HAMILTON, MA – The estimated total population in the world is between 7.3 and 7.6 billion people. (It’s hard to keep an exact count. The number keeps changing!) It is probably even more difficult to assess how many Christians there are and where they live. First, by the time a count is determined, it has changed. Second, the common methodology for census polling of religion is self-determination.
In the self-determination model, whatever the individual claims to be is accepted as factual. In the American culture, for example, claiming to be a Christian could mean that a person identifies as Christian but is, in practice, not a loyal follower of Christ. This may be true in other cultures as well, but not so much in a place where claiming to be a Christian can lead to existential threats of persecution and death.
Having said that, when dealing with numbers in the millions and billions, conclusions from disciplined census and analysis can be deemed as being within an acceptable margin of error. The results, therefore, may not be precise but they should be reasonably representative.
The Center for the Study of Global Christianity recently released its latest study on the demographics of Christians around the globe, revealing how many self-declared Christians live on each continent. The results may surprise you.
The continent with the greatest number of Christians is Africa with a count of 631 million. Contrary to popular belief that North America would have the greatest number of Christians, our continent actually ranks fifth out of the six populated continents. South America follows Africa with 601 million. The sequence continues with Europe at 571 million, Asia with 388 million, North America with 277 million, and Australia and Oceania with 29 million.
A most important insight is that two of the top three continents, Africa and Asia, are also arguably the continents where Christians suffer the most persecution. To understand why, we must understand that by percentage, Christians living on those continents are in the minority. Christians comprise only 45% of the African population and a mere 9% of the entire Asian population.
The Center for the Study of Global Christianity is an academic research center that monitors worldwide demographic trends in Christianity, including outreach and mission. [The center] provides a comprehensive collection of information on the past, present, and future of Christianity in every country of the world. [Its] data and publications help churches, mission agencies, and NGOs to be more strategic, thoughtful, and sensitive to local contexts.
If we extract any actionable conclusions from the data, perhaps we should focus on praying for and reaching the 55% and 91% of the African (615 million) and Asian (4 billion) people, a total of more than 4.6 billion people who do not know Jesus, many of whom may never have even heard of Him.
- The Christian Post, More Christians Now Live in Africa Than Any Other Continent in the World
- Center for the Study of Global Christianity, A look at the status of Christianity in 2018
- Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Status of Global Christianity, 2017, in the Context of 1900–2050
- Pew Research Center, Christians remain world’s largest religious group, but they are declining in Europe
- Wikipedia, List of continents by population