She writes, over on the Book of Face:
The history of Christianity in the 20th and 21st centuries looks very different depending upon the questions you ask:
In 1900, twice as many Christians lived in Europe than in the rest of the world combined. In 1900 only 5.4% of the world’s non-Christians knew someone that they could identity as a Christian. In 1900, more than half of the world’s population (54.3%) was unevangelized. At the height of Christian power in Europe, more than half the world’s population had no living access to the knowledge of, or access to the kerygma of Jesus Christ and to the Church.
For eight centuries (very roughly 700 through 1500 AD) Christianity had been largely confined to and heavily concentrated in Europe by the power of Islam until the 16th century when Europeans discovered the “new world” of the Americas and the great re-expansion of Christian trading and then colonial empires outside Europe began. Evangelical scholars believe that 1983 marked the return to the experience of the first Christian centuries – the year that the number of Christians in the global south once again outnumbered the number of Christians in the global north.
So in 2022, what’s happening? Religious believers are growing more than twice as fast as unbelievers in the world.
1) “Particularly in the West, it can seem like secularism is growing and people are leaving the church and the faith. Globally, that is not the case at all.
While the number of all religious people is growing at a 1.27% rate, the growth rate of nonreligionists is less than half that—0.52%, well below the total population growth percentage. In particular, the number of atheists is almost stagnant, only growing 0.18% per year.”
2) The places where Christianity is growing the fastest?
Africa (2.77% growth) and Asia (1.50%). In 2000, 814 million Christians lived in Europe and North America, while 660 million Christians called African and Asia home. This year, 838 million live in the global North, while almost 1.1 billion Christians live in Africa and Asia alone.
a. In 1900, twice as many Christians lived in Europe than in the rest of the world combined. Today, more Christians live in Africa than any other continent. By 2050, Africa will be home to almost 1.3 billion Christians, while Latin America (686 million) and Asia (560 million) will both have more than Europe (497 million) and North America (276 million).
b. As Christianity continues to grow in the global South, it is also becoming increasingly less concentrated. In 1900, 95% of all Christians lived in a majority Christian country. In 2022, that number has fallen to 53.7%. By 2050, a majority of Christians (50.4%) around the world will live in non-majority Christian nations. (You can’t build old style Christendom without a large majority of Christians but you can really evangelize!)
4) Missiondom perspective: With more Christians living outside of Christian nations, more non-Christians know a Christian. In 1900, only 5.4% of non-Christians could identify a Christian they knew. That percentage has risen to 18.3% today. By 2050, 1 in 5 non-Christians (20%) will know a follower of Jesus and have the opportunity to hear the gospel from them.
5) As a result, the percentage of unevangelized people around the world continues to fall. In 1900, more than half of the world’s population (54.3%) was unevangelized. That has now fallen to 28%.
6) As Christianity continues to grow, the printing of Bibles continues to grow along with it. This year, 93 million copies of God’s word will be printed, up from 54 million in 2000 and 5 million in 1900. By 2025, 100 million Bibles will be printed each year. Currently, almost 1.8 billion Bibles are in circulation around the world. That will climb to 2.3 billion by 2050. (This, of course, tied to the massive growth in global literacy.In 1900, only 20% of the world’s population was literate. Today, 86% of the human race are literate.)
Many of the same factors that dismantled the old European Christendom simultaneously fueled a massive global expansion of Christianity during exactly the same time period.
My thought is that the standard stuff you hear in the West, whether from Traditionalists moaning over the decline of the Church or anti-Christians celebrating it, is almost all of it coming from jingos who really do not think about the world outside of Europe and the US or, if they do, don’t count it is the Real World or the People Who Actually Matter.
Meanwhile, the Spirit of God marches on and keeps calling those who are neither powerful, nor of noble birth, since “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor 1:27-29).
The day may well come when the missionaries will come here from across the developing world. God knows we need them. It’s not All About Us.