Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Where Do Missionaries Go?

I have a newsletter ready to send out by email. I kept it under 1000 words – a good practice. But that meant I didn't have much room to expand. So, a few more thoughts. Today: Where do we send missionaries? Tomorrow: Going without an invitation.

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:
  • 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
Together, these 10 countries receive 36% of the world’s 400,000+ foreign missionaries. 
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)



gretchen said...

I find this very interesting, Moose - and also what you said in your letter about the 3 totally different "types" of people - christian, secular,Muslim - all living congruently...but with the underlying idea in Russia at least, that the "others" aren't worth helping. I wonder if there will be more violence against missionaries in the future - the way there was in the past. Also, the idea that missionaries are going where there already are missionaries...hmmm...I suppose that ease is one thing - it's easier to go where things are established...but where are the intrepid missionaries, the ones boldly going where no one has gone before...or at least not very often? and NOT to an island?!! Hmmm...lots of interesting thoughts...

Marti said...

A number of Christians I met in on this last trip expressed a desire to see their country become a Christian nation, returning to its roots, and shared stories about how this was happening. E.g., the top gov't leaders made a big show about going to church on Christmas, and a lot of money is going into rebuilding (and re-gilding) all those fancy-shmancy Orthodox churches.

Meanwhile, they seem to find any sign of religious renewal within the Muslim community a threat to national security. Hardly seems fair. But does seem familiar.

Christian "believers" do see themselves as a minority, and want to see their numbers grow. Since they are still a pretty small percentage of the population, you can see how reaching out to those in cultures that have even fewer believers might be a hard sell.

And it does mean rocking the boat.

While we were in Moscow we heard about a high-profile Christian leader who was martyred for such efforts last year. The lives of foreigners - at least Westerners - are seldom in much danger, but I've certainly heard a number of cases of people whose visas/registration were revoked/nonrenewed.

Yeah, on the whole, missionaries move in packs. Pros and cons to that. Joining an existing work also has an appeal that starting a new one may lack. Though the reverse is also true. How do you hold partnership and humility in balance with pioneering and boldness?

a life without walls said...

A really interesting statistical summary/interpretation. I'd be interested to know what places were on the bottom of the second list too!

Anonymous said...

For a more indepth discussion of the use of missiometrics in missions strategy, go to

Evangelical Church in Oakville said...

I really adore christian missionaries for their passion to spread the word of God. And I want to experience the great feeling of being passionate to do it for the Lord!

Shin Min said...

Thanks for informing us, you truly work hard to reach out those people to minister to them. Continue to bless God and lift him up!

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