This world map shows the projected Net Christian Growth for the period 1970-2020 and highlights where Christianity is being accepted or rejected. The data source and technical details behind this map follow under the heading of “technical discussion”. But first let us draw some generalizations which outline an amazing story.
In the western hemisphere, only three countries have projected growth: Cuba, Guyana and Surinam. Every other country has seen more people turn away from the Christian faith than have embraced it.
Dr. Kurt Urbanek, author of “Cuba’s Great Awakening: Church Planting Movement in Cuba” (available from www.amazon.com) provided me with an insider’s perspective of what is happening in Cuba. He begins chapter 1 of “Cuba’s Great Awakening “ by saying:
“In the face of staggeringly difficult political, social, and economic circumstances, Cuba is experiencing an unprecedented movement of God. This inspiring movement has seen hundreds of thousands come to faith in Jesus Christ and thousands of new church starts. Congregations among Baptists alone have multiplied from 238 to 7,039 churches, missions and house churches in just 20 years. Among the Assemblies of God, the increase has soared from 89 churches in 1990 to 2,779 in 2010 and this number of congregations is augmented by 7,997 house churches. Total Assembly of God membership (including adherents) has increased from 12,000 in 1990 to over 688,931 in 2010. This spiritual awakening continues and promises even greater blessings in the days to come.”
In Europe, there is a clear distinction between Eastern and Western Europe. Those countries that were under Communism will have experienced growth (with the likely exception of the Czech Republic). On the other hand, Christian profession in Western Europe is in decline – as it also is in Australia and New Zealand.
Christianity is growing by conversion in Asia and sub Saharan Africa. In my previous posting, The Top 20 Countries Where Christianity Growing the Fastest, I offer a more in depth look at the countries that are colored red on this map.
The Good News
Conversion growth is taking place in Eastern Europe, Asia and sub Saharan Africa. 93 countries are expected to have positive growth for the period 1970-2020. It seems that countries formerly influenced by Communist ideology now evidence Christian growth (for example Cuba, China, Mongolia, Cambodia, Eastern European countries – Albania in particular, Russia, Angola, Benin, Ethiopia, Somalia and Mozambique).
The Bad News
A majority of countries (142) in the world have no net Christian growth or are in decline. More people are rejecting Christianity than accepting Christianity in these “yellow” and “brown” countries. The majority of Christians live in countries that are in decline (1.351.316.660 as compared to 1,210,480,000). Christianity is declining in the more economically prosperous, democratic countries, which were significant in spreading Christianity to Asia, Africa and Latin America prior to 1970.
Looking at this map may cause a thoughtful person to raise other questions that will lead to the identification of other political, social and spiritual factors that contribute to the growth or decline of Christianity.
So is Christianity being accepted or rejected in your country? What factors contribute to this trend? You are welcome to share your perspective here.
The data for the above map was taken from the report, “Christianity in its global context,” published in June of this year by The Center for the Study of Global Christianity. The full report can be found online at www.globalchristianity.org/globalcontext. This report provides estimated growth rates for Christianity and population in each country for the period 1970-2020.
Disclaimer: Limits of the Data
The data and analysis in this article are not able to measure the dynamic involved where people who profess Christianity, sometimes called “nominal Christians,” are moving toward a more genuine practice of the Christian faith. In Latin America, for example, this dynamic would represent what is happening with charismatic renewal within the Roman Catholic Church as well as the growth of evangelical churches. The majority of these people come from a Christian background. So this positive movement from the mere profession of Christianity to a consistent practice of the Christian faith is not measured by this data set. The data does not enable one to evaluate to what degree those who profess Christianity actually practice their faith on a consistent basis.
Factors that influence the Growth or Decline of Christianity
As a person strives to better understand the dynamics that contribute to the growth or decline of a religious movement in a country or region, it may be helpful to look at both “natural factors” and “conversion factors”. “Natural factors” relate to population growth. Population growth has two primary components: births and deaths; immigration and emigration. When the number of births is greater than the number of deaths, this is referred to as “biological growth”. The population Annual Average Growth Rate (AAGR) represents the net result of these “natural factors”. A second factor that relates to the growth of a religious movement is conversion growth. (This could be considered “super-national growth” if one recognizes a divine involvement in the conversion process). Just like “biological growth”, this also two is a two-way street. Some people accept Christianity from a non-Christian background, while others from a Christian background are rejecting the faith of their forefathers. The net result of these two dynamic factors I call the Average Annual Conversion Rate (AACR) or the Net Christian Growth Rate
The Net Christian Growth Rate represents the Average Annual Growth Rate of Christianity minus the Average Annual Growth Rate of a country’s population. Filtering the out variable of population growth (or decline) provides a more exact measure of the rate at which people are accepting or rejecting Christianity. This is especially true when a country’s population is in decline, which “masks” the true conversion rate. For example, the AAGR for Christianity in Georgia is 1.52%. But the population AAGR is -0.29%. So the Net Christian Growth Rate or AACR is actually 1.81%, which moves Georgia up into the top 20 countries where Christianity is growing the fastest.
The Average Annual Conversion Rate is determined by subtracting the Christian Average Annual Growth Rate from the Population Average Annual Growth rate. The result is the Average Annual Conversion Rate. The Average Annual Conversion rate provides a more accurate indication of those who are accepting Christianity as compared to those who are rejecting Christianity.
What is significant growth or decline? Where does one draw the line?
In order to determine what was significant growth or decline, I calculated the global mean (average) and the standard deviation for the Christian Average Annual Growth Rate. Those countries that have a growth rate greater than one standard deviation above the mean are considered as having significant growth. Those countries with more than one standard deviation below the mean are considered to have significant decline. The global Population Average Annual Growth Rate for 1970-2020 is projected to be 1.47%. The global Christian Average Annual Growth Rate for the same period is also projected to be 1.47%. Therefore the net Christian Average Annual Growth Rate or the Average Annual Conversion Rate is 0.0%. (On the map I chose to color the three countries with zero net growth yellow indicating decline.) The standard deviation for this data set is 1.64%. Thus countries with an AACR greater than or equal to 1.64% are considered in significant growth. 20 countries fall into this category. In an earlier posting I took a closer look at some of the contributing dynamics in those 20 countries. Those countries with an AACR less than or equal to 1.64% are considered in significant decline. 17 countries fall into this category. I chose to include Jordan in this category since its AACR equals 1.64% and the next closed country is 1.52%.
The Average Annual Growth Rate
For comparison, the following map shows Average Annual Growth Rate for Christianity for the period 1970-2020 This map is based on the data found in the report prepared by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. In this case the global mean is 1.47% and the standard deviation for this data set is 2.05%. Thus countries above 1.47% AAGR have above average growth; those countries having an AAGR greater than 3.52 have significant growth (specifically 36 countries, which are colored red). On the other hand, countries with an AAGR less than 1.47% are in decline, and countries with an AAGR of less than -0.58% are in significant decline (11 countries, which are colored brown). Comparing the map at the beginning of this article with this map may suggest other questions that reveal other growth factors. Your questions and observations are welcomed.