This commentary and the accompanying table represent our twenty-third annual report on global mission prepared for the International Bulletin of Missionary Research (IBMR) each January since 1983. The full report is eight pages and includes five tables examining the total extent of Christ’s mission across the world. For this Lausanne World Pulse update we include only Global Table 5 and its commentary. Readers desiring the full version should contact the IBMR at www.omsc.org/ibmr.html.
Global Table 5 forms the climax of the 8-page report. It enumerates the multifold activities, presence and context of the missionary force. It depicts how to analyze seventy-nine variables across 225 years. Foreign mission personnel are involved in all sixteen major concerns and situations of Christianity shown in capital headings in Global Table 5. Missionaries are also involved in virtually every one of the seventy-nine spheres of activities enumerated there, often as far back as the year 1800 (first column of statistics).
Global Table 5 sets out global statistics for seventy-nine variables, each enumerated at the years 1800, 1900, 1970, 2000, 2007 and 2025. A trend variable in Column 7 provides 553 (79 x 7) additional comparative boxes of percentages and trends. Total foreign mission personnel have grown from 25,000 in AD 1800 to 443,000 by 2005. Of the latter, 245,000 are men and 198,000 are women. These figures refer to full-time workers, which means those employed full-time by churches and missions. However, the rest of the population should not be labeled as part-timers.
In fact, as Global Table 1 in the full version for IBMR explains, there are 688 million Great Commission Christians (rising to 703,225,000 by 2007) defined primarily as persons believing in and committed to Christ’s Great Commission and the worldwide mission of the Church. Of these millions, this analysis divides this vast bloc into two: 468 million function as background supporters of worldwide foreign missions. The remaining 220 million Great Commission Christians function as primarily supporters of home missions.
The Annual Paradox: Progress or Regress?
Global Table 5 presents each year data illustrating two paradoxical situations about the status of the global Christian mission—the first appearing to be undergoing remarkable progress, the second undergoing little-noted stagnation or even decline. The main global statistical categories involved are our threefold terms: World A, World B and World C, described here for convenience in reverse order: C = Christians (baptized persons), B = evangelized persons and A = unevangelized persons. Two situations for these three are given detailed statistics in Global Table 5, amply documented and nowhere contradictory. Below are these six, each with reference to Christ’s Great Commission with its 0 English-language imperatives.
- C-1. The key quantifiable imperative in the Great Commission is “Baptize!,” the only imperative enabling exact enumeration. Row 25 shows the Churches’ tenfold response from AD 1800 to 2007. There are now 2,077,909,000 baptized Christian believers, a success story indeed.
- C-2. Paradoxically, however, when changed to percentages Row 24 shows the same figures remaining unchanged at thirty-four percent over the entire period from 1900 to 2025. Stagnation has set in, on this way of counting. The analysis behind this is given in World Christian Trends, Part 3.
- B-1. The Commission’s main imperative in English is “Tell!” Evangelized persons are people and populations adequately aware of Christianity, Christ and the gospel, They have been told the gospel. Row 78 in Global Table 5 quantifies them at 100-28 = 72% of world population, which is Row 1 minus Row 77, computing to 4,765,446,000 persons. Their annual increase is 58.4 millions of persons newly evangelized for the first time (160,000 a day), an amazing achievement that many agencies are responsible for.
- B-2. Meanwhile the whole world is expanding in 2007 by 79.4 millions per year (287,530 per day). Some twenty million are thus not reached or served although several thousand Christian agencies make this their aim to accomplish. This is a failure representing the other side of the paradox—failure by baptized Christians to attain their own widely-proclaimed global goals.
- A-1. The Great Commission’s main overall emphasis is “Evangelize!,” so “unevangelized” is the umbrella term for all not benefiting from the Commission’s 110 parallel or synonymous imperatives. The Churches’ stewardship over two centuries on this can be depicted in various ways. In Row 78 statistics of the unevangelized world fall from 74.6% of the world in 1800, then drop precipitously to 28% by 2007. This appears to represent a massive achievement by churches and agencies.
- A-2. However, a quite different picture emerges if instead we examine the actual numbers of the unevangelized (persons unaware of Christianity, Christ or the gospel). Row 77 thus reveals a progression of rapidly increasing numbers up to 2007. This is not progress, from these individuals’ viewpoint—it is neglect, even regress.
This vast collection of percentages and numbers can now each be examined from varied points of view—demographic, theological and missiological. As you, the reader, use these statistics, you may find other new and often startling comparisons and insights. Please let us know what new findings your research discovers by emailing us at [email protected].
Sources and Documentation
Most of the statistics listed in the preceding analysis come in the first instance from the multiple censuses and minicensuses that compose each year’s Megacensus. Due to differing definitions of the terms used by different denominations and Christian World Communions, and to the overlapping categories at a number of points, the total picture presented here should be regarded as in the main an impressionistic portrait in oils rather than an exact photographic image with everything in focus. This situation, and its attendant problems and solutions, are described and discussed in detail in the presentation of data and methodology set out in World Christian Trends, AD 30–AD 2200.