(Alternatively titled “Fun with Charts”)
I went to a conference today at Quest Church on Race & Faith. The keynote speaker was Soong Chan Rah (I hope I’m spelling that right), professor of evangelism and church growth at North Park Theological Seminary (hope I got that right too!).
Dr. Rah (his blog here) spoke at length on the rapidly changing ethnic makeup of Christianity. I managed to scribble down some of the statistics he provided, which I will graciously reproduce for you. This chart—and I suspect there may be better ways to organize this information, but hey, whatever—shows percent of world Christians (100% being all Christians in the world) by region in the year 1900:
(Just to clarify: the chart depicts percent of the world’s Christians by region, not percent of a region that is Christian. Thus, the red slice of the pie shows that European Christians made up 68% of all the world’s Christians, not that 68% of Europeans were Christians.)
Note the domination of the chart by Europe: they make up fully 68% of all Christians in the world 100 years ago. Combine that with North America and you have a Christendom that is, more or less, more than 80% white.
Now check out this next chart, which represents the statistics from 2005, only four years ago:
The most obvious thing to notice is the drastic reduction of the percent of the world’s Christians who reside in Europe: from 68% a century ago to merely 26% today. But the other thing to note is how much more evenly the Christian population is distributed across the world. Asian, African, and Latin American Christianity exploded in the 20th century, “the mission century”. Africa: from 2 to 19 percent. Asia: from 4 to 17 percent. Latin America: from 11 to 24 percent. (North America, by the way, is “holding strong” at 13%).
Now, here’s the shocker. The chart after the jump represents the projected figures for 2050, 41 years from now:
Essentially, this spells the end of white majority within Christendom (note that I’ve pulled out majority-white regions from each of the charts). In 1900, eight of ten Christians were white. In 2050, that number will be less than 1 in 3. As Dr. Rah put it—exaggerating, perhaps—the juxtaposition “white Christian” will sound about as strange to the majority of the world in 50 years as “Swedish Buddhist” sounds to us today.
The big questions are: Why is the number of Christians in the West (and not just in proportion to other regions, but in raw numbers as well) declining so rapidly? What role will Western Christianity play in the broader Christendom—indeed, what role does it play in the broader Christendom that’s already here?