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Dec 22, 2011

The Pew Forum Releases New Research on Global Christianity

Earlier this week, The Pew Forum released its new data on the size and distribution of Global Christianity. One interesting aspect of this research is the comparison they made to Global Christianity data from a century ago.

Both the decline of Christianity in Europe and the rise of the Global South have been well documented. This research again validates those trends. I've written about the rise of the Global South on a few occasions, such as issues related to Anglicanism and to theological trends research.

I think the biggest news is that, increasingly, world Christianity is a charismatic/Pentecostal phenomena. I'll be addressing that in a future blog post, but see the data near the bottom of the infographic.

Here are some highlights from the study (read the full report here). The terms are those that Pew uses (for example, "Christian" is very broadly defined) and many evangelicals in, for example, Europe would say that the number of "christians" is different than their experience. Thus, these are self-reported numbers to Pew.

The findings include:

  • The number of Christians around the world has nearly quadrupled in the last 100 years, from about 600 million in 1910 to more than 2 billion in 2010. But the world's overall population also has risen rapidly, from an estimated 1.8 billion in 1910 to 6.9 billion in 2010. As a result, Christians make up about the same portion of the world's population today (32%) as they did a century ago (35%).
  • The proportion of Europeans and Americans who are Christian has dropped from 95% in 1910 to 76% in 2010 in Europe as a whole, and from 96% to 86% in the Americas as a whole.
  • The share of the population that is Christian in sub-Saharan Africa climbed from 9% in 1910 to 63% in 2010, while in the Asia-Pacific region it rose from 3% to 7%.
  • Almost half (48%) of all Christians live in the 10 countries with the largest number of Christians. Three of the top 10 countries are in the Americas (the United States, Brazil and Mexico). Two are in Europe (Russia and Germany), two are in the Asia-Pacific region (the Philippines and China), and three are in sub-Saharan Africa (Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia), reflecting Christianity's global reach.
  • Though Christianity began in the Middle East-North Africa, today that region has both the lowest concentration of Christians (about 4% of the region's population) and the smallest number of Christians (about 13 million) of any major geographic region.
  • Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country, is home to more Christians than all 20 countries in the Middle East-North Africa region combined.
  • Nigeria now has more than twice as many Protestants (broadly defined to include Anglicans and independent churches) as Germany, the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation.
  • Brazil has more than twice as many Catholics as Italy.
  • Even though Christians are more numerous in the Global South, the concentration of Christians is much higher in the Global North, where 69% of the population is Christian. By contrast, 24% of the people living in the Global South are Christian.
  • More than 285 million Christians can be classified as evangelicals because they either belong to churches affiliated with regional or global evangelical associations, or because they identify as evangelicals. Since many pentecostals (279M) and charismatics (305M) are also evangelicals, these categories are not mutually exclusive.
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Posted:December 22, 2011 at 12:00 am


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The Pew Forum Releases New Research on Global Christianity