The Twenty First Century
Political Milestones: 2000AD to 2100AD
This final essay in my series tracing the history of Christianity over 21 centuries is an attempt at predicting the demographic, economic, spiritual, cultural and political future of the world over the next 85 years by using the current and emerging trends already in place. Most of these trends are known if you know where to look. Some of them are obscure but will have huge impacts. For the period until 2050AD fairly accurate predictions can be made based on current trends. For the period between 2050 and 2100AD predictions are more speculative, but plausible given what will happen between now and the middle of the century.
I have extensively used Patrick Johnstone’s monumental book “The Future of the Global Church” as it has the best Christian data base in the world and accesses official government and UN data bases for any predictions it makes. I have also made use of Harry Dent’s “The Demographic Cliff”, David Garrison’s “A Wind in the House of Islam”, Jason Mandryk’s “Operation World” and numerous websites.
I will start with the all-important demographic trends as these are the foundation of many other trends and allow us to make create fairly safe predictions out to around 50 years. This is simply because these people have already been born. Demographics drives economics, and economics drives politics, so they will be presented in that order. We will then look at the spiritual changes that will take place in each of the world’s religions. This will culminate with an in-depth look at the future changes to Christianity, changes that build on the remarkable final 30 years of the 20th century.
The population of the world is currently 7.2 billion and predicted to grow to 9 billion by 2050AD and 10-12 billion by 2100AD. This growth represents a slowing of current trends, but with the recent surge in birth rates in Africa, it is up from the older prediction of a plateau of 9 billion around 2050 followed by a gentle decline in global population. The continental specifics of this growth are remarkably divergent as much of the developed world goes into demographic decline in the next decade or two, Asia tops out around 2050AD, and the emerging world continues to grow to the end of the century. First let’s examine those countries and continents that are, and will soon be in decline.
Japan is the poster child for terminal population decline, so will be studied in more depth as an illustration of what could happen in other countries. Spending peaks at age 47, and Japan’s baby boom reached that average age in 1980AD, creating a pronounced economic bubble at that time. The population then started to age and spend less. Thirty years later, in 2010AD, its population finally peaked at 128 million and it is now collapsing by 240,000 a year, a figure that will continue to increase every year. Some 25% of the population is already over 65 years of age. By 2050AD that figure will be 40%. This will amount to a loss of 20 million people by 2050AD a total of 70-80 million people in 2100AD if current trends continue.
Because the entire global economy is premised on growth in wealth driven by population increases, when this reverses, so too does a nation’s wealth. This is why Japan has been borrowing heavily to support its current standard of living. The looming demographic shock wave will therefore decimate the Japanese economy, culture and its sense of identity in the world. Third world status will follow as cities drain and people return to agriculture. Infrastructure will collapse and the welfare state will disappear.
Europe is set to join Japan, but at a much slower rate due to its openness to immigration. The populations of Italy, Germany and Slovenia already have already begun to fall. Since 2010AD all population increases in the EU as a whole have been purely due to migration. The EU is set to lose 20 million people by 2050AD and its population will fall from approximately 500 million to 400 million by 2100AD, a 20% drop.
This will be fought with massive immigration and most of that will come from nearby Middle Eastern and African countries, with approximately 50% from each source. The racial mix of Europe is already changing, and this trend will only accelerate. The Europe of the last thousand years is disappearing before our eyes. What will emerge will be a much poorer and racially volatile region racked by civil unrest. Europe has prided itself on ethnic and racial purity in the past, so will face these demographic changes with little grace. Europe will be 17% Muslim by 2050AD (France will be 28%), and the figure will be much higher at the end of the century.
Europe’s old Caucasian colonies; the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand will survive, and perhaps even thrive, as they have a history of high immigration and successful assimilation. Because of the woeful birth rates of the Western world, by 2100AD only 10-12% of the world’s population will be Caucasian. Europe had 25% of the world’s population in 1900AD but by 2050AD it will be down to 7%. The era of white men in suites dictating global affairs is drawing to a close.
As already mentioned, the bulk of future global population increases will come from Africa and the Middle East. Africa currently has 1.1 billion people, but this will accelerate massively to over 5 billion by the end of the century when it is projected to overtake Asia as the world’s most populated continent. However, most African countries are poor and unstable due mainly to tribalism, corruption and nepotism. Coupled with potential climate changes, these are the conditions that create great waves of forced emigration. So expect to see huge numbers of black and Arab Africans pushing their way into the more stable and developed nations over the next hundred years. They will be bringing their culture, spirituality and values with them. This has already happened in the past, when much of Eastern Europe was overrun in the fourth century by Asians fleeing famine.
The Middle East currently has 205 million people, almost doubling since 1990AD, due to some of the highest birth rates of any region. This is due to the fact that Islamic cultures grow primarily through their birth rate. By 2050AD the population of the Middle East is expected to double again, but on a declining birth rate. It is also the driest region on earth and many Middle Eastern countries have no real economies or history of innovation. They rely heavily on oil to keep their populations pacified and fed. To illustrate, Saudi Arabia currently receives 90% of its government revenue from oil. The troika of climate, population and economics, combined with its legendary political volatility, suggests that this region will definitely enter a period of intense energy wars, food and water shortages, conflict, dislocation and desperate migration. The future looks decidedly grim for the Middle East after their oil runs out. Given the developed world’s reluctance to accept migrants from this region, expect to see geo-political-Islamic conflict increase substantially. The heart of Islam is heading for a crisis that will cause it to ask many existential questions about its place in the world.
So demographics and migration will become an ever increasing phenomenon in the future. In 2013AD some 232 million people migrated, up from 150 million in 1990. These figures could accelerate to 400 or 500 million in the future, causing huge social unrest in the receiving nations, swamping their ability to cope. The 21stcentury looks like becoming the era when the 500 year era of Caucasian colonisation of the planet goes into reverse and the planet comes to them. Anyone alive for the next 50 years will have a window seat on one of the most unstable periods in world history.
The last forty years has been an unusual and unsustainable period in world economic history. The abandonment of the gold standard resulted in the unleashing of fiat finance on the world in 1973AD. Debt levels have been driven up exponentially giving us a current standard of living above a sustainable level. This phenomenon, combined with the uniquely favourable baby boom following World War Two and the collapse of Communism, has created the largest economic surge in the history of the world. Global debt levels now stand at over $30,000 per person, against an average global income at just under $10,000 per person. This clearly unsustainable situation began to implode in 2008AD but was postponed by increased central bank intervention in the form of quantitative easing, or money printing.
The now much larger debt bubble will burst before 2020AD, swamping central banks and ushering in a protracted era of extreme financial pain as paper assets, such as bonds, derivatives, currencies and bank accounts evaporate on an unprecedented scale. What happened in Greece and Cyprus will go mainstream. This economic depression will dominate global economics and politics up to 2040AD, just as the Great Depression did in the 20th century. It will also reverse the incredible era of urbanisation that saw over half the world’s people move to cities by 2007AD. More importantly though, it will lead to a deterioration of global democracy, as people look to socialism or military dictators for answers to their financial pain, just as Germany did a century earlier. Wars are likely to ensue as nations fight over the world’s ever-dwindling supply of natural resources. One of the signals for the onset of these wars will be the breaking of the USA’s global military hegemony due to the shrinking of America’s military budget, currently already 40% above sustainable levels.
This will also be the century where Asia takes over the economic leadership of the world and the world becomes more attuned to Asian political and cultural dictates. China eclipsed the USA as world’s biggest economy in 2014AD and will continue to grow until around 2025-30AD when it starts to fall off its own demographic cliff and emulate Japan for the rest of the century. Its working age population is expected to halve between now and 2100AD. Immigration, even if it was acceptable to the Chinese, could never be of a scale to reverse this trend. South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan are in the same demographic and economic boat. Asia as a whole will grow demographically and economically until around 2050AD when its population begins to peak and taper. The exception will be India, which will peak demographically in 2070AD at 1.5 billion people and an average income of $10,000 per person. By that stage it will be one of the top two global superpowers, exerting tremendous influence on global politics and values. The Indian century has begun.
One of the recurring events in the 1,000 history of capitalism is that during periods of economic contraction or turmoil, innovation cranks up and produces technologies that will come into use in the next economic up-wave. This will be the case again as the century unfolds. Increasingly these innovations will come from Asia, and then India because it is usually young people who innovate. The aging western world will begin to lag behind in technology and therefore lose its economic edge. Already China has overtaken the USA in patents registrations. This trend will continue.
However, since capitalism is a product of the Christian worldview in Europe and requires a combination of social, political, financial, labour and legal freedoms, the economic growth of many of the developing countries will not match those made by the West in the 20th century. Most will be caught in what is called the “middle income trap”. Unless Christianity becomes the dominate worldview of these countries, the political and economic elite will simply not give up their privileged positions. The dream of living a 20th century western lifestyle will then become a thing of the past.
The ascendency of global democracy will also peak. In 1900AD only 10% of the world’s population was politically free. In 2000AD the figure was 50%. With economic decline, will also come a decline in global levels of democracy and the western world will no longer be seen as the standard for economics and politics.
Environmental and Resource Trends
Adding to this bleak picture is the now limited supply of natural resources available for the world’s people. In addition to being based on ever-increasing population growth and debt levels, all modern economic activity is also premised on the availability of cheap energy as a substitute to human and animal power. The era of cheap energy is now over and this constraint will crimp the ambitions of any potential economic giant. Conventional oil production has not risen since 2005AD and alternatives, such as shale oil, are expensive to extract. The price of energy and food have always been closely correlated. Perhaps the great breakthroughs coming out of the next economic depression will be economically viable sources of renewable energies. Many metals will also see their peak years of production in the next few decades unless prices rise substantially. Science magazine expects copper and coal to peak in the 2030’s. The world’s largest gold producer, Goldcorp, says peak gold has already arrived.
Another concern is global food supply. We are adding 1.14% to our population per year, but arable land is finite, and in many places in the world it is in decline due to overuse. We currently lose 20 tonnes of topsoil for every one we create. The World Resources Institute claims that 20% of all arable land already suffers from degradation. Water is another precious resource that is in decline globally. The Tigris-Euphrates, Yellow, Ganges, Mekong, Indus and Nile rivers are hydraulically tapped out. Aquifers are being drained and surface water extensively dammed. It is estimated that the massive South Asian aquifer, that covers parts of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, will be empty in several decades as it is currently dropping at an alarming rate. China faces the same future in its northern food bowl. How will the world respond to a future food crisis? These forces will make food production one of the crucial issues of this century, and will make many debt-free farmers rich. Will we see a return to the familiar pattern of famine and feast that existed throughout most of history? The answer is probably yes.
This leads to the next major issue facing the planet; climate change. 2014AD was the hottest year in recorded history, sitting atop a string of previous records. Human industrial and agricultural activity is warming the planet and the trend will lead to a minimum of 2 degrees warming by 2100AD. The current changes in climate we are already experiencing are the result of carbon production from 30 years ago. It takes that long for the oceans to respond to higher air temperatures. We have therefore locked in an ever increasing cycle of flood, drought, extreme weather events and changing patterns of rainfall. Our response to this issue will determine the fate of up to 3 billion of our poorer citizens before the end of the century. Given past behaviour, it looks like many nations will be on their own and this will simply add to the mass migrations that will take place.
Time does not permit an exploration of other major changes, events and trends for the 21st century such as global corruption, the US$ reserve currencies crisis, the reversal of globalisation, military spending, habitat destruction, rising sea levels, new and deadly pandemics, left-field events like major volcanic eruptions, the current rapid increase in global levels of earthquakes, a possible world war, the rise of Islamic power, increased pollution, the rise of super-cities and super-slums, or transitioning out of the fossil fuel age. Suffice to say the future looks very different to the past and this century will probably wind up as the polar opposite of the last as we are dragged, kicking and screaming, into a sustainable future.
Most Populous Countries by 2100AD
Spiritual Milestones: 2000AD to 2100AD
This second section of the essay will attempt to map out the religious and spiritual changes expected to unfold over the next 85 years. The predictions will come emphasise the evangelical Christian perspective. Once again, we can fairly accurately predict changes up to 2050AD, but from there to the end of the century figures are more estimates. In the year 2000AD the world’s population was 32.5% Christian, 22.6% Muslim, 14.8% Non-religious, 13.7% Hindu, 6.5% Buddhist and the rest were classified as ethno-religious. However, large changes took place inside Christianity, atheism and Islam during the last three decades of the 20th century that have set the scene for dramatic developments over first half of this century. What follows is my best attempt to map these changes, with a particular focus on Christianity.
Broadly speaking, the world fell in love with atheism in the 20th century and at one stage the majority of the world was under the control of atheistic governments. However any moral capital it possessed evaporated with the brutal death of some 200 million people in the name of Communism. Militant atheism was morally bankrupt by 1990AD when it collapsed. Atheism survives today in the dominant evolutionary humanism of the Western intellectual elite who control the world’s universities and media. This soft-sell atheism now dominates the social and political agenda of every Western country. However, this belief system has led to large scale moral corruption, family breakdown and the world’s lowest birth rates. Atheism seems to be committing demographic suicide, so the global influence of evolutionary atheism will wane with the coming decline of the Western culture. It is therefore inevitable that atheism will lose ground to all religions in the coming decades. Europe, the “spiritual home” of atheism, is in the early stages of committing demographic and cultural suicide.
The USA is fast entering the atheistic fold as it slowly leaves its Christian worldview behind. Most Christian denominations across the country are now falling in numbers, with only the Mormons growing consistently. The mass media and higher education facilities are now openly hostile to the Christian faith. Evangelicals number just over 80 million, but only a quarter of that number has a consistent Biblical worldview. Few young people are remaining in the church through to adulthood. What goes for the USA also goes for Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
The denominational model of Christianity taken from Europe reached its peak expression in the USA. The time for that paradigm has passed and the rest of the world is now taking up the mantle of church leadership and instituting new and more Biblical models of church. Until the USA and the West adapt to what is working well in the majority Christian world, atheism will continue to grow and dominate western cultures. The only cravat to this scenario is that the coming decline in western financial prosperity should see a return to Christianity by large numbers of desperate people experiencing an economic depression and looking for non-material answers to life’s great questions.
From the Iranian revolution of 1980AD onwards, Islam has had a dramatic return to the centre stage of world politics and events. Islam must always be seen as a political empire as well as a religion, a point usually missed by secular Western intellectuals, so it will be discussed here as both. Islam is on track to grow from 22.6% of the global population to 32%, or just over 3 billion by 2100AD. The youthful demographic profile of the Islamic world, combined with the world-wide spread of strict Wahhabi doctrines has created a flood of radical young soldiers for its course. If the present is an indicator to the future, Western leaders will continue to ignore 1,400 years of aggressive Islamic territorial and global expansion. This denial plays into Islam’s hands.
Desperate for people to prop up its economy, Europe has begun to import young Muslims and Africans at a rate of 250,000 a year. Because the average age of an immigrant is 26, their birth rates are higher. In addition they are not culturally integrating, do not significantly intermarry, and they do not secularise to any great degree. Even with a slowing of their birth rates Europe will be 17% Muslim by 2050AD, while the world will be 27% Muslim. If immigration continues and fertility rates remain slightly above the average, then we are on track to see 40% of Switzerland’s youth born into Muslim families by 2100AD. The figure for Austria is 54%. Europe is therefore on track to become majority Muslim sometime in the 22nd century, some 15 centuries after Islam first attempted to conquer Europe through Spain.
Islam has always been a violent and aggressive religion, with little thought for human rights and an in-built lust for power and control. Their history is one of aggression, intolerance toward minorities, intellectual ignorance and territorial control. Any cursory examination of their history will verify this. This cultural and spiritual DNA was initiated by Mohammad, carried on by his generals as they destroyed Christianity in North Africa, taken to extremes by Tamerlane’s execution of 7 million Christians in the 14th century, was still in vogue when the Ottomans besieged Vienna three times in the 16th century, and finally ended with the destruction of the Barbary pirates in 1828AD after they had abducted over a million Europeans into slavery. Because of this history, true economic development in Islamic countries is rare. Most of the world’s most backward and despotic regimes are therefore Islamic. It was only with the rise of Western imperialism on the back of Western capitalism that Islam stopped its aggression against Christianity.
This century will see Islam return to its core territorial drive and what it believes to be its destiny which is global domination. In combination we will continue to see poverty all through the Islamic world. However, Islam’s desire for expansion and control faces many internal hurdles that will intensify during this century. Its growth is by no means assured and I have listed here a few of the hurdles it faces:
First: Its values are opposed to those of the modern world, which were adopted largely from 19th century Christian civil and human rights campaigns. The more time moves forward, the more Muslims are seeing a disconnect between human dignity and Islamic values. It is no surprise to find that the 9/11 disaster caused several million Muslims to abandon their religion and/or adopt Christianity.
Second: Islam now faces a formidable enemy in the strength of Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to Islamic experts quoted on Aljazeera, Islam is losing up to 6 million African followers a year to a vibrant Christianity that understands spiritual strongholds, the power of prayer and the role of miracles in reaching Muslims. This is why there is so much conflict in that part of the world. Islam is losing its fight for the heart and soul of Africa and will continue to lash out violently in the century ahead.
Third: The internet has opened the world to Muslims once restricted in their access to new ideas. Many Christian leaders inside Islamic cultures now call the Internet the “Fifth Gospel”, or “St Google”. This has led to a broad-based questioning of Islam among middle class youth. Many internet networks of secret believers have sprung up in the last decade and there is a huge and growing hunger for the Christian gospel across the Islamic world.
Fourth: Divine visitations, dreams and visions are causing many Muslims to embrace Isa (Jesus) as their prophet and leader. Approximately one third of all Muslims who come to faith in Christ speak of these experiences. Three days ago (January 20, 2015) a friend told me the story of an Iranian ex-Muslim he met a month ago who had unexpectedly experienced Jesus in a dream. His cousin had the same dream the same night. A third person who was a Christian also had a dream that night and was told to visit these two men. This is typical of events taking place in the Islamic world.
Fifth: There will be a catastrophe and crisis of confidence in Islam as it approaches the middle of the century. This will be caused by the collapse of Middle Eastern economies caused by oil depletion. To give you some idea of the problem, Saudi Arabia has spent just under $2 trillion of its oil revenues since 1962AD in promoting Islam and mosque building around the world. It also increased its welfare programs in the wake of the Arab Spring to buy loyalty from its disaffected youth. When the money runs out, so will Wahhabi Islamic evangelism. The collapse of the oil states will be exacerbated by over-population, lack of natural food and water supplies. This event is largely locked in and will cause many more million Muslims to question the divine favour they currently feel. Expect increased Sunni-Shia conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran to be part of this volatile mix.
Sixth: Cultural adaptation is not in the DNA of Islam. Converts are few and must conform to the strict rules, culture and language of the Middle East, particularly the Saudi Arabian culture. This cultural imperialism severely limits Islam’s appeal to many of the world’s cultures.
These issues, combined with great seasons of Christian prayer have led to something being broken in the spiritual realm over the House of Islam. In the 1200 years until 1870AD there were no recorded mass movements (defined as 1,000 believers or more) of Muslims into an evangelical faith in Jesus. This was simply because evangelical expressions of Christianity were so rare. Then, between 1870 and 1920AD, there were two. One was in Ethiopia and the other was in Indonesia. In the 20th century there were a further 11 movements recorded. Amazingly though, in the first twelve years of this century there have been some 69 such movements recorded, and they are popping up in ever increasing numbers in all parts of the Muslim empire! These movements already represent one in every 400 Muslims on the planet, or some 5-8 million people. They are also completely outside Western denominational structures. In fact most Western Christians are totally unaware of their existence. These new expressions of faith in Jesus are culturally indigenous and often use the Koran to great effect in bringing others to Jesus. The century beyond this one is much harder to see into but it is already clear that that era will be a time of great harvest in the Islamic world, as these poor souls are finally introduced to their maker in large numbers. For further insight into this phenomenon I refer you to David Garrison’s A Wind in the House of Islam.
If this startling trend continues, and there is no reason to suggest it won’t as it is accelerating rapidly, then some 100 million Muslims will cross over into Christianity by 2050AD, with several hundred million more by 2100AD. Thus we can safely predict that roughly 10% of the three billion plus Muslims alive in 2100AD will have spiritually moved into evangelical Christianity while maintaining their Muslim culture. From there it is a small step to see a very significant turning of the Islamic world to true Christianity in the 22nd century.
At the present time the greatest influx of Muslims to Christianity seems to be taking place in Islamic countries that have embraced radical Islamist revolutions and theocratic governing structures. It seems that as the revolutionary generation grows old, the next generation is repulsed by widespread religious abuse and political oppression in the name of Islam. A case in point is Iran, the first nation to undergo an Islamic revolution. The church there is now growing at 20% a year, the fastest in the world. In fact, if present trends continue then Iran is on track to be around 50% Christian by 2100AD. Other Muslim countries with fast growing churches where conflict has recently raged are Algeria (8.1% Christian growth per annum), Eritrea (4.6%), Libya (5.2%), Kuwait (7.2%) and Somalia (6.1%). The never-ending turmoil in Afghanistan has also seen the birth of an indigenous church there for the first time in 1400 years, but figures are unobtainable. One thing is clear; for the first time in history the rise of the Islamists is seeing a parallel rise in a culturally indigenous Christianity. These Christians will be almost impossible to root out as they are deeply embedded within the culture of Islam.
However, in the meantime the coming collapse of America’s military umbrella due to its own financial demise, combined with the relative youthfulness of the Muslim world will unleash a global wave of radical Islamist attacks and takeovers as young Muslims seek revenge for the injustices of western imperialism, the two Iraq wars, military bases on Islamic soil and the war in Afghanistan. The rise of Militant Jihadist groups such as Al Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram is just the start of this wave. The decades ahead will become very tough and quite dangerous for the secular West before they get better because demographics is squarely on the side of Islam until 2050AD.
To conclude, below is a table I have compiled using figures from Operation World that illustrate the growth of Christian believers inside the world’s majority Muslim nations in the years ahead:
|Countries over50% Muslim||Pop2010||Growth rate %||% Islam||Christnnumbers||Growth rate %||In 2020||In 2030||In 2050||In2100|
Hinduism comprises some 13.6% of the world’s population. It is the dominate worldview of India, Nepal and the Hindu diaspora. When contemplating the future of the world one thing is sure, the influence of this religion will grow as India becomes a global superpower later in the century. The influence of Hinduism in the western world is also significant and growing, with the New Age Movement making deep inroads into the mindset of many Caucasian truth seekers. This trend is expected to grow as westerners grow disillusioned with secularism. However, among the large Hindu diaspora, 10% have now embraced evangelical Christianity, as have some 20% of the 10 million descendants of the Hindus who originally migrated to Europe a thousand years ago as mercenary soldiers. We now call them the Gypsies.
Christianity is India’s third religion, has been there since New Testament days and the nation has been deeply impacted by 19th century Christian missions to the poor and outcastes. Christianity inside India is currently growing at three times the population as a whole. It is dynamic and has a very mature evangelical focus with nearly 100,000 workers serving cross-culturally within the country. At the present time 3.7% of the population is evangelical and this number is growing at well over 4% a year, one of the fastest growth rates in the world. Many religious paradigms are going to change this century as India’s 1.2 billion people become the greatest global harvest fields for true Christianity.
One of the great breakthroughs in India that has been emerging since around the year 2000AD is the indigenisation of the church and the mass movement of lower caste people into it. European structures and paradigms are being discarded by many parallel grass-roots discipleship movements that are working together to win the North Indian Hindu heartland. Indians have an innate affinity with the deeply spiritual nature of the ministry and life of Jesus, so this is being used to encourage Hindus to adopt Jesus as their Guru, while keeping their Hindu culture. The result is an explosion of healings, miracles and strong new believers across the north.
I was a first-hand witness to this astonishing growth when I attended the first global house church conference in New Delhi in 2009AD. One movement alone has now won some 5% of the state of Himachal Pradesh to Jesus in the space of 17 years, with a goal of being North India’s first Christian majority state. Many other movements are experiencing between 10 and 40% growth per annum and are also making deep inroads into the Muslim communities. So far some 5-7 million Hindus have been won to Jesus through these movements. This paradigm of Christianity, which concentrates purely on discipleship of believers into Christ, is foreign to western minds but very popular in the emerging world. The model is now being exported to Africa with astounding results. One Zambian Pastor took his church from fifty to 30,000 in six years using this model. If Christianity continues to grow at its current rate in India several hundred million people will come into the faith by 2100AD and see India become at least 20-30% Christian. Indian nationalism and Hindu fundamentalism will not take these developments lying down so expect great social unrest and violence against this strong indigenous church movement. Also expect to see the millions of Indian guest workers take their new-found Christian faith deep into the Middle Eastern and Islam.
In nearby Nepal the growth of the indigenous church has been equally strong. From almost zero evangelical believers in 1960AD, the country of 32 million now has a million believers and the growth rate is near 6% a year. At current rates this will mean Nepal could become a majority Christian nation by 2100AD. The astonishing developments in India and Nepal bode very well for the future of global missions, as Indians and Nepalese are great travellers. They understand both the west and the Muslim world, they are from a spiritually attuned culture, they are becoming more wealthy and they are very entrepreneurial. I predict the Indian church to be the biggest in the world by the end of the century.
Buddhism originated in India as a protest movement against the uncaring and overt indifference embedded in the Hindu caste system that was leading to great suffering. However, it was eventually defeated on its home soil a thousand years later by a resurgent, festival-focused Hinduism. Although much more compassionate, Buddhism does not address the issue of a creator so is strictly speaking a form of psychology and a system of self-discipline. However it is classified as a religion as many now worship Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) and it has some 6.5% of the world’s people inside its worldview.
Large movements of people into true Christianity have already occurred in several Buddhist countries, and they should continue. China has seen the number of Christian believers rise from 1 million at the time of the Communist revolution in 1948AD to 80-100 million in 2014AD. Some 50 million people were executed or starved to death in the cultural revolution of the 1960’s. This caused massive disillusion with the concept of Communism and a searching for truth. The church that was left behind by the western missionaries was purified of its western culture and somehow survived this terrible furnace of suffering. The growth that came afterwards was staggering.
When I was smuggling Bibles into China in 1981AD we were told of the amazing growth from 1 million to 10 million at that time. The church in China has now approaching 100 million, or 8% of the total population. It is now the single strongest church in the world. If the current 3% growth rate continues, inside a total population that is barely growing at all, it will see a tripling of this number by 2050AD. This will probably be the high point of church growth in China as its population will by then have shrunk back to a 1,000 million. The country also will be in terminal cultural and economic decline.
South Korea is another Buddhist country that has experienced a phenomenal movement of people into Christianity during the second half of the 20th century. However, its church growth has plateaued at around 17% of the population since 1990AD. South Korea is the home of the mega-church. Nine of the world’s biggest church congregations are in Seoul and the largest has over 1 million in its congregation. South Korea will also enter a terminal demographic and consequent economic decline by 2030AD so the days of large numbers of fulltime Korean missionaries to the rest of the world may soon be over.
Evangelical Christianity is also growing across the Buddhist heartland of East Asia at around 3% a year, while the population is increasing at only 1% a year. By 2050AD this will mean that some 10-12% of countries like Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam will be true Christians. Like India, the Buddhist world is seeing a multiplication of indigenous expressions of the Christian faith, but at a slower pace. I once met one pastor of a fast-growing discipleship movement in Myanmar who had 1,600 house churches. However, they could not meet in groups any larger than four or they would arouse the suspicion of the military government.
One encouraging development coming out of the Buddhist world has been the vision of the Chinese church to reach out to its neighbours to the west, the “Stan” countries of Central Asia. This area of the world was 40% Christian a thousand years ago and in desperate need of the gospel. They are on China’s back doorstep and in desperate need of the Good News.
The last three decades of the20th century saw a sea-change in global Christianity and by the end of that era the true church was 80% non-Western. This staggering fact is completely lost to western media and most western Christians. It provides us with a remarkable starting point when thinking about where the church will be in another 100 years. The batten has been passed and leadership is now solidly in the hands of African, Indian, Chinese and Middle Eastern Christian leaders. This is the most significant change in church leadership since the fall of the Nestorian Church 1,000 years ago and takes Christianity back to its New Testament roots, in its culture, mission and geography. There are many emerging and future developments that result from this shift. Here are a few:
First: The entire Christian world will become much more evangelical in nature this century. By 2050AD it is estimated that evangelical Christians will be the majority in the Christian mega-block, up from 20% now. The terms Fundamentalist, Charismatic, Pentecostal and evangelical will merge into a more homogenous description of what a true Christian is.
Second: The future of the church will resemble the New Testament model much more than the last thousand years. The era of denominations, starting with the all-powerful Catholic Church and then all its Protestant daughters, were a European development and do not reflect the New Testament model given to us by Jesus. This century will see a significant demise of denominations as an expression of Christianity. What is called “independents” will take their place. These can be anything from large traditional churches in a single location or with “franchised” daughters, house church networks, purely discipleship networks, undercover seeker groups, invisible networks, individual believers, households and villages, urban outreaches to the poor, or a myriad of online expressions of faith. The majority will be similar to the model Jesus gave us; a small group learning the lifestyle of a wise and godly leader and networking with other small groups. This system of church does away with the need for buildings and most paid clergy. These “Independents” will be the single biggest evangelical block by 2050AD.
Third: Jesus said to “go and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). For too long European and American culture has told people to simply turn up to a meeting on Sunday and discipleship will magically happen. As a result people have not become like Jesus and have been ineffective at reaching their host culture. Discipleship in the future will be much more flexible and culturally sensitive. It will involve modelling and copying more than preaching. It will involve doing life with people instead of giving them intellectual input. It will also involve teaching them how to walk in the supernatural ministry gifts of Jesus.
Fourth: Many believers will be unrecognisable to a Western Christian. They will be culturally embedded and look like a typical Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist. They will not mix with Westerners, nor will the Western church know of the existence of many of them.
Fifth: Baptism in the Holy Spirit will become a normal part of becoming a Christian, as is already the case in the emerging world church. By 2050AD it is estimated that Charismatic/Pentecostal expressions of Christianity will be the normal Christian experience for 90% of believers. Signs and wonders, healing and miracles will therefore be much more common. This will usher in an era of relational/experiential Christianity as opposed to the intellectual/theological Christianity of the Catholic tradition and Protestant Reformation.
Sixth: Church growth will accelerate. The number of true Christians started the century at approximately 400 million, or just under 7% of the planet’s people. By 2050AD this number is expected to reach 1,000 million, or 12% of the global population. If this trend continues then the number of evangelical Christians could reach around 20% of a global population of 10-12 billion by 2100AD
Seventh: We will enter an era where, for the first time in history, the Catholic Church will begin to take on an evangelical flavour. This has already started in South America where the continent was largely un-evangelised until 40 years ago, but is now 20% evangelical and mostly Charismatic in flavour. The Catholic Church is responding to this new-found competition by becoming more evangelical and charismatic itself. This development will gradually filter back to its European heartland. It is expected there will be some 27 million Charismatic Catholics in Europe by 2050AD. The arrogant secularist elites of Europe will initially disdain this move, but will eventually welcome it as a counterweight to the rise of Islam, once they see that Islamic immigrants are not secularising in the second and third generations. A side point to make here is that the Catholic Church will slip from being the dominant expression of Christianity to being just over 1/3 of the Christian mega-block by 2050AD.
Eighth: Church leadership will morph from the top-down pyramid structure that has given undue power and prestige to traditional leaders into a more bottom up structure where leaders are servant and sufferers for their flock. This is no different to the New Testament model and is already in place in any country where it is dangerous to be a Christian, which is the majority of the world.
Ninth: The attractional and maintenance model of church that exists in the western world will morph into a missional model of church. Today the western world has a single style of church structure with a myriad of messages. This will change into a myriad of structures with a single gospel message. The DNA of the western church is decline, while in the 80% majority-world church it is growth. Penetrating darkness by sending church planters and disciplers is their focus. This will filter back to the Western church as missionaries and migrants start to arrive in large numbers form the emerging world to re-evangelise the West.
Tenth: The inexorable growth in the Christian faith throughout the emerging world will see a parallel growth in social conditions. Starting with better quality family life, this will filter up through the slums and villages to the political sphere. Just as the large scale injustices of Europe withered under an assault of Biblical Christians in the 19th century, so they will wither in the emerging world as Believers take their faith into the social arena. Institutional abuse and corruption in high places will fight back and many believers will die for these causes. But just as the Roman world fell, so will the financially corrupt and political despots of the future. This will create the conditions for wider political freedoms in those places where they do not exist today.
Eleventh: In combination with the above, family cohesion will also lead to increased education and financial advancement. Crime will decrease, the rule of law will increase and communities will become safer. This is already happening in those slums in Zambia deeply affected by the gospel.
The combination of all these emerging trends should lead to the following numbers of Christians in 2050AD:
|Continent/Region||Number of True Christians|
|South America||150 million|
|North America||100 million|
|The Pacific||7 million|
There are many other predictions that could be said about the future of global religions and the Christian church out to 2100AD. However, I believe I have given you enough large scale trends and emerging indicators to allow you to see where God is taking the world, his world. What has been plainly in view as I have written has been the staggeringly amazing and absolute trust God has placed in the hands of his church. It began 2,000 years ago with the coming of Christ. It was then launched with a mandate for eleven men to take on the world. It then progressed well for several centuries until Christianity bogged down and became a cold and lifeless religion like all others. It stayed that way for a thousand years until it awoke from its sleep in the 16th century and began to grow. It is now on the cusp of something very special. The mustard seed is about to become the largest tree in the garden (Matthew 13:31-32). The yeast is working its way through the loaf (Matthew 13:33). The glory of the Lord is in the process of covering the world, as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).
I trust this overview gives you much hope for the future and encourages you to continue to pray for God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). The mandate to go into all the world and make disciples of all the “nations” (ethnos = ethnic groups) (Matthew 28:18) was becoming more and more feasible each century, and now it is becoming more feasible each decade.
I pray God’s richest blessings upon your walk with him and may he infuse you with a passion for his kingdom and for the lost.