For 100 Years, Christians Make Up One-Third of World's Population

MANADO, Indonesia – In a statistical analysis of global Christianity, Christians have made up about one-third of the world’s population for the entire 100 year period studied, said a respected missiologist.

Peter Crossing of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity told delegates at the second annual Global Christian Forum on Oct. 5, that a century ago, in 1910, 66 percent of the world’s Christians lived in Europe; today only 26 percent live in Europe.

“The Global North (defined as Europe and Northern America) contained over 80 percent of all Christians in 1910 falling to under 40 percent by 2010,” he said.

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And in 1910, less than 2 percent of all Christians lived in Africa, but 100 years later, that number had jumped to 20 percent of global Christianity.

Crossing, who is a researcher for the Atlas of Global Christianity, said that while the overall number of Christians worldwide has remained about the same for the last 100 years, there has been “dramatic change in the center of gravity of global Christianity.”

About 100 years ago, the statistical "center of gravity" of global Christianity was near Madrid, Spain, when over 80 percent of all Christians were European. In 2010, the statistical center has shifted well south of Timbuktu, Mali.

"This 100-year shift is the most dramatic in Christian history,” he explained.

But the thing that has not changed is where the financial resources are.

“Finances are still firmly in the (global) North; 60 percent of Christians live in the South, but they have only 17 percent of Christian income,” Crossing said.

The missiologist also noted that 100 years ago, Christianity was generally a Western phenomenon, “including strong European Roman Catholic presence in Latin America, where few church leaders were Latin Americans.”

But today, he said, the new movements of global Christianity are coming from Africa and Asia.

He said the change in global Christianity is most visibly seen in the worship language. Today, Mandarin Chinese is the fifth-most used language for worship, but 100 years ago, there were barely any Christians in China. The most popular languages used to worship in the world today are Spanish, Portuguese, English and French.

Crossing noted that there are an astounding 41,000 Christian denominations worldwide, which reflect "the fragmentation" of the Church.

He also highlighted that statistics indicated there were more than 1.136 billion hours of evangelism globally every year, or "enough evangelism for every person to hear a one-hour presentation of the gospel every other day, all year long." However, that evangelism “was mostly directed at other Christians,” Crossing concluded.

The GCF was held Oct. 4-7 in Manado, Indonesia. More than 300 delegates from 81 countries attended the conference.

Information in the article taken from written update by Kim Cain, communications secretary of Global Christian Forum

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