What’s Hot? What’s Not? Christianity in its Global Context: 1970-2020

AAGRThe Center for the Study of Global Christianity, based at Gordon Conwell Seminary, published In June 2013 an excellent report (in my opinion) regarding Christianity in its Global Context. This report presents analysis for the period 1970-2020 and points out implications for society, religion and mission. The full report can be found online at www.globalchristianity.org/globalcontext and includes a number of eye opening observations.

Things are not the way the used to be!

The report documents the global shift of the majority of Christians from the North to South from 1970-2020. Specifically this 50 year period witnessed the shift of the Christian Majority from the Global North (North America and Europe, including Russia) to the Global South. In 1970 43% of Christians lived in the Global South. By 2010 59% of Christians were found in the Global South and it is projected that two-thirds of all Christians will live in the Global South by 2020. (p.14). While Christianity has made significant gains in the Global South, there were also significant declines of the Global North. Overall the global percentage of Christians increased just 0.1% over this to year period, from 33.2% to 33.3%, for essentially zero net growth (p.12).

Growth Analysis by Continent

My intent is not to restate the findings of the report, but to further analyze CSGC data and highlight continental growth trends not included in that report. Specifically I want to highlight what’s hot (where Christianity is growing) and what’s not (where Christianity is in decline). The data gleaned from the CSGC report and my calculations is presented in the following two tables.

Table 1. Key Christian Indicators by Continent.

Region Nr. of Christians 2020 Percent Christian
2020
Christian AAGR(1)
1970-2020
Christian AACR(2)
1970-2020
Africa

630,644,000

49.3%

3.02%

0.50%

Asia

420,390,000

9.2%

3.01%

1.48%

Europe

580,305,000

78.0

0.33%

0.03%

Latin America

600,533,000

92.1%

1.61%

 -0.05%

Northern America

288,005,000

76.9%

0.62%

-0.35%

Oceana (4)

30,818,000

73,3%

1.08%

 -.47%

Global Total

2,550,695,000

33.3%

1.47%

0%

Table 2. Key Evangelical Christian Indicators by Continent

Region Nr. of evangelicals 2020 Percent Evangelical (3)2020 Evangelical AAGR (1) 1970-2020 Evangelical AACR 1970-2020
Africa

191,090,751

14.95%

4.51

1.99%

Asia

120,986,333

2.65%

4.52

2.99%

Europe

20,837,012

2.80%

0.32

0.07%

Latin America

87,718,345

13.45%

4.06

2.40%

Northern America

74,691,603

19.95%

0.95

-0.03%

Oceana (4)

6,476,778

15.40%

1.25

-0.30%

Global Total

501,800,822

6.55%

2.97

1.50%

Notes:

(1)   AAGR is an abbreviation for Average Annual Growth Rate.

(2)   AACR is an abbreviation for Average Annual Conversion Rate. AACR represents the percentage of those becoming Christians from other religions. This is determined by subtracting the percentage of the Average Annual Population Growth Rate from the AAGR.

(3)   The CSGC report presents two perspectives on the estimating number of Evangelical Christians in each continent: namely that of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity and Operation World. Here I have chosen to average these two estimates. In all but one instance (Europe), the figure given by Operation World is higher than the CSGC figure (pp.16-17). My own field experience and conversations with other researchers leads me to believe that the Operation World estimates for Evangelicals tend to be on the high side.

(4)   Oceana represents Australia, New Zealand and other Southern Pacific Islands.

What’s Hot?

There are many different angles from which to view the data. What’s hot here depends on the question asked.

If you ask which content has the most Christians or has the highest percentage of Christians, then Latin America is the hottest.

But if you ask which continent has the most evangelicals, then Africa is hottest.

Still, if you ask where the largest percent of Evangelical Christians are found, that would be Northern America – (but Northern Americans should not boast too soon as significant concerns will be noted in the next section.

If you ask which continent which continent has the highest Average Annual Growth Rate, then Africa is at the top (3.02%) closely followed by Asia (3.01%).

If you wish to know where the rate of conversion to Christianity from other belief systems is the highest, this would be Asia at 1.48%. I call this the Average Annual Conversion Rate, which is determined by taking the Average Annual Growth Rate and subtracting the Average Annual change in Population, which represents natural population growth (the net difference between the birth rate and death rate as well as emigration and immigration).

Evangelicals in Asia, Africa and Latin America are the hottest of all, growing much more quickly than the population and Christians in general. In fact Evangelical Christians are growing far quicker than any major world religion, with the exception of Daoists. (p.13)

By way of honorable mention, Eastern Europe, including Russia, has seen a revival of interest in Christianity, especially since 1990, adding almost 90 million to the number of Christians, an increase of 28.6% (AAGR 0.91%).

What’s Not?

On the other hand, the CSGC data point out where Christianity is struggling. Again there are several perspectives.

The least Christian Continent – percentage wise – is Asia; although there are more Christians in Asia than Northern America! Also Asia has nearly six times more evangelicals than Europe and more Evangelicals than Europe and Northern America combined. And Asia’s Evangelical Growth Rates are the highest in the world. So what Asia lack in quantity, it makes up for in quality!

Based on Average Annual Growth Rates the percentages of Christians in Latin America, Northern America and Oceana are in decline. Europe (excluding Eastern Europe and Russia which experienced a revival in Christianity after 1990) also has experienced a significant decline in this period, the percentage Christians declining nearly 15%.

Evangelicals are also losing ground in Oceana and Northern America – and again, if it were not for Eastern Europe, Evangelicals are would be losing ground in Europe too.

Conclusion

Asia, Africa and Latin America are Hot

Oceana, Northern America and Europe are not.

Points to ponder

So does anything you’ve seen here surprise you?

What further questions arise in your mind?

In my next posting, I intend to look at this same data at a country level, asking what’s hot and what’s not. I can guarantee that there will be some eye opening surprises!

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