Over the past century, the Good News has taken off faster than at any other time in history.
It took nearly 2,000 years for the gospel to spread from the early church to nearly half the world’s population. In 1900, 45.7 percent of people everywhere were aware of the gospel, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. More than 100 years later, that number has grown to more than 70 percent.
Given that the number of mission organizations has grown from 2,200 in 1970 to 5,100 in 2015, the whole world should soon hear the Good News, right?
Not so fast, said the CSGC. By 2050, it predicts only another 2 percent of the world’s population will be evangelized, totaling 72 percent.
The root of the slowdown: babies, rival religions, and the painstaking work of building disciples.
The evangelism boom of the 20th century came primarily from the work done among African tribal groups that had no ties to the world’s major religions. The number of Christians on the continent rose from 7 million in 1900 to 470 million in 2010, according to Pew Research Center. But in the same timespan, the number of Muslims in Africa grew from 11 million to 234 million, while the number of those practicing tribal religions shrank from 76 percent of Africans to 13 percent.
In other words, most people today who have not heard the gospel already belong to a major religion, says CSGC director Todd Johnson. And those faiths are growing.
A recent Pew study found that Muslims have the youngest population—34 percent are under 15, compared with 27 percent of Christians and 20 percent of Buddhists. They also have the highest fertility rates in the world: ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more