A Glance at Religions around the World

As we draw near the upcoming Ethne09 global gathering, 1-5 November 2009, we are thankful for what God has already done among the more than 6,700 least-reached peoples, assessing the status of work among these groups, and accelerating the movement of the gospel among them.

The least-evangelized groups of people with the highest populations in the world still get the least number of missionaries. Just over twenty-five percent of Protestant foreign missionaries are focused on the two-thirds of the world which is predominately non-Christian—and most of them are ministering among already-reached groups! Over twenty-seven percent of the world’s population is part of people groups who have no or very little access to the gospel. Furthermore, in terms of finances, less than one percent of U.S. church giving goes to support mission work among these least-served groups.

According to www.adherents.com (2005), the world’s top ten religions are:


# of Followers 


View of God

Means to God 

View of the Afterlife 

Christianity  2 billion (33%)  Jesus Christ  Monotheism  Atonement/Substitution  Heaven 
Islam  1.3 billion (21%)  Mohammed between AD 610-632   Monotheism, Allah  

The Five Pillars of Islam:

1. The profession of faith in the one God and in Muhammad as his Prophet.
2. Prayer five times a day.
3. The giving of alms to the poor.
4. Fasting during the month of Ramadan.
5. The hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in the lifetime.  

1.1 billion (16%; nonreligious westerners, agnostics, and atheists in current and formerly-communist countries)     None   None 
Hinduism  900 million (14%)  1800-1000 BC   Pantheism (belief that the whole of reality is divine or god)   Reincarnation until achieving Nirvana (“snuffed out like a candle”)   The Transmigration
of Souls/
Chinese Traditional Religion  394 million (6%); mostly in China and where Chinese live   Lao-Tse (604-531 BC) and Confucius (551-479 BC)  No particular deity/impersonal force (though Lao-Tse did become venerated generations later)   Not stressed, more of an ethical system than a religious one    
Buddhism 376 million (6%)  Siddharta Gautama (563-483 BC)  No belief in
personal creator God  

The Four Noble Truths:

1. Life means suffering.
2. The origin of suffering is attachment.
3. The cessation of suffering is attainable. 4. The Eightfold Path to the cessation of suffering. 

Reincarnation based on karma until achieving Nirvana (“snuffed out like a candle”)  
Primal Indigenous Religions 300 million (6%), including shamans (Siberia) and pagans (in Asia and India) and smaller, pre-literate tribal belief systems     Animism/
African Traditional Religions  100 million (6%), in Africa plus places where Africans were enslaved     Animism/
Sikhism 23 million (0.36%); chiefly in Punjab, India  Guru Nanak, 1469 Monotheism

The Five “K’s”:

1. Kesa (“long hair”)
2. Kangha (“comb”)
3. Kacha (“short pants”) 4. Kachu (“metal bracelet”)
5. Kirpan (“weapon”) 

Transmigration of the soul (reincarnation) and eventual merging with the divine  
Juche (self-reliance)  19 million  Kim Il Sung; 1950s  None     

*Note: Total adds up to more than 100% due to rounding and because upper bound estimates were used for each group.


It All Begins with Prayer

  • Pray those following another path will realize that something is missing in their lives and begin earnestly searching for the truth.
    • “God has…planted eternity in the human heart…” – Ecclesiastes 3:11
    • “There is a path before each person that seems right but it ends in death.” – Proverbs 14:12
    • “Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6
  • Pray for courage for those who have not yet found Christ to be willing to pay any price to know the way.
    • “You can enter God’s kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult and only a few ever find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14
  • Pray for bold witnesses ready to bring the message of God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ to those whose hearts are prepared to hear.
    • “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.” – 1 Peter 3:15
  • Pray for those whose hearts are prepared to follow Jesus to do it with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, never turning back.
    • “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first great commandment.” – Mark 12:30

(The original source of this article was www.adherents.com, but included updates and additions from Liz Adleta, minister-at-large and global prayer strategist for Mission to Unreached Peoples, and an executive director of Global Christian Network, Inc.)