Global Christianity: A Guide to the World’s Largest Religion from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe

Global Christianity: A Guide to the World’s Largest Religion from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, by Gina A. Zurlo, Zondervan Academic, 2022. 352 pages.

Global Christianity succinctly describes how Christianity has changed since the year 1900 and continues to change today. It includes information on Christianity in six continents, in six religious traditions and major movements, and in 234 countries and provides helpful maps, charts, and bullet points.

The book is based on research conducted for the 2019 World Christian Encyclopedia, now condensed and updated in this much less extensive and less expensive volume for a broader (but primarily American) audience.

I grabbed a highlighter and went through the 30 or so summary pages that precede the “Afghanistan” entry, marking pithy statements and figures I might be able to use in PowerPoint presentations and social media posts. For example:

  • In 1900, nine of the ten countries with the most Christians were in the global North. This completely reversed by 2020, when there were only two global North countries in the top ten. (p. 4)
  • Africa’s population continues to grow more than 2.5% per year. By 2050 there will likely be 2.5 billion people on the continent. (p. 7)
  • In 1900, seven of the ten countries with the most Catholics were in Europe. By 2020, only three European countries were in the top ten. (p. 21; those countries and their Catholic population figures included)
  • Of the roughly 5 million pastors and priests across World Christianity, only an estimated 5% have formal theological training. (p. 23)
  • Country with the largest population of Protestants: Nigeria. Fastest growth: Albania. Largest decline: United States. (p. 27)

Author and religious demographer Gina Zurlo is the Co-director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

You may be wondering, as I did, if this book should replace that 2010 edition of Operation World on your bookshelf. Global Christianity is more up-to-date and includes topics you won’t find much in OW. But keep them both, because this one isn’t designed for prayer, specifically, and is very much focused on Christianity in its various contexts rather than the whole world. Each of the 67 countries with more than 5 million people who identify as Christian gets a two-page spread and 108 countries with fewer Christians get a full page. But for the 59 countries with fewer than 100,000 people who identify as Christian, the entries are only half a page and do not include some of the most interesting data points covered in the other entries (such as the number of Bible translations, churches, and missionaries sent from and to that country).

It may also be helpful to acknowledge that the book includes a brief but clear explanation of its methodology and sources but does not footnote specific statements.

Learn more. The book retails for US$29.99 but it looks like you can currently get a paperback copy from the publisher for US$20.99, with Amazon selling the Kindle edition for US$19.99.

See also Quick Facts about Global Christianity and Status of Global Christianity 2022 (Center for the Study of Global Christianity).

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