A report released this month by the Lausanne Researchers’ Network highlights the profound southern geographical shift of global Christianity over the past hundred years.
USA Evangelicals/Evangelicals in a Global Context by Todd Johnson, Ph.D., Director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, offers new data on the southern shift in the evangelical movement from its roots in the United Kingdom and the United States.
According to the study, over 80 percent of all Christians in 1900 were from Europe and North America, yet by 2005 it was under 45 percent. This statistic correlates with the finding that out of the estimated number of evangelicals worldwide – from 250 million to 688 million – most are increasingly found outside of the Western world.
One table, Global Evangelicals/evangelicals by Major Cultural Tradition, Mid-2005 , indicates that Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans are more typical representatives of evangelicalism than Americans or Europeans. People of African descent represent 30.8 percent of all Evangelicals, while Asian and Latin American make up 15 percent and 13.2, respectively.
The report notes that the difference is less evident among evangelicals because of the large number of Roman Catholic evangelicals in Europe.
The report defines Evangelicals/evangelicals as including all of the six Christian traditions (Anglican, Independent, Marginal, Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic). Evangelicals (upper case) are mainly Protestant churches, agencies and individuals (for example, members of the National Association of Evangelicals). While evangelical (lower case) refers to Christians of evangelical conviction from all traditions who are committed to the evangel (gospel) and includes Evangelicals but also all who do not belong to specifically Evangelical churches or agencies.
A second table examines Christianity in the United States in a global context and shows the changes that occurred in evangelicalism. The trends found include: a decline in the percentage of Christians within the U.S. population since 1900; a decrease of Evangelicals since 1900 (42 percent to 15 percent presently); and a steady growth of Pentecostals/Charismatics since 1900.
In 1900, Evangelicals made up 42.2 percent of the population in the United States with 32 million people. This figured declined to 16.8 percent in 1970 and fell even further in 2005 to 14.7 percent and 44 million people.
Pentecostals/Charismatics, on the other hand, have grown significantly since 1900 when it made only 0.1 percent of the population with 46,100 adherents. In 2005, the report states that Pentecostals/Charismatics made up 26.3 percent of the population with 79 million members.
Overall, the study shows that evangelicals continue to grow globally but in the U.S. they have been declining as a “raw percentage of the population.”
The report predicts that in twenty years, African, Asian, and Latin American Evangelicals/evangelicals will be at the forefront of both the evangelical global movements and within the United States.