The news for persecuted Christians looks grim this year with an increase in persecution expected. But there are encouraging trends that bode well for the church.
As we go about our daily activities, it can be easy to forget the global nature of Christianity. Even connections to missionaries or trips to other countries don’t fully display the magnitude of the modern-day church.
And if your church has plateaued or is even shrinking, you can be tempted to see the global church in a similar light. But the latest statistics from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary can give a better perspective on Christianity in 2022.
There are seven encouraging trends to note in the 2022 Status of Global Christianity report.
1. Religious faith is growing faster than the irreligious.
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.
There are fewer atheists around the world today (147 million) than in 1970 (165 million), and the Gordon-Conwell report expects the number to continue to decline into 2050.
2. Christianity continues to grow.
Not only is religion growing overall, but Christianity specifically is growing. With a 1.17% growth rate, almost 2.56 billion people will identify as a Christian by the middle of 2022. By 2050, that number is expected to top 3.33 billion.
Catholics remain the largest Christian group with almost 1.26 billion adherents, but the two fastest growing Christian groups around the world are evangelicals (1.8% growth rate) and charismatics (1.88%).
In 1900, less than 1 million people around the world identified as Pentecostal or charismatic Christians. By 2050, that number will top 1 billion, according to the 2022 Status of Global Christianity report.
The dramatic global growth for charismatic Christians is particularly noteworthy. In 1900, less than 1 million people around the world identified as Pentecostal or charismatic. By 2050, that number will top 1 billion.
3. Growth is fastest in the global South.
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.
Christianity is growing faster in Africa than any other place in the world and more Christians live in Africa than any other continent, according to the 2022 Status of Global Christianity report.
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).
4. Christianity continues to spread out.
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, most Christians (50.4%) around the world will live in non-majority Christian nations.
By 2050, most Christians (50.4%) around the world will live in non-majority Christian nations, according to the 2022 Status of Global Christianity report.
5. The percentage of non-Christians who know a Christian is climbing.
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.
In 1900, more than half of the world’s population (54.3%) was unevangelized. That has now fallen to 28%, according to the 2022 Status of Global Christianity report.
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. More than 90 million Bibles will be printed this year.
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 year, 93 million copies of God’s word will be printed, up from 54 million in 2000 and 5 million in 1900, according to the 2022 Status of Global Christianity report.
God’s Word continues to expand into new languages in new and exciting ways, including pastors and theologians in India developing and printing a first-of-its-kind Telugu study Bible for the nearly 90 million Telugu speakers in the country.
7. Fewer Christians are dying for their faith.
In 2000, the Status of Global Christianity marked a rate of 1.6 million Christians martyrs over a 10-year period—the high mark of their report. In 2022, they estimate the decade long number to be 900,000. Each death is a tragedy, but any improvement is worth noting.
The 10-year trends do not negate year-over-year numbers, like the increase in martyrs for 2021 as recorded by Open Doors’ latest report. Regardless of the current numbers or trends, churches should continue praying for persecuted believers around the world.
–By Aaron Earls | BP News