The African Century? Print
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 16 March 2009 09:26
In honor of the Holy Father's visit to Africa this week and in light of the many blog and MS articles on the topic of Christianity in Africa that are already being published, and the inevitable concerns about evangelical missionary expansion, I thought I'd put together a little back-grounder. My figures come largely from the Center for Global Christianity and also from the research I did three years ago for my article on Independent Christianity.

As John Allen and many others have pointed out, the growth of Christianity in Africa is staggering. There were only 4.3 million Christians in Africa in 1800. 209 years later, those 4 million have multiplied 103 times to 437.3 million out of a total population of nearly 1 billion. By 2025, it is estimated that Christians in Africa will number 663 million and that Africa will be on the verge of becoming a majority Christian continent.

The annual growth rate of African Christianity is the highest of any religious community on the planet: 2.59% per year. There are approximately 32,000 new African Christians every 24 hours.

What is interesting is that the growth of Asian Christianity is a close second at 2.48% per year. There are about 25,000 new Asian Christians every 24 hours. (To put this into perspective, the global growth of Islam is 1.75% per year.)

Europe, as we know, is another story.

In 1800, 84% of all Christians in the world were European. Then came the great missionary expansion of the 19th century when Christianity grew from 22.7% of the world's population to 34.5% in a single century. By 1900, the European share of Christendom has shrunk to 66%. And now 9 years into the 21st century, European Christians are 44.3% of the whole.

Christian growth there is on the verge of becoming negative (0.12% pa currently). It is estimated that, for the first time, there will be fewer Christians in Europe in 2025 than today. Fewer Christians in Europe in 2025 than in Africa or South America. In 2025, even Asian Christianity will be on the verge of overtaking Europe. Even as I write this, Latin Christians number only 2.5 million less than European Christians. They will overtake the old world in the next year or two.

In 16 years - by 2025 - it is estimated that European Christians will make up just under 20% of Christendom. A near total reversal in 225 years.

As I have been told by those who have worked extensively in Africa, Christianity there is a mile wide and a half inch deep. There is a tremendous need for formation in the faith and the fostering of genuine discipleship.

So it is most fitting and necessary that the Holy Father visit the continent that is going to lead the Christian world in the 21st century in some very important ways.