FORT WASHINGTON, PA – Operation World (OW) is an organization of Evangelical Believers that provides information for Christians along with a “definitive prayer guide to every nation.”
While OW strives to maintain the latest, up-to-the-minute data, it recognizes that is an impossible task. The entire world would have to come to a standstill for any statistics to be absolute. Like any other data, once figures are published, the numbers are already obsolete.
“Nevertheless, the purpose of Operation World is to trace the work of God through the years and decades. The prayer points are framed in such a way as to not be invalidated, for example, by an election, a natural disaster or any other temporal change in a nation; they are long-term issues that usually take decades of sustained intercession to see significant changes.”
Along with a thumbnail description of every country, Operation World provides one or more prayer challenges relative to the work and the spread of the Gospel in each. Although data and prayer requests are available for nearly all countries, the OW website features a list of the Top 40 Countries with the Fastest Growing Evangelical Population and another with the Top 40 Countries with the Slowest Growing (or Fastest Declining) Evangelical Population.
You might be surprised to discover where the evangelical population is growing at the fastest rate – and where it is declining.
The countries with the greatest rate of evangelical growth are Iran and Afghanistan. Isn’t it amazing that we hear so much about the military conflicts in these two countries but rarely have insight into the victories being won on the spiritual battlefield?
Iran has a population in excess of 75 million with an annual growth rate of 1.19%. There are slightly fewer than 118,000 Evangelicals in Iran, representing 0.2% of the total population of the Islamic Republic. However, the openness of the people is evidenced by a growth rate of 19.6% for the Evangelical population. Operation World observed that Iranian young people are “particularly responsive to the Gospel.” Two-thirds of the population is 30-years-old or younger. According to OW, “much of the underground church is made up of this younger generation.”
The Evangelical population in Afghanistan is growing at a rate of 16.7%, more than four times the overall annual population growth of 3.51%. Still, Evangelicals number only about 8,500 out of a total population of more than 29 million.
It was with great interest I noted that Nepal, with a population close to Afghanistan’s, is listed 27th among the Top 40 fastest growing Evangelical sectors. There are close to 801,000 Evangelicals in Nepal, nearly 10 times the number in Afghanistan. The rate of growth among Evangelicals in Nepal is 5.3%. Because Christians are not allowed to proselytize, OW’s primary prayer request is for perseverance for believers to continue their “courageous evangelism.”
By contrast, the United States makes the other list, coming in at 30th place among the nations with the least growth in the Evangelical population. Although nearly 29% of the 327 million American profess to be Evangelical, the rate of growth is a mere 0.08% while the U.S. population overall is growing at nearly one percent.
See the Missions Box article Here’s the Church & Here’s the Steeple, Open the Door & Where Are the People? for more information about the state of Christianity in the United States.
I contrasted the rather poor showing in the United States to India, one of the South Asia nations closest to Gospel for Asia’s heart. Even with a population of 1.2 billion, 2.2% are Evangelical Christians, i.e., nearly 27.3 million. Plus, although India did not make the Top 40, the Evangelical growth rate is 3.9%! (The Top 40 list cutoff is 4.6%.)
Operation World cites training indigenous Christian workers as the most “urgent and essential” need in order to continue long-term growth in India. It was a particular blessing to read that OW specifically cited Gospel for Asia for its number of training centers and believers who are currently receiving training.
Let us pray for the Evangelical outreach in every nation as Operation World has requested that we do for India: “For an increasing stream of well-trained, spiritually passionate workers with a burden for effective ministry in their nation.”
To read more news on Evangelism on Missions Box, go here.