By Aaron Earls
Instead of evaluating Christianity based on a local or even national perspective, a global vantage point can provide a better picture of the status of the faith.
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.
1. Christianity is growing faster than the population.
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.
2. Pentecostals and Evangelicals are growing the fastest and are still picking up speed.
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%.
3. Atheism has peaked.
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.
4. Christianity is growing in cities, but not fast enough.
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.
5. The center of Christianity has moved to the global south.
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%).
6. There are more evangelism opportunities for Christians than ever.
The vast majority of non-Christians live their lives and never interact with a Christian, but that number is shrinking.
In 1900, only 5.5% of non-Christians knew a Christian. Today, that has grown to 18.3%.
Obviously, that number is still too small, but the growing percentage grants more non-Christians the opportunity to hear the gospel from someone they know.
7. The percentage of the unevangelized is shrinking.
More than half of the world’s population in 1900 (54.3%) were unevangelized. That percentage continues to shrink, dropping to 28.4% in 2019.
That still means, however, that almost 2.2 billion people living today are still considered unevangelized.
Aaron is a writer for LifewayResearch.com.