After Jesus’ resurrection, He came to His disciples before ascending to heaven. He instructed them with what we call the Great Commission. These words established what was and has been the primary mission of the church since the birth of Christianity. We read of Jesus’ disciples throughout the New Testament giving their lives to fulfill this mission which has been passed to every follower since.
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20).
As we fast forward to 2023, almost 2,000 years since Jesus’ death and resurrection, the world currently has a population of approximately 8 billion people. As believers work to spread the Gospel and fulfill the Great Commission, we may wonder exactly how many believers there are around the world. It is an interesting number to know and reflect on.
According to Lifeway Research, it is estimated that 2.56 billion people in the world profess to be part of the Christian faith. This number includes all the major traditions of Christianity such as Catholics, protestants, and Eastern orthodox. This makes Christianity the largest religion in the world.
What IS Christianity?
Christianity is defined as the religion based in the belief, life, and practices of Jesus of Nazareth as told through the Gospels. Christianity is professed by people around the world and includes those who hold faith in Jesus who are Catholics, Eastern orthodox, and Protestants. What makes someone a Christian is saving faith in Jesus Christ.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying he disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity.” Without Jesus, there is no Christian faith. There is a passage in the letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians that begins to capture what Christianity is.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
Christianity is the collective body of people who have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Christianity is marked by a unique set of doctrines: one triune God (Father, Son, and Spirit) who created the world, Jesus who was born of a virgin, the death and resurrection of Jesus which gives salvation, the inspiration and inerrancy of Scriptures, and the Second coming of Jesus. It is one’s faith in Jesus and having a heart devoted to God that makes someone a Christian.
How Many People Believe in Christianity in the United States?
The Pew Research Center estimates that as of 2020, 64% of Americans, including adults and children, believe in Christianity. According to their research, about 30% of Americans identity as agnostic, atheist, or non-religious, and around 6% of Americans identify with other religions such as Islam, Hinduism, or Judaism.
These numbers may seem discouraging when we consider that the percentage of Christians in America has been and continues to decline. However, believers can find encouragement that no matter what, God remains in control. These statistics serve as motivation for Christians to continue their mission to fulfill the Great Commission and share the Good News of Jesus.
How Many People Believe in Christianity in Europe?
There are 44 countries that make up Europe. The results of a 2019 Eurobarometer survey concluded that 64% of Europe’s population believe in Christianity, and about 41% of those Christians identified that they were part of the Roman Catholic church.
Like the United States, Europe has been experiencing a decline in those who claim to be part of the Christian faith. These statistics reflect what some call a “post-Christian” nation, however, believers can be confident that disciples can be made in all nations. It is of utmost importance for believers to share the Gospel.
How Many People Believe in Christianity Globally?
It is estimated that 2.56 billion people in the world profess to be part of the Christian faith — this is about 1/3 of the world’s population. The World Population Review lists the top five countries with the highest number of believers as:
– The United States
– The Philippines
This reflects the major shift of Christianity’s growth to the global south. The United States has 230 million Christians and Brazil has 180 million Christians. Truly, Christianity has spread far and wide, and the global church is massive.
Despite declining numbers of Christians in some parts of the world, in other countries, Christianity is growing. Ultimately, we can keep in mind the powerful and reassuring words of Jesus that nothing would prevail against His church.
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
It may feel discouraging to hear the number of Christians decreasing in the western world, but Christians can trust that God’s church is growing and will continue to stand firm until Christ’s return.
In What Country Is Christianity Most Threatened, or Persecuted?
Open Doors USA is an organization that tracks persecution of Christians around the world and helps to alleviate oppression. They estimate that nearly 360 million Christians live in nations where they are persecuted. They list the top three countries in which Christians are most persecuted as:
– North Korea
Afghanistan is an Islamic country, and it is incredibly shameful and dangerous for someone to leave the Islamic faith and convert to Christianity. According to an Open Doors USA report, if a person in Afghanistan converts from Islam to Christianity, it is likely that they will be killed or must flee the country if their conversion is discovered.
Indeed, it is so important that Christians pray for their persecuted and oppressed brothers and sisters around the world.
Is Christianity the Largest Faith in the World?
Although we see the percentages of Christians dropping in places like the United States and Europe, overall, Christianity is a growing religion around the globe! In fact, Christianity is the largest faith in the world. Nearly a third of the world’s population identifies as part of the Christian faith.
We know there are many people groups that have not yet heard the Gospel, and there are many believers and missionaries all over the world working hard and dedicating their lives to sharing the Gospel and living out the Great Commission to make disciples in all nations. Christianity may be the largest faith group, but only 1/3 of the world’s population is part of Christianity. The need is great for more people to hear of Jesus and come to know Him as their Lord and Savior.
How Can We Pray for the Gospel to Spread among Our Neighbors?
Even as fewer Americans believe in Christianity, the church in the US should faithfully continue its efforts to help people find saving faith in Jesus Christ. It is vital that we pray for more Americans — and people all over the world — to hear the Gospel. These are some specific things we can pray as we hope more come to saving faith in Jesus.
1. Pray that Christians would be intentional and emboldened to fulfill the Great Commission
2. Pray for local churches and Christians to be salt and light in their communities, workplaces, neighborhoods, and families
3. Pray for pastors and church leaders to have endurance and wisdom
4. Pray that believers would be empowered by the Holy Spirit to share their faith
5. Pray for opportunities for Christians to share their faith and that they’ll be ready to share the Gospel
6. Pray that people would have ears to hear and eyes to see the truth of God
7. Pray against the work of the enemy in the US and around the world
8. Pray that people would have open hearts to receive the Gospel message
The Work Continues
Currently, it is estimated that there are 2.56 billion Christians in the world. This makes Christianity the largest religion, yet there is still work to do. Jesus instructed believers to go and make disciples in all nations, so the mission to share the Gospel will not be complete until Jesus returns. Although some countries are experiencing a decrease in the amount of people who believe in Christianity, in other parts of the world, Christianity is growing. The Spirit of God continues to work in the hearts of people around the globe as the Gospel message of Jesus Christ is spread.
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Pamela Palmer is a writer, speaker, and the founder of upheldlife.com, the platform on which she produces devotionals and faith resources to inspire keeping faith at the center of life. She is in pastoral ministry and gets to share in the emotional and spiritual lives of others. She lives and thrives on Jesus, coffee, and music. She is the author of Living a Deeper Faith: Nurture Your Relationship with God and Live a Faith-Fueled Life. Pamela married the perfect man for her and they have two beautiful kiddos. She has been published on herviewfromhome.com, and you can follow her at upheldlife.com or on Facebook.com/upheldlife.