Is Christianity Really Dying?

Is Christianity Really Dying? October 17, 2014

[A more comprehensive look into the study, research, and it’s methods can be found here at Pew Research, where a majority of these numbers are from]

Is Christianity really dying? I think when many of us, here in the US, have heard or say “Christianity is dying,” what we mean is that Americanized version of Christianity and their institutions are dying.

We unfortunately tend to forget that the world, and Christianity doesn’t, revolve around us, which is partly why people, even us, are fed up with Christianity and fled from it [but that’s another post for another time].

We’ve heard it been said, shoot I’ve even said it, and many have touted that Christianity is reaching its end, but is it? Taking a little bit more of an in depth look at Christianity on the global level, I think it’s a bit of an overstatement to say that Christianity is dying…

In a relatively recent comprehensive demographic study, in 2010, of more than 200 countries finds that there are 2.18 billion Christians around the world, which is only one third of the worlds given population of 6.9 billion.

Oddly enough a quarter of the world’s Christians currently reside in Europe whereas a little over a century ago in 1910 over two-thirds of the worlds Christians resided in Europe. If we were to combine the percentages from both the Americas and Europe in 1910, approximately 93.4% of the world’s Christians resided in these two regions. Currently Christianity has drastically decreased in Europe but drastically increased in sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific region [1].

Many of us might hear Christian friends or religious leaders citing pew research that, “The number of Christians around the world has nearly quadrupled in the last 100 years [2].” This is true, but extremely misleading and completely out of context. This isolated statement is not taking into consideration the insanely rapid population growth that also [nearly] quadrupled over the last century [1.8 billion to 6.9 billion]. Pew Research states, “As a result, Christians make up about the same portion of the world’s population today (32%) as they did a century ago (35%).” So yes the number of Christian’s around the world has nearly quadrupled in the last century but so has the population. In consequence, Christianity has actually decreased by 3%.

Is Christianity Dying?
image is from Pew Research – []
This question is not static, but rapidly and constantly changing. This study was conducted in 2010, since then Pew Research has shown that currently in 2014 there are 1 in 5 U.S. residents claiming “no affiliation.” That is, they are religious and spiritual but not claiming a label or religious group. They have been ironically labeled as “the nones.” This leads us to wonder if the people who claimed Christianity four years ago, in this study, have since jumped ship and left the faith? Furthermore, just because a person chooses to label him or herself “a none” does not mean they’re not a Christian and in similar fashion just because a person calls him or herself a Christian does not make them a Christian.

This study from Pew Research, as all research is, is problematic in many areas. Not only does it leave out two thirds of the worlds population, but it brings up the questions:

  1. “How do we define Christianity?”
  2. “Is how they define Christianity, how we define Christianity?”
  3. “What would make one definition of Christianity more correct than another’s definition of Christianity?”

This question, “Is Christianity dying?” is a complex issue to approach and authoritatively answer. It’s not as simple as throwing out one stat or even, for this matter, looking at only one study.

So is Christianity dying?

My answer is “No.”

Christianity has shrunken over the last century, percentage wise, but only by a mere 3%. Losing this 3% still leaves it as the majority religion.

You might ask, “Then why the glum morbid feeling that death is upon the Church?”

Well, things like Mark Driscoll’s recent book in which cites research showing “only 8 percent of Americans profess and practice true evangelical Christian faith. There are more left-handed people than evangelical Christians in America [3].” What he means by this is that only 8 percent of Americans are his type of Christianity [4]. Globally Christianity is not dying so much as a certain form of Christianity is dying, here in the states, that being the religious right. The institution known as Christianity is shrinking while one in four millennial’s are claiming “no affiliation” and the religious, but more so political, right is bleeding out [5].

[1] This includes Australia and New Zealand.

[2] Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population

[3] Driscoll, Mark. A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future?

[4] By “Americans” he means white-heterosexual-middle-class-males.

[5] Fatally wounded? I’m not sure, they’re in the ICU and it’s not looking good. We’ll see.

[banner image is a screen shot from a promotional video put out for Mark Driscoll’s most recent book A Call To Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral Or a Future?]

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  • This is interesting, and I think your point is a good one, that people who are the same kind of Christian as I am are fewer in number than all people, and even that my brand of Christianity isn’t staying popular.

    But the church itself isn’t dying, and the church is reinventing itself all over the world. We might not recognize the church, but it’s still there.