The Story: The number of Christians in Communist China is growing so steadily that by 2030 it could have more churchgoers than America, reports The Telegraph.
The Background: The People's Republic of China remains, at least officially, an atheist country. But the number of Protestant Christians in China has grown from one million in 1949 to more than 49 million in 2010. Experts believe that number could more than triple over the next generation:
Prof Yang, a leading expert on religion in China, believes that number will swell to around 160 million by 2025. That would likely put China ahead even of the United States, which had around 159 million Protestants in 2010 but whose congregations are in decline.
By 2030, China's total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the United States as the largest Christian congregation in the world, he predicted.
"Mao thought he could eliminate religion. He thought he had accomplished this," Prof Yang said. "It's ironic - they didn't. They actually failed completely."
Why It Matters: In his book The Rise of Christianity, sociologist Rodney Stark estimates that during the first 350 years of Christianity, the religion grew at a rate of 40 percent per decade. During the 61 year period from 1949 to 2010, Christianity grew at a rate of 4,800 percent in 61 years, a rate of 89% per decade.
Part of the reason for the exponential growth is attributable to the sheer size of the population of China. With 1.351 billion people in the country, Christians comprise only 5 percent of the country. If current trends hold, in 2030 Christians in China will make up almost 9 percent of the total population. While the ratio of Christians to population would still be small, the total numbers are astounding. By mid-century, China may have more citizens who identify as Christians than the United States has citizens.
Christians in America often find reasons to be pessimistic about our religion's waning influence on our country. But we should remember that our land is not the last bastion of hope for the faith. The remarkable growth in global Christianity—particularly in Asia and Africa—should give us reason to be optimistic. The Holy Spirit is changing hearts and minds around the globe in a way that has not been seen since the first century after Christ's Ascension. For this we should be eternally grateful.
Those of us in the West should continue to support our Chinese brothers and sisters with finances, missionaries, theological resources, and—most importantly—prayer. In the latter half of this century, assuming the Lord tarries, we may need them to do the same for the American church.