Where Are the World’s Missionaries?
Ever wonder where most of the world's foreign Christian missionaries go? Turns out they tend to go to the places that already have the most other foreign Christian missionaries. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, but it does raise some questions.
I know a man with a specialty in missiometrics: He measures things related to missions. Todd coauthored an article which says 40% of the church’s global foreign mission resources are deployed to just 10 oversaturated countries with strong citizen-run home ministries.
Curious, I wrote for more information. Turns out things have changed a bit since that article (which is based on 2001 figures), but not much. Data for 2010 lists these countries as receiving the most missionaries:
Together, these 10 countries receive 36% of the world’s 400,000+ foreign missionaries.
- USA: 32,400
- Brazil: 20,000
- Russia: 20,000
- Congo: 15,000
- South Africa: 12,000
- France: 10,000
- Britain: 10,000
- Argentina: 10,000
- Chile: 8,500
- India: 8,000
Source: Atlas for Global Christianity, Edinburgh University Press, 2009, p. 259.Surprised? Russia is the world’s largest country, and India has one of the largest (and most diverse) populations, so that’s something to take into account. I was sure there would be more African countries on the list, though. Seems like everybody and their brother is going to Uganda and Kenya these days. It would also be enlightening to look at the more specific places where these missionaries are working and the populations they serve. Where are the areas of greatest duplication, or omission? And what happens when we include in such figures the engagement of more local Christians, not just the foreign ones?
A second list explores the number of foreign missionaries “per million people,” excluding countries with populations under 100,000. So it’s looking more at missionary density. This top-ten list includes Micronesia, Samoa, Tonga, Netherlands Antilles, Guam, French Polynesia, US Virgin Islands, Belize, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia. I'd like to see what countries make the bottom of that list.
I hope you weren’t expecting to find your own island. Apparently they are quite popular with the mission set.
See also: The United States - Still Number Three (J.D. Payne)