Global Christian Trends

Todd M. Johnson, from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, recently published an analysis of the annual Status of Global Mission' report he publishes together with Professor David Barrett. The following are his most important observations:

A Mega-Census

Each year, Christian churches conduct a mega-census,' in which 10 million questionnaires are sent out in 3,000 languages, containing questions on 180 topics. This mega-census consists of massive research projects such as the Annuario Pontificioas well as detailed studies by the Evangelical Alliance and other groups. In addition, over half of the national censuses generally performed every ten years include a question about religion.

That makes it possible to answer questions such as Where are there Palestinian Christians?' (highest concentration: in Sydney) or How many churches are there in Cambodia?' (Johnson writes "I discovered a movement named Israelite Tree of Life,' a group of Cambodian Christians which were evangelized by a Jewish Messianic group in Minneapolis, and which planted 12 churches.")

Johnson sees the following indicators which clearly show that God is active in the world. (All figures are for mid-2005, unless stated otherwise.)

1. The Size, Variety, and Vitality of Global Christianity:

There are now some 39,000 Christian denominations in the world, ranging from several million to fewer than 100 members, in all 238 nations. These denominations can be divided into six ecclesiastical megablocks': Roman Catholics (1.119 billion), Independents (427 million), Protestants (376 million), Orthodox (220 million), Anglicans (80 million) and Marginals (34 million). The Independents, comprised of independent and post-denominational Christians, are the fastest-growing group, and already make up 20% of the world Christian population. Christianity is currently growing fastest in China, with an estimated 10,000 new believers each day. In 1900, around 81% of Christians were Caucasians; today, the percentage has shrunk to 43%.

2. A Massive Global Evangelistic Movement:

In 1980, 22% of viewers or listeners watched or listened to Christian TV or radio. By the year 2000, this number had grown to 30%. There are 227 million Bibles in non-Christian nations, though poorly distributed. Evangelization is costly, though: since Christ, some 70 million people have been martyred. The five statistically most deadly jobs in Christianity are: bishop, evangelist, catechist, colporteur, and foreign missionary.

3. The Uncompleted Great Commission Encourages Planners:

The 20th century saw a large number of plans for global mission, and the number is constantly growing. The five most recent plans were Bold Mission Thrust' in 1976, A Church for Every People by the Year 2000' in 1980, Strategy to Every People' in 1984, One Million Native Missionaries' in 1986, and Decade of Evangelism' in 1990. And yet 90% of evangelization is targeted at people who are already Christians.'

4. Response in the Least-Reached People Groups:

A growing number of previously unreached people groups are becoming open for the gospel. The currently most open groups are the Khandeshi, Awadhi, Magadhi, Bai, and Berar Marathi.

5. Post-Modern Christian Youth Is Excellently Suited to World Mission:

Post-modern Christians have six characteristics besides their openness which are positive for missions: critical realism, epistemological humility, "generous orthodoxy" (but note that many question the orthodoxy of "generous orthodoxy"—ed.), chastened rationality, faithful uncertainty, and the non-modern meta-narrative.

6. The Image of Jesus Is Becoming Clearer:

The more people come to know Jesus, the more cultural facets complete His image. This is particularly clear from the book market: today, there are around 175,000 books about Jesus in 500 languages. That number grows by four books every day.

2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
Disciple Banner Ad