More than 1/3 of Protestants and Evangelicals live in Sub-Saharan Africa (Pew study)

The latest Pew study on Global Christianity.

The number of Christians around the world has more than tripled 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%).

This apparent stability, however, masks a momentous shift. Although Europe and the Americas still are home to a majority of the world’s Christians (63%), that share is much lower than it was in 1910 (93%). And 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. At the same time, Christianity has grown enormously in subSaharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, where there were relatively few Christians at the beginning of the 20th century.

The percentage of African Christians is even more striking when we limit it to Protestants (37%) and Evangelicals (38%). Africans also make up 44% of the world’s Pentecostals (p. 68).

Sub-Saharan Africa has both the greatest concentration of evangelical Christians (13% of sub-Saharan Africa is evangelical) and the largest share of the world’s evangelicals (38%) (p. 68). [About one-in-three evangelicals live in the Americas (33%) and roughly one-in-five reside in the Asia-Pacific region (21%).]

The majority of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa are Protestant (57%), as broadly defined in this report; this includes members of African Independent Churches and Anglicans.12 About one-in-three Christians in the region (34%) are Catholic. Orthodox Christians account for about 8% of the region’s Christians, and other Christians make up the remaining 1% (p.54)
  • Nigeria is the 2nd largest Protestant nation (after USA). 3. China, 4. Brazil 5. South Africa 6. UK  7. DR Congo 8. Germany9. Kenya, 10. India (p. 27)
  • Kenya is the 9th “largest” Protestant nation in the world; 60% of the population is Protestant; Kenyans make up 3% of global Protestants. (Including Catholics, 85% of Kenyans claim to be Christians.)
  • 73% of South Africans are Protestant.

Nigeria’s large Christian community is diverse. It includes nearly 60 million Protestants (broadly defined),
about 20 million Catholics and more than 750,000 other Christians. All of Christianity’s major groups have
grown in Nigeria since the 1970s, but the growth of pentecostal churches has been especially dramatic in
recent decades.

Orthodox Christians make up 12% of the global population. Ethiopia is the second largest Orthodox country in the world (after Russia ahead of Ukraine) with 36 million (43.5% of their population; 14% of all Orthodox.) (Spotlight on Ethiopia p. 56).

Other Christians includes groups that “self-identify as Christians” (pp. 35, 40), including American exports like Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, and Christian Science, but they make up only about 1% of the global total. Zambia leads African countries (#4 globally) with just over a million “other Christians”, 8.5% of its population, followed by Nigeria (#6) with 0.5 of its population, and Kenya (1.5 % of its population) at #9, just ahead of Germany (p. 35).

The United States is the world’s third most populous country, but it has by far the largest Christian population. With nearly a quarter of a billion Christians, the U.S. dwarfs even Brazil, which has the world’s second-largest Christian community (more than 175 million). About 80% of the U.S. population identifies as Christian, and U.S. Christians represent 11% of the world’s Christians (p. 46).

CHINA: Read the section on Living as Majorities and Minorities (p. 19) There’s a considerable treatment of China (see esp. spotlight on China page 56, and Appendix C, pp. 97-110 ):
  • China has the world’s largest Christian minority population, although Christians make up only about 5% of China’s total population.
  • China probably has more Christians than any European nation except Russia.
  • India is #10 in terms of number of Protestants, but only 1.5% of the Indian population is Protestant.

The Middle East-North Africa region is home to less than 1% of the world’s Christians.13 Only
about 4% of the region’s residents are Christian. Although Christianity began in this region,
it now has the lowest overall number of Christians and the smallest share of its population
that is Christian (p. 63).

Eddie Arthur, head of Wycliffe UK (beat me to the draw with his post as I was eating dinner with my family ;-), adds the following comment:

…although the Church is growing rapidly, it is only just keeping pace with the growth in the world population. There is no place for either complacency or triumphalism in this data.

One issue which I have not seen in the report is the issue of influence. Though the majority of Christians are found in the two thirds world, most power and influence still resides in the Western Church. Our habits and attitudes have yet to catch up to the statistics. If you would like some further thought on these questions, I heartily recommend the talks by Martin Lee and Peter Oyugi at the recent Global Connections’ Conference, you can also take a look at an essay which I wrote on the subject a few years ago.

I’m curious how the stats would have looked if they had split North and South America.

Read the full Pew report for more details on these subjects:

Christian Traditions:

Related Content from The Pew Forum

Personal transitions

I’m (still!) a struggling dissertation writer, but a few other things have happened over the past year or so:

  1. I’ve  joined Africa International University (AIU)‘s  Institute for the Study of African Realities (ISAR) as a research fellow.
  2. My wife Christi become a certified life coach (Awaken Coaching).
  3. We’ve become an official missionaries with Pioneers.
  4. We spent three and half months visiting friends and churches in the US and Canada (see #3)–26 states, 2 provinces, and over 50 different beds. This was the longest I’d been in North America in nine years, and it was great to reconnect with so many old friends and make new ones.
  5. A year ago, two of our kids were diagnosed with pretty serious heart murmurs attributed to “pulmonary hypertension”–due to allergies, sinus infections, etc. Both were checked again while we were in North America this summer were given a clean bill of health.  Kiara’s murmur is mostly gone, and while Liam still has a strong murmur, one a leading pediatric cardiologists in Toronto checked everything out, and his heart looks great.  Thank God!
  6. Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School (NEGST) received its university charter and is now considered the core constituent school of Africa International University (AIU).
  7. Four of my close friends received their doctorates.
  8. ALARM published an ethnicity manual we worked on together.
  9. My father suddenly retired from from being a professor at African Bible College Malawi due to a heart condition that requires close monitoring. (I packed up 20 years of their life in one week.) They relocated to Greensboro, N.C.
  10. Our two youngest got their Canadian citizenship.
  11. My mother became an American citizen at this ceremony. We got to be there, where my two little Canadians posed with members of the revolutionary militia (see below).
  12. I turned 40 and struggled emotionally through a year of  questions guys often have at mid-life.
  13. I lost a very close friend to cancer.
  14. I had some pretty significant spiritual turning points–not that anyone other than my wife would notice.
  15. My eleven-year-old daughter would like me to add that her school, Pistis, changed their curriculum, is putting on a new roof so they can have an out-door eating area, and their website is under construction.
  16. much more
All of these have long back stories, most of which we have alluded to in our newsletters. If you’d like to receive the fabulous newsletter that my wife writes, click here to send me an email.

Education at its best: collaborative, fun self-teaching and the grandmother effect (TED)

Christi and I enjoyed this TED talk last night on how kids can teach themselves. It has a lot of implications for how we view education even with adults. Some take-aways for me include seeing that good education involves:

  • a few key resources
  • strategic set-up (design)
  • fun
  • curiosity
  • collaboration
  • encouragement and affirmation (the “grandmother effect”)

BONUS: Following are a few tips from my TED watching practices for your own convenience and time saving:

  • Subscribe to the TED blog in Google Reader, so you can hear about all the new talks.
  • Download interesting talks with the Firefox add-in DownThemAll. (Click download then right click on the preferred format and save into a TED file using DownThemAll. I add a subject title for easy recall.)
  • Wait for a night when we’re too tired to work, not quite ready to sleep, but don’t have enough time for a full movie. (Thankfully, we don’t own a TV.)
  • Watch a few TED talks using VLC media player. (My favorite feature is being able to watch them at 1.25 or even 1.5 speed–for slow talkers.)

While you are at it check out this graphic on social media’s impact on education (HT: Steve Lutz):
Is Social Media Ruining Students?

potential social fallout of changing your thinking

We live in times of social upheaval (how’s that for an opening line ;-)—haven’t we always? As I’ve grown over the years, I’ve found students like me tend to wrestle with some fundamental questions, and sometimes shifts in our thinking have significant social implications.   As we learn, we become more self-consciously aware of our own identity within our social networks and institutions. I thought I’d throw out a few of the questions I have discussed with friends, particularly related to church denominations or theological perspectives we’ve grown up with and either left or stayed in as our own thinking has evolved.

  1. What are the similarities and differences between my changing values and those of my communities?
    • Which values are core and which are more peripheral?
    • How much do I value the similarities over the differences? (or visa-versa)
  2. How likely are the areas of difference to change in the direction I would like them to?
    • Is there anything I can do to help reform or change my social group in a more positive (acceptable to me) direction? How?
    • Are there others within my social group that think the same way I do?
      If so how many? Who? (Are any of these leaders or power brokers?)
    • What are the major barriers to change within my social group?
    • Are there other factors that might lead to change?
  3. If changes are not likely (at least not any time soon):
    • Is there room within my community for people that think in significantly different ways?
    • If not, will I be able to “put up and shut up”—toe the party line?
    • Do other social institutions more in line with my views exist?
    • What is the likelihood of starting a new movement (however small)?
    • What are the relational (or economic) implications of leaving my current social circles?
    • Are there other (social) factors that are more important than sharing certain worldview ideals?

“Should I stay or should I go?” If I start shifting away, what kind of ties do I want to maintain with my old community? Are these not the types of questions new believers and converts have had to ask throughout the ages?

These are still raw reflections in light of some of the social identity reading I’ve been doing (related to developments in the early church)—thinking of past trajectories in terms of identity questions. I’m curious how much this line of questioning resonates with some of your experiences. What other big questions have I forgotten? Does the transition between different religious communities (or the development of new groups, sects, denominations) tend to happen in a slow drift or result from a more cataclysmic events? What are  other key factors?

An ode to the vuvuzela

In honor of tonight’s big game and the ending of the world cup, I paste here a few paragraphs from Africa is a Country’s Vuvuzelas for everyone. It is a translation by Tom Devriendt of an article by Laurent Dubois (author of the new book, “Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France,” and editor of the Soccer Politics blog) and cultural theorist Achille Mbembe (see also his earlier essay). It was originally published in French at Mediapart.

….As always when dealing with ‘things African’, people were made to believe that this ‘trumpet of the poor’ would be an example of primitive absurdity and mass hysteria. It doesn’t emit sounds let alone melodies, but a mechanical and infernal noise, a wild cacophony as monotonous as devoid of any content and meaning. The predominance of the vuvuzela would have contributed to the disappearance of other animated traditions of the football games. Folk songs, for example, would have been replaced by pure noise.

It was time to ban it – as one does with the burqa or the minarets in many European countries – some have gone so far as to demand its abolition.

The most important fact of this tournament is nevertheless clear. Against the predictions of many prophets of doom, South Africa has organized one of the most successful world cups in the history of this competition…Of the hundreds of thousands of visitors who have flocked into the country, none, at least so far, has died at the hands of criminals. On the contrary, to varying degrees, all have experienced a hospitality that many say they haven’t received in Korea nor in Japan (2002), and even less in France (1998) and Germany (2006).

They thus had to be found elsewhere, those signs of chaos and ‘African violence’ heralded by the false diviners. And so the vuvuzela has become the metaphor of disorder and mass trance which the most stubborn think are the essential characteristics of the continent.


….In South Africa, and perhaps elsewhere too, a game of football first of all is a liturgical event…[description follows]

…Football is neither an ecstatic cult nor a possession cult. It is an act of communion that offers its members the opportunity to share, with countless pilgrims from around the world, the moments of a unique intensity.

In South Africa, the sound of the vuvuzela offers these pilgrims who share neither language nor songs the possibility to participate in the production of a sonic geography of the stadium. Newcomers in South Africa for the World Cup understood it quickly. They quickly embraced it…

Keep reading: Vuvuzelas for everyone.

Only two approaches to the biblical text are coherent (Schenck)

Ken Schenck has started writing a paper in which he states that

…in the end, only two approaches to the biblical text are coherent: 1) a historical-contextual approach and 2) reader-centered approaches that locate meaning (or “experience” of the text) in relation to specific readers and communities of readers. The spectrum of hermeneutical models currently in play are all varied combinations of these two broad categories, however they might self-describe.

I’m still chewing on this, but my first reaction is that it resonates with what I’ve been discerning recently as far as categorizing hermeneutical approaches. However, I’m not sure that I would try to argue that any reader-centered approach can claim to be fully “coherent,” unless you want to say that it is trying to making some kind of attempt at internal coherence (perceived coherence?).   Not that anyone will necessarily agree on the results of the historical-contextual approach, but we can probably admit that anything we do after that–any other approach or tradition that we subscribe to–is in reality some form of a “reader-centered” approach.   Any way you look at it, the big questions still remain:

….Are some reader vantage points more appropriate than others? Is there a specifically Christian vantage point from which to read Scripture as a whole? How proximate are the “original” meanings of individual biblical texts to the most appropriate holistic vantage points? To what extent does this paradigm cohere with evangelical fundamentals?…

Read more of Ken Schenck’s Bridging Lessings Ditch.

Bottom line: if you want your theological reading to “represents the current pinnacle of progress,” you’d better subscribe to my approach ;-).