakening their ability to be effective witnesses of the Good News at home and abroad.

North Americans, Bellicosity and Fanaticism

Being an American and a missionary can have both positive and negative consequences. Americans around the world are both loved and hated, often for understandable and at times for puzzling reasons. The role of The United States as a world leader often represents a hindrance for Christian missionaries serving abroad. For this reason, discretion is urged regarding discussions about political matters. Otherwise, one’s motives and loyalties can be questioned, even when speaking from commendable perspectives. As a result, in many places one can never know for sure how those of our host countries are thinking and feeling about our presence and ministries.

Due to the rise of fanaticism by those of Muslim backgrounds and otherwise, and also to North American nationalistic fervor and bellicosity, North American missionaries that live abroad are increasingly at risk. While being a Christian has always meant dying to self and living for Christ, the stakes for North American missionaries in many countries have never been higher. Obeying our Lord’s call frequently means considerable risks to a missionary’s personal safety and that of one’s family.   Meanwhile, North American Christians back home need to remember that first and foremost we are citizens of our Lord’s kingdom and only pilgrims in our earthly country.

Missional Churches at Home and Abroad

The call in North America for local churches to be Missional, on one hand, could represent the possibility of a renewal of passion and interest and a welcomed shift of emphasis (Guder 1998; Rusaw and Swanson 2004; Stetzer and Putman 2006; Van Engen 1991). This new focus could motivate and enable local churches to reach outward and engage in transformational ministries in their communities, across the continent, and around the world. The call for local churches to become Missional could prompt one to hope for the coming of an exciting new missionary movement, bringing a breath of fresh air to North American missions, both domestically and globally.

On the other hand, the proposal by some to “subsume missions in mission” (McClaren 2006, 138 ff.) could result in a reductionist approach to the Great Commission. One would hope that North American Christians could become effective as cross-cultural witnesses by first reaching the world that has come to our doorsteps in recent decades and then going around the world. But effective cross-cultural ministries typically do not happen automatically. Today more than ever, specialized training is needed to enhance our endeavors, often including years of missiological training and language learning (Medearis 2008, Pillai 2003).

During the past century, missions organizations provided specialized resources, training, and infrastructures for cross-cultural ministries. Now with the emergence of the Missional church movement, some may imagine that local churches can fulfill the Great Commission both at home and abroad through their own initiatives and endeavors with little or no outside input or collaboration.

Unfortunately, at times local churches end up focusing primarily on their own sub-cultures while minimalizing their cross-cultural Missional outreach efforts across town and around the world. Given that a significant number of evangelical churches today are located in rural, small town and middle and upper class suburban areas, many Christians of the majority culture rarely interact significantly with the diversity of cultures that are found in large urban areas. North American majority culture Christians typically have been slow to identify with strangers, the marginalized, visitors, and immigrants (Carroll 2008; Soerens and Hwang 2009; Wilson 2006 and 2009).

For these reasons, local Missional churches need to supplement their endeavors through partnerships with broader ecclesiastical structures, mission organizations, churches in communities of diverse cultures, and other intermediary organizations for resourcing, training, and networking.

The Global South and International Partnerships

New developments abroad represent emerging opportunities for North American Christians in Great Commission ministries. In recent decades the number of believers has multiplied in the Global south, providing a groundswell of coworkers in the harvest fields from Central and South America, Africa, and Asia, along with others from Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific regions (Jenkins 2002, 2006, and 2007; Johnstone and Mandryk 2001; Mandryk 2009; Miller and Yamamori 2007; Noll 2009). These represent multiple opportunities to work together for greater Missional effectiveness. In response, North American believers must shift from their controlling paradigms of the past century, learn to work in multi-national teams, and enter into mutually submissive partnership relationships.

A willingness to develop partnerships with non-North American workers is crucial in order to respond to the newly opened doors for ministry in previously closed countries and among peoples that increasingly are open to spiritual matters. Even where oppressive political regimes prohibit or severely restrict Christian witnessing, missionaries from other countries continue to go and faithfully serve the Lord. Our partnership with them can make a huge difference in their lives and ministries.


God has blessed North American Christians with a wealth of resources, experiences, organizational structures, and insights, and we are called to give much in return for Christ and His Kingdom. Our greatest internal hindrances to Missional faithfulness are due to our own worldliness, materialism, hedonism, parochialism, and self-centeredness.

Meanwhile opportunities to collaborate with Global Christians are greater than ever before in human history, representing huge opportunities for transformational ministries through cross-cultural partnerships and teamwork. Our effectiveness in these ministries depends in large part on our willingness and ability to cooperate as mutual partners. While the threats in many places also are greater than ever before, God has promised never to leave us nor forsake us. Furthermore, He commands us to go forth in courageous obedience to His call, confident in the knowledge that in Him we are more than victorious.

Works Cited and Selected Resources

Carroll R., M. Daniel. 2008. Christians at the border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

Clegg, Tom, and Warren Bird. 2001. Lost in America: How You and Your Church Can Impact the World Next Door. Loveland, Colorado.

Cope, Landa L. 2001. “Biblical Reflections: The Old Testament (Part I) and The New Testament (Part II).” Messages presented at, Orlando.

Engel, James F. 1996. Clouded Future: Advancing North American World Missions. Milwaukee: Christian Stewardship Association.

Engel, James, and William Dyrness. 2000. Changing the mind of missions: Where have we gone wrong? Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Guder, Darrell L., Ed. 1998. Missional church: A vision for the sending of the church in North America. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company.

Guthrie, Stan. 2000. Missions in the third millennium: 21 key trends for the 21st century. Waynesboro, Georgia: Paternoster Press.

Jenkins, Philip. 2002. The next Christendom: The coming of global Christianity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

________. 2006. The new faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the global south. New York: Oxford University Press.

________. 2007. God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Johnstone, Patrick, and Jason Mandryk. 2001. Operation world: 21st century edition. Waynesboro, Georgia: Paternoster Lifestyle.

Mandryk, Jason. 2009. “The state of the Gospel.” (Video and PowerPoint Presentations) Operation World.;

McLaren, Brian D. 2006. The church on the other side: Exploring the radical future of the local congregation. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Marty, Martin. 2007. The Christian world: A global history. New York: The Modern Library.

Medearis, Carl. 2008. Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: Gaining understanding and building relationships. Minneapolis: Bethany House.

Miller, Darrow L. 2001. Discipling nations: The power of truth to transform cultures (2nd Ed.). Seattle: YWAM Publishing.

Miller, Donald E., and Tetsunao Yamamori. 2007. Global Pentecostalism: The new face of Christian social engagement. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Noll, Mark A. 2009. The new shape of world Christianity: How American experience reflects global faith. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press.

Pillai, Rajendra. 2003. Reaching the world in our own backyard: A guide to building relationships with people of other faiths and cultures. Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press.

Pocock et al. 2005. The changing face of world missions: Engaging contemporary issues and trends. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.

Rusaw, Rick, and Eric Swanson. 2004. The externally focused church. Loveland, Colorado: Group Publishing.

Sider, Ronald J. 1999. Good news and good works: A theology for the whole Gospel. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

________. 2005. The scandal of the evangelical conscience: Why are Christians living just like the rest of the world? Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

Sider, Ronald J., Olson, Philip N., and Unruh, Heidi Rolland. 2002. Churches that make a difference: Reaching your community with good news and good works. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

Soerens, Matthew, and Jenny Hwang. 2009. Welcoming the stranger: Justice, compassion and truth in the immigration debate. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press.

Stetzer, Ed, and David Putman. 2006. Breaking the Missional code: Your church can become a missionary in your community. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman and Holman Publishers.

Stone, Bryan P. 2004. Compassionate ministry: Theological foundations. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books.

________. 2007. Evangelism after Christendom: The theology and practice of Christian witness. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press.

Van Engen, Charles. 1991. God’s missionary people: Rethinking the purpose of the local church. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Wilson, Norman G. 2005. “Compassionate ministry and evangelism: Their relationship and expression.” Wesleyan Church Web Site: Leadership Development Journey (July).

________. 2006. “Good news for the immigration problem.” Wesleyan Life: Winter. (Posted Wednesday, March 19, 2008)

________. 2009. “Evangelism and social action—revisiting an old debate: Good News for immigrants and Evangelicals too.” Journal of The American Society for Church Growth: Volume 20, Winter, pages 69-83.

CHRISTIANITY & 7 Encouraging Trends in Global Christianity

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Facts & Trends, 3/11/15.

With more conflict over religious liberty in the United States and high-profile martyrdoms around the world, it would seem Christianity is in global peril. But that’s not the case, according to a new report.

Published in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, the findings of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary provide an optimistic picture of Christianity heading into the heart of the 21st century.

The 31st annual edition of the report included numbers on Christianity and other world religions from 1900, 1970, 2000 as well as projections for the rest of 2015, 2025, and 2050.

Here are seven positive trends within Christianity across the globe.

1. Christianity is growing.

Currently, there are more than 2.3 billion affiliated Christians (church members) worldwide. That number is expected to climb to more than 2.6 billion by 2025 and cross 3.3 billion by 2050.

But it’s not just numerical growth, Christianity is growing in comparison to overall population. More than one-third (33.4 percent) of the 7.3 billion people on Earth are Christians. That’s up from 32.4 percent in 2000. By 2050, when the world population is expected to top 9.5 billion people, 36 percent will be Christians….

Today, more Christians live in Europe than Africa. By 2050, more than 1.2 billion Christians will live in Africa, more than the number in Europe and North America combined (and more than the total population of every other religion except Islam and Hinduism). By that time, almost 1 out of every 8 people in the world will be an African Christian.

2. Atheism has peaked.

It’s not just that atheism has peaked globally, but that it did so around 1970 with a population of 165 million. Since 2000, the number of atheists have dropped almost 400,000 and the future doesn’t look much better for atheists. By 2050, atheists are expected to fall to just over 125 million.

Agnostics are growing, but not for long. Those who claim to be unsure of God’s existence climb to more than 700 million by 2025, but fall back under by 2050. Their decline means the number of non-religionists peaks at slightly over 834 million in 2025.

In 1970 around 19 percent of people in the world were classified as a non-religionist. Today, that number is closer to 11 percent. By 2050, less than 9 percent of the world’s population will be an agnostic or atheist.

3. Evangelicals are growing rapidly.

By comparison, from 2000 to 2015, Christianity overall grew 1.32 percent, Islam grew 1.88 percent, and Hinduism grew 1.26 percent. Evangelicals grew at a 2.13 percent rate.

That global growth rate is better than Roman Catholics (1.13 percent) and Protestants as a whole (1.62 percent).

Evangelicals will grow from 4.5 percent (328,582,000) in 2015 to 6 percent (581,134,000) of the world’s population in 2050. That type of growth is only eclipsed by one other group.

4. Pentecostals will climb to more than 1 billion by 2050.

In 1900, there were less than 1 million Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians in the world. Today, there are more than 640 million. By 2050, they will top 1 billion, which means that in 35 years, more than 1 in 10 people around the world will be a Pentecostal/Charismatic Christian.

5. We are reaching the unreached.

In 1900, more than half of the world’s population (54.3 percent) was unreached with the gospel. Today, that percentage is down to 29.3 and will drop another 2 percentage points by 2050.

That doesn’t mean the job is finished. It is still the case that almost 1 in 3 people on Earth (more than 2.1 billion people) have not been evangelized. And the number of international missionaries dropped in the last 15 years. But the gospel is spreading.

In 1900, only 4.3 percent of non-Christians even knew a Christian. In 2015, that number stands at 14.1 percent and is expected to climb to 15.4 percent in 2050. Much of that comes from the spread of the gospel into predominately non-Christian nations.

More than 100 years ago, 95 percent of all Christians lived in a nation that was at least 80 percent Christian. Today, that’s the case for just over half (52.6 percent). By 2050, the number falls to 48 percent, which means most Christians will be living in a country that is more than 20 percent non-Christian.

6. There are less martyrs today.

While it may seem Christians are dying for their faith today more than ever, the numbers don’t seem to support it. That’s not to say no Christians are martyred. The nightly news reminds us this is not the case. But it is better now than it has been.

In 1970, 370,000 Christians were killed for their faith. In 2000, it was down to 160,000. That number is expected to bottom out around 100,000 each year.

Each of those deaths are to be mourned and we should do all we can to prevent them and discourage religious persecution around the world. But we should also acknowledge the improvements that have been made.

7. More than 100 million Bibles will be printed per year by 2025.

Currently, 82.6 million Bibles are printed each year. That number will climb to 110 million in 2025 and 135 million in 2050. More of God’s Word is getting out to more people than ever before.

Currently, more than 5 billion pieces of Scripture are printed each year. By 2050, that number will almost reach 1 trillion.

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GLOBAL CHRISTIANITY & In China, a church-state showdown of biblical proportions

by Robert Marquand, Staff writer, CS Monitor, January 11, 2015.

Christianity is booming in China, propelling it toward becoming the world’s largest Christian nation. But as religion grows, it spurs a government crackdown.


A church member prays at Jiu’en Tang, a Christian church in Wenzhou in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province. Didi Tang/AP

HANGZHOU, CHINA. There’s nothing secret about Chongyi Church, one of the largest in China. Its lighted steeple and giant cross penetrate the night sky of Hangzhou, the capital of coastal Zhejiang Province. Nearly everything at the church is conspicuously open: the front gate, the front door, the sanctuary, the people, the clergy. Chinese or not, you are welcome seven days a week. No layers of security guards or police exist. Walk right in. Join up. People are nice; they give you water, chat. Do you have spiritual needs? Visit their offices, 9 to 5.

For China, it is a stunning feeling. Most of the society exists behind closed doors and is tough, driven, material, hierarchical. The country values wealth, power, and secrecy – not to mention that both government and schools officially, at least, promote atheism.

Yet Chongyi looks and feels like any evangelical megachurch in Seattle or San Jose. There are big screens, speakers blaring upbeat music, coffee bars. The choir is a huge swaying wash of white and red robes. Chongyi seats 5,000 people and holds multiple services on Sunday.

“Some Sundays we are full,” says Zhou Lianmei, the pastor’s wife. “We also have 1,600 volunteers.”

While Christianity is waning in many parts of the world, in China it is growing rapidly – despite state strictures. The rise in evangelical Protestantism in particular, driven both by people’s spiritual yearnings and individual human needs in a collective society, is taking place in nearly every part of the nation.

Western visitors used to seeing empty sanctuaries in the United States or Europe can be dumbfounded by the Sunday gatherings held in convention center-size buildings where people line up for blocks to get in – one service after another. In Wenzhou, not far from Hangzhou, an estimated 1.2 million Protestants now exist in a city of 9 million people alone. (It is called “China’s Jerusalem.”) By one estimate, China will become the world’s largest Christian nation, at its current rate of growth, by 2030…

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