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The Changing Face of Global Christianity

A century ago, Europe was the epicenter of Christianity—as it had been for a millennium— with about two-thirds of the world’s Christians living in Europe. Today that number has dwindled to a quarter. According to a 2011 study by the Pew Forum on the size and distribution of the world’s Christian population, Christians today are so geographically widespread that no single region can truly claim to be the center of global Christianity.

Christianity has grown tremendously in sub-Saharan Africa (in 1910, 9 percent of the region’s population was Christian—today that number is 63 percent) and the Asia-Pacific region (from 3 percent to 7 percent). At the same time, in areas where Christianity was the norm, the numbers are dropping. In Europe, the proportion of Christians has declined, from 95 percent in 1910 to 76 percent in 2010. And in the Americas,
it has fallen from 96 percent a century ago to 86 percent today.

For those who want to pinpoint a new center of Christianity, the answer is elusive and multi-faceted. In terms of sheer number, the Global South claims the title with more than 1.3 billion Christians, compared to 860 million in the Global North. However, the concentration of Christians is still much higher in the Global North, where 69 percent of the population is Christian (compared to only 24 percent in the Global South). A discrepancy due to the fact that the Global South’s total population is so much greater than that of the Global North.

Perhaps the most interesting information to come from the Pew Forum survey is how Christians are concentrated globally. About 90 percent of Christians live in countries where they are the religious majority.

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Only 10 percent of Christians live as religious minorities. A matter of safety in numbers, of course, but also perhaps a commentary on the continued need for those who will “go and make disciples of all nations.”

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