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This article features five statistical tables with 2018 figures for many aspects of global Christianity, from membership to finance to martyrdom. Over the last 1,000 years, Europe had more Christians than any other continent. By 2018 Africa had the most Christians: 599 million, vs. 597 million in Latin America and 550 million in Europe. At the same time, Christianity continues to decline in the Middle East, falling from 13.6 percent of the population in 1900 to less than 4 percent today. In 1800 Christians and Muslims together represented only 33 percent of the world’s population; by 2018 they represented 57 percent, increasing to 64 percent by 2050.
International Bulletin of
Mission Research
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DOI: 10.1177/2396939317739833
Christianity 2018: More
African Christians and
Counting Martyrs
Todd M. Johnson, Gina A. Zurlo,
Albert W. Hickman and Peter F. Crossing
Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton,
This article features five statistical tables with 2018 figures for many aspects of global
Christianity, from membership to finance to martyrdom. Over the last 1,000 years,
Europe had more Christians than any other continent. By 2018 Africa had the most
Christians: 599 million, vs. 597 million in Latin America and 550 million in Europe. At
the same time, Christianity continues to decline in the Middle East, falling from 13.6
percent of the population in 1900 to less than 4 percent today. In 1800 Christians and
Muslims together represented only 33 percent of the world’s population; by 2018
they represented 57 percent, increasing to 64 percent by 2050.
Africa, Middle East, martyrdom, statistics, Muslims, demography
This article is the thirty-fourth in an annual series in the IBMR. The series began in
1985, three years after the publication of the first edition of David Barrett’s World
Christian Encyclopedia (Oxford University Press). Its purpose is to lay out, in sum-
mary form, an annual update of the most significant global and regional statistics rel-
evant to understanding the current status of global Christianity. Tables 1–5 continue
Corresponding author:
Todd M. Johnson, Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary,
South Hamilton, MA, USA.
739833IBM0010.1177/2396939317739833International Bulletin of Mission ResearchZurlo et al.
2 International Bulletin of Mission Research 00(0)
the tradition of the series, presenting an overview of statistics related to global
Christianity and mission. The information appears in comparative perspective and
offers estimates for 1900, 1970, 2000, 2018, 2025, and 2050. In addition, an average
annual growth rate for each category is calculated for the period 2000–2018.
Continent with the most Christians: Africa
Europe was the continent with the most Christians for the past 1,000 years.1 Even at
the beginning of the twenty-first century, Europe had 60 million more Christians than
Latin America (see table 4). Around 2014 Latin America passed Europe and became
the continent with the most Christians. Now, just a few years later, Africa has passed
Latin America. In 2018 Africa has 599 million Christians, while Latin America has
597 million. Europe is now third, with 550 million. By 2050 there will likely be more
Christians in Africa (1.25 billion) than in Latin America (705 million) and Europe
(490 million) combined. By then, Asia (588 million) will also have passed Europe in
its number of Christians.
At the same time, it should not be forgotten that Christians in the Middle East (i.e.,
Western Asia and Northern Africa) continue to decline as a percentage of the popula-
tion. In 1900 the region was 13.6 percent Christian. By 2018 it had dropped to around
4 percent and will likely continue to decline to under 3 percent by 2050.2
Counting martyrs
For more than thirty years, the annual table has offered estimates of Christian martyrs,
defined as “believers in Christ who have lost their lives prematurely, in situations of
witness, as a result of human hostility.”3 This definition has five essential elements:
1. Believers in Christ—These are self-identified individuals found within all of
global Christianity, including Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants,
Anglicans, and Independents.
2. Lost their lives—Martyrs are Christians who have actually been put to death by
another human being, not those who have died from natural or other causes.
3. Prematurely—Martyrdom is typically sudden, abrupt, unexpected, and normally
unwanted. This aspect of the definition includes those who are starved, die from
mistreatment after release from prison, and die as the result of torture.
4. In situations of witness—“Witness” in this definition is not restricted solely to
public testimony or proclamation concerning belief in Jesus. It refers to the
individual’s entire lifestyle, regardless of whether or not he or she was actively
proclaiming at the time of death.
5. As a result of human hostility—Human hostility takes a variety of forms, includ-
ing war, conflict, random killing, and genocide, and can be conceptualized as
either individual or communal (such as by governments). This descriptor
excludes deaths through accidents, crashes, earthquakes, illnesses, or other
causes, however tragic.
Johnson et al. 3
Table 1. Global Population, Global Cities, and Urban Mission, 1900–2050.
1900 1970 2000 % p.a.* mid-2018 2025 2050
Global Population
Total population 1,619,625,000 3,682,488,000 6,126,622,000 1.20 7,597,176,000 8,141,661,000 9,725,148,000
Adult population (over 15) 1,073,646,000 2,297,647,000 4,279,131,000 1.56 5,657,529,000 6,134,853,000 7,652,243,000
Adults, % literate 27.6 63.8 76.7 0.47 83.4 84.3 88.0
Global Cities and Urban Mission
Urban population (%) 14.4 36.6 46.6 0.98 55.5 58.0 66.1
Urban poor 100 million 650 million 1,400 million 3.09 2,420 million 3,000 million 4,100 million
Slum dwellers 20 million 260 million 700 million 3.36 1,270 million 1,600 million 1,900 million
Global urban population 232,695,000 1,348,387,000 2,855,035,000 2.19 4,217,542,000 4,723,656,000 6,424,456,000
Christian urban population 159,600,000 660,800,000 1,218,702,000 1.56 1,610,331,000 1,779,033,000 2,399,847,000
Cities over 1 million 20 144 361 2.19 533 616 880
Under 50% Christian 5 65 226 1.72 307 361 450
New non-Christians per day15,200 51,100 132,000 0.37 141,000 144,000 118,000
1.New non-Christians per day migrating to urban centers.
*Column % p.a. Trend. Average annual rate of change, 2000–2018, as % per year.
Sources: World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision (New York: United Nations, 2015); World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision (New York: United
Nations, 2014);
UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2005–2013) and Todd M. Johnson and Gina A. Zurlo, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden: Brill, accessed July 2017).
IBMR 42(1)
4 International Bulletin of Mission Research 00(0)
Table 2. Global Religion, 1900–2050.
1900 1970 2000 % p.a.* mid-2018 2025 2050
Global Religion
Religious diversity10.27 0.43 0.45 –0.06 0.45 0.44 0.43
Religionists 1,616,370,000 2,973,041,000 5,334,780,000 1.32 6,758,722,000 7,302,011,000 8,897,313,000
Christians 557,755,000 1,229,021,000 1,986,537,000 1.30 2,506,835,000 2,728,435,000 3,437,695,000
Muslims 200,318,000 570,024,000 1,288,083,000 1.94 1,820,926,000 2,049,031,000 2,772,270,000
Hindus 202,973,000 463,334,000 822,690,000 1.33 1,043,980,000 1,109,602,000 1,268,620,000
Buddhists 126,956,000 234,544,000 450,148,000 0.94 532,805,000 566,329,000 586,760,000
Chinese folk-religionists 379,974,000 221,706,000 427,836,000 0.04 431,145,000 418,869,000 372,805,000
Ethnoreligionists 117,313,000 168,897,000 223,247,000 1.00 267,027,000 267,396,000 280,609,000
New Religionists 5,986,000 39,382,000 61,949,000 0.27 64,976,000 64,168,000 60,568,000
Sikhs 2,962,000 10,668,000 19,980,000 1.65 26,807,000 29,484,000 34,705,000
Jews 12,292,000 13,500,000 13,745,000 0.33 14,576,000 15,000,000 16,729,000
Nonreligionists 3,255,000 709,447,000 791,842,000 0.32 838,454,000 839,650,000 827,835,000
Agnostics 3,029,000 544,290,000 655,867,000 0.37 701,060,000 707,416,000 698,119,000
Atheists 226,000 165,156,000 135,975,000 0.06 137,393,000 132,234,000 129,716,000
Note: Religions do not add up to the total because smaller religions are not listed.
1.(0–1, 1=most diverse). The Religious Diversity Index methodology is described in Todd M. Johnson and Brian J. Grim, The World’s Religions in Figures (Chiches-
ter: Wiley-Blackwell), chapter 3.
*Column % p.a. Trend. Average annual rate of change, 2000–2018, as % per year.
Source: Todd M. Johnson and Gina A. Zurlo, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden: Brill, accessed July 2017).
IBMR 42(1)
Johnson et al. 5
Table 3. Global Christianity by Tradition, 1900–2050.
1900 1970 2000 % p.a.* mid-2018 2025 2050
Total Christians, % of world 34.4 33.4 32.4 0.10 33.0 33.5 35.3
Affiliated Christians 521,307,000 1,118,809,000 1,888,394,000 1.34 2,398,810,000 2,616,760,000 3,326,201,000
Roman Catholics 266,263,000 658,552,000 1,025,991,000 1.06 1,239,950,000 1,316,943,000 1,607,620,000
Protestants1133,274,000 251,988,000 424,268,000 1.63 567,185,000 625,902,000 871,395,000
Independents 8,859,000 96,342,000 301,532,000 2.20 446,434,000 513,322,000 699,086,000
African 40,000 17,565,000 76,307,000 2.38 116,558,000 135,840,000 192,044,000
Asian 1,906,000 16,467,000 94,257,000 2.92 158,283,000 188,508,000 287,950,000
European 185,000 8,299,000 17,371,000 1.87 24,227,000 27,165,000 33,461,000
Latin American 33,000 9,452,000 32,865,000 1.97 46,704,000 52,905,000 67,574,000
Northern American 6,673,000 44,022,000 79,779,000 1.23 99,389,000 107,497,000 116,409,000
Oceanian 22,000 537,000 953,000 1.62 1,273,000 1,407,000 1,647,000
Orthodox 115,481,000 142,324,000 256,810,000 0.57 284,499,000 289,726,000 297,854,000
Unaffiliated Christians 36,448,000 110,212,000 98,144,000 0.53 108,025,000 111,675,000 111,494,000
Evangelicals280,912,000 105,953,000 241,049,000 2.09 349,499,000 400,107,000 581,188,000
Pentecostals/Charismatics3981,000 62,683,000 460,980,000 2.21 682,731,000 795,684,000 1,091,210,000
Denominations 1,600 18,800 34,200 1.90 48,000 55,000 70,000
Congregations 400,000 1,408,000 3,400,000 2.97 5,758,000 7,500,000 9,000,000
Note: Categories below do not add up to affiliated Christians because of double-affiliation (between traditions).
1.Including Anglicans. Past tables have listed Anglicans separately.
2.Churches and individuals who self-identify as Evangelicals by membership in denominations linked to Evangelical alliances (e.g. World Evangelical Alliance) or by
self-identification in polls.
3.Church members involved in the Pentecostal/Charismatic/Independent Charismatic renewal in the Holy Spirit, also known collectively as “Renewalists”.
*Column % p.a. Trend. Average annual rate of change, 2000–2018, as % per year.
Source: Todd M. Johnson and Gina A. Zurlo, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden: Brill, accessed July 2017).
IBMR 42(1)
6 International Bulletin of Mission Research 00(0)
Table 4. Christian Affiliation by Continent and Christian Mission and Evangelization, 1900–2050.
1900 1970 2000 % p.a.* mid-2018 2025 2050
Christian Affiliation by Continent
Africa (5 regions) 8,458,000 113,519,000 359,640,000 2.87 598,996,000 721,431,000 1,252,614,000
Asia (5 regions) 20,816,000 91,667,000 272,033,000 2.13 397,252,000 461,619,000 588,093,000
Europe (including Russia; 4 regions) 368,114,000 467,114,000 545,433,000 0.04 549,516,000 538,317,000 489,585,000
Latin America (3 regions) 60,027,000 263,589,000 481,879,000 1.20 596,936,000 633,162,000 704,585,000
Northern America (1 region) 59,570,000 168,477,000 208,422,000 0.58 231,112,000 235,777,000 258,540,000
Oceania (4 regions) 4,323,000 14,442,000 20,986,000 0.98 24,999,000 26,456,000 32,785,000
Christian Mission and Evangelization
National workers (citizens) 2,100,000 4,600,000 10,900,000 0.98 13,000,000 14,000,000 17,000,000
Foreign missionaries 62,000 240,000 420,000 0.26 440,000 550,000 700,000
Foreign mission sending agencies 600 2,200 4,000 1.68 5,400 6,000 7,500
Christian martyrs over 10 years1344,000 3,770,000 1,600,000 –3.15 900,000 1,000,000 1,000,000
% in Christian countries295.0 76.0 59.2 –0.60 53.0 53.0 48.9
Non-Christians who know a Christian (%) 5.5 13.5 17.6 0.25 18.4 19.1 19.8
Unevangelized population3880,122,000 1,650,954,000 1,840,175,000 0.88 2,152,804,000 2,318,317,000 2,742,657,000
Unevangelized as % of world population 54.3 44.8 30.0 –0.32 28.3 28.5 28.2
World evangelization plans since 30 CE4250 510 1,500 2.88 2,500 3,000 4,000
1.Ten-year total for decade ending in the given year. World totals of current long-term trend. See David B. Barrett and Todd M. Johnson, World Christian Trends
(Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2001), part 4, “Martyrology.”
2.Percentage of all Christians living in countries 80% Christian.
3.Defined in World Christian Trends, part 25, “Macroevangelistics.”
4. Grand total of all distinct plans and proposals for accomplishing world evangelization made by Christians since 30 CE. See World Christian Trends, part 27,
*Column % p.a. Trend. Average annual rate of change, 2000–2018, as % per year.
Source: Todd M. Johnson and Gina A. Zurlo, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden: Brill, accessed July 2017).
IBMR 42(1)
Johnson et al. 7
Table 5. Christian Media and Finance, 1900–2050.
1900 1970 2000 % p.a.* mid-2018 2025 2050
Christian Media
Books (titles) about Christianity 300,000 1,800,000 4,800,000 3.68 9,200,000 11,800,000 14,500,000
Christian periodicals (titles) 3,500 23,000 35,000 4.33 75,000 100,000 120,000
Bibles printed per year 5 million 25 million 54 million 2.91 90 million 110 million 135 million
Scriptures (including selections)
printed per year
20 million 281 million 4,600 million 1.07 5,150 million 6,000 million 9,200 million
Bible density (copies in place) 108 million 443 million 1,400 million 1.97 1,990 million 2,280 million 2,800 million
Users of radio/TV/Internet 0 750 million 1,830 million 1.18 2,260 million 2,440 million 2,920 million
Christian Finance (in US$, per year)
Personal income of Christians 270 billion 4,100 billion 18,000 billion 6.61 57,000 billion 71,000 billion 200,000 billion
Giving to Christian causes 8 billion 70 billion 320 billion 6.29 960 billion 1,200 billion 3,300 billion
Churches’ income 7 billion 50 billion 130 billion 6.14 380 billion 480 billion 1,300 billion
Parachurch and institutional income 1 billion 20 billion 190 billion 6.40 580 billion 720 billion 2,000 billion
Ecclesiastical crime1300,000 5 million 19 billion 6.91 63 billion 80 billion 250 billion
Income of global foreign missions 200 million 3 billion 18 billion 6.60 56 billion 70 billion 180 billion
1.Amounts embezzled by top custodians of Christian monies (US dollar equivalents, per year).
*Column % p.a. Trend. Average annual rate of change, 2000–2018, as % per year.
Source: Todd M. Johnson and Gina A. Zurlo, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden: Brill, accessed July 2017).
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8 International Bulletin of Mission Research 00(0)
Using this definition, and summing up deaths from all martyrdom situations over the
past ten years, we estimate that 900,000 Christians have been killed in the context of
their witness during that period.4 This means that, on average, 90,000 Christians have
been martyred each year during this past decade. This number has been widely cited
and just as widely criticized. Are there really 90,000 Christian martyrs every year?
Since this number does not, in fact, refer to the number of martyrs that actually died in
the present year, it is presented this year in its raw form instead (i.e., the ten-year figure
of 900,000; see table 4).
Other groups offer significantly lower estimates for the number of Christian
martyrs worldwide. However, the method presented here represents a more com-
prehensive approach to the subject. The main method used by others is to compile
lists of individual Christians who were killed specifically because they were
Christians. Yet, many well-known martyrs in the past were not killed explicitly
because they were Christians, including Jim Eliot, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Oscar
Romero.5 Mass killings, including genocides, also produce Christian martyrs.
Ongoing killings happening in South Sudan, Nigeria, the Central African Republic,
and other countries produce thousands of anonymous martyrs. The most troubling
martyrdom situation continues in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where numer-
ous armies and rebel forces seek to control land and people. Most of the population
is Christian, and most who are killed are living out lives of witness, thereby, by
definition, making their deaths martyrdom.6 The demographic assessment pre-
sented here attempts to do justice to, and draw attention to, a very real and very
grave situation.
Christians and Muslims together
In 1800 Christians and Muslims together represented only 33 percent of the world’s
population. The estimates for 2018 (table 2) show that Christians and Muslims
together now represent 57 percent of the world’s population. By 2050 the figure
could be as high as 64 percent. Note that in 2050, Christians (35 percent) will likely
still be larger than Muslims (29 percent). While Muslims continue to have higher
birth rates, conversions to Christianity are expected to be significant, especially in
China and India. China’s Christians are poised to increase from today’s 120 million
(9 percent of the population) to about 220 million by 2050 (16 percent). In India the
current total of 62 million (4.7 percent) is set to grow to 110 million (6.5 percent)
by 2050. Increased growth of Christianity and Islam has also contributed to a slight
decline in religious diversity worldwide (table 2). This is particularly the case in
The world in 2018 is more religious than it was in 1970. In the same period, the percent-
age of all Christians who live in countries 80 percent or more Christian has declined
from 76 percent to 53 percent. Christianity continues to spread out more evenly around
Johnson et al. 9
the world, further evidence of the decline of “Christendom.” In addition, now 500 years
past the Protestant Reformation, the future of Christian leadership is more likely to be
found in Africa, Asia, and Latin America than in historic Europe or North America.7
This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or
not-for-profit sectors.
1. For estimates of the number of Christians by continent from the time of Christ to the
present, see Todd M. Johnson and Kenneth R. Ross, eds., Atlas of Global Christianity
(Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 2009), 352.
2. Todd M. Johnson and Gina A. Zurlo, “Ongoing Exodus: Tracking the Emigration of
Christians from the Middle East,” Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
3 (2013–14): 39–49.
3. Todd M. Johnson and Gina A. Zurlo, “Christian Martyrdom as a Pervasive Phenomenon,”
Society 51, no. 6 (2014): 679–85.
4. A table summarizing martyrdom situations from 2000 to 2010 can be viewed at www.
5. These latter two (and eight others) are memorialized in statues at Westminster Abbey in
London as ten significant martyrs of the twentieth century. Most were not killed specifi-
cally because they were Christians.
6. See “Briefing: The Conflict in Kasai, DRC,” in IRIN: The Inside Story on Emergencies,
July 31, 2017,
7. See our article “Christianity 2017: Five Hundred Years of Protestant Christianity.”
International Bulletin of Mission Research 41, no. 1 (January 2017): 41–52.
Author biographies
This article was prepared by staff at the Center for the
Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell
Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, MA. Starting
from the bottom right and moving clockwise: Todd M.
Johnson, director; Gina A. Zurlo, assistant director;
Peter F. Crossing, data analyst; and Albert W. Hickman,
senior research associate. For more information, visit
... It is important to note that most of the world's active Christians are women of colour, often living in poverty, who reside outside the developed west (Marshall et al., 2013). A plurality of Christians reside in Africa, closely followed by Latin America (Johnson et al., 2018). Christians in Africa and Latin America are also comparatively more spiritually committed (Marshall, 2018). ...
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Introduction: Christianity is the world’s leading religion with an estimated 2.3 billion followers, with evidence of influence both in the developing world and amongst developed nations throughout the globe. Literature has demonstrated that church clergy across varying contexts and communities serve the function of mental health gatekeepers and are often the first access point for their community, particularly among people living in low socio-economic settings without adequate access to professional mental health services. However, some issues raised by previous studies were that certain Christian beliefs have been linked with promoting stigma, internalized shame and delayed help-seeking. This study aims to synthesize and map past research that investigated church leader’s representation of how Christian beliefs inform mental illness identification and remediation (referral pathways) in vulnerable church members. Method and Analysis: A scoping review was performed to gain an overview of the available evidence from literature concerning this topic. The data was screened using the PRISMA-ScR flow diagram according to the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Relevant databases were sourced for literature and a total of 11 studies were eligible for final review. Results and Discussion: Data from the literature was synthesized in table format according to: Author(s) and Year, Study Title, Aims and Objectives, Operational Definition of Concepts, Methodology, and Results. Thematic analysis was used on the data to describe the existing literature and gaps in narrative format. Four themes were identified from the data; 1) Clergy’s conceptualisation of mental illness, 2) Role of Clergy in remediation/intervention regarding suspected cases of mental health issues (referral pathways) 3) Impact of socio-cultural context, 4) Reviewed Study’s Recommendation. These themes were found to be prominent dynamics among studies that investigated clergy’s representation and treatment of mental illness. Conclusion and Recommendations: Four overarching themes were identified among studies that investigated church clergy’s representation and remediation pathways of mental illness for 5 vulnerable church members. Future research should focus on researching the usefulness of clergy and mental health practitioner collaborations in mental health treatment, which can benefit vulnerable church members.
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Historians have undertaken the study of Christian martyrdom primarily to understand its impact on the growth of the religion since its inception. This article takes a different perspective on the study of martyrdom, instead examining how many Christians around the world have died in situations of witness every year. Included is a comparative analysis of twentieth- and twenty-first-century trends regarding the phenomenon, highlighting both qualitative and quantitative differences between the two periods. Measuring Christian martyrdom is not without controversy, however. Here, the number of martyrs per year is determined by a specific set of criteria that takes into consideration historical, sociological, and theological arguments. This article will present a definition of martyrdom highlighting two important aspects: (1) the motivation of the killed rather than the killer, and (2) the inclusion of Christians who have died as a result of mass killings and genocides. Drawing on historical and contemporary descriptions of martyrdom situations, we argue that martyrdom is a broad-based phenomenon not limited to state persecution that is profoundly affecting thousands of Christians in the context of civil war, genocide, and other conflicts.
Briefing: The Conflict in Kasai, DRC," in IRIN: The Inside Story on Emergencies
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See "Briefing: The Conflict in Kasai, DRC," in IRIN: The Inside Story on Emergencies, July 31, 2017,
Five Hundred Years of Protestant Christianity
See our article "Christianity 2017: Five Hundred Years of Protestant Christianity." International Bulletin of Mission Research 41, no. 1 (January 2017): 41-52.