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The Fastest Growing Religions & What This Means For The Church

In the early 2000s I began my search for a doctorate degree. The problem is that I had to narrow my focus. If you know me, you know how hard it was for me to choose ONE specific subject. I considered a DA at Trevecca, a DRS at Kansas State University, and a host of seminaries with biblical emphasis (DMin, PhD, ThD, etc.). I landed at Trinity with a pursuit of a DRS equivalent degree. I really wanted a PhD in ministry or preaching but it was great!

In my final semester at Trinity they decided to offer the PdD in Pastoral Ministry. I jumped at the chance! However, I'd spent half a decade studying religion. Therefore, a few years after completing my PhD I found myself studying religious literacy at Harvard Divinity in the presence of dozens of religiously diverse people. This gave me access to new sources, books, videos and courses in Religious Literacy. While I do not plan to pursue another degree at this time, I am enjoying access to new resources. I want to see what's going on in religious circles in the world and study about the issues facing the church.

As of 2021, the fastest growing religions in the world were Islam and Christianity. I understand growth rates can change over time due to various factors like demographic shifts, conversion rates, and birth rates. However, I started digging to see why Christianity is viewed as less popular in our culture. If it’s the fastest growing religious movement, why aren’t we seeing more positive news stories about Christianity. This blog will share the results of our research.

Let’s start with the statistics. The five largest religious groups in terms of the number of adherents are:

1. Christianity: The largest religion in the world, with approximately 2.4 billion followers, accounting for about 31% of the global population. Christianity, especially in Africa and Asia, was experiencing significant growth due to conversions and population growth in those regions. However, these numbers are misleading. Catholics make up 1.3 billion and Protestants are 1.1 billion (stay tuned).

2. Islam: The second-largest religion in the world, with approximately 1.9 billion followers, accounting for about 24% of the global population.  In the past few decades, Islam has been considered the fastest growing major religion in the world. The growth is mainly attributed to higher birth rates among Muslim populations and conversions.

3. Hinduism: The third-largest religion in the world, with approximately 1.2 billion followers, accounting for about 15% of the global population. Just over 3 million reside in the USA according to Pew Research. It is extremely popular in India, China and parts of Europe. Many “theologians” often refer to it as the “father of religions” because it is the oldest documented religion but Judaism is most certainly the oldest.

4. Buddhism: The fourth-largest religion in the world, with approximately 500 million followers, accounting for about 7% of the global population. Unlike Christianity, and other monotheistic religions. Buddhism does not worship a specific deity. This mashes it drastically different from even polytheistic religions. China is predominantly Buddhist or practices Confucianism.

5. Sikhism: The fifth-largest religion in the world, with approximately 30 million followers, accounting for less than 1% of the global population. Mostly popular in India (90%), Sikhism has grown in the United Kingdom and Canada. About half a million love in the USA. The largest Sikh populations in the states are found in California, New York and Washington.

Other religious movements experience growth in some regions, but at a slower rate compared to monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Additionally, there has been a notable increase in the number of people identifying as non-religious or unaffiliated with any specific religion. In fact, it is estimated that between 500-750 million people worldwide are atheist or agnostic.

Why does this matter? My friends, Christianity is under attack. The Pew Research Center revealed that Christianity is persecuted in more countries around the world than other religions. Christians face harassment in 145 countries around the world (2018). This number includes the United States.

The Action Institute stated in 2022 that 360 million Christians lived in countries where persecution was “significant.” Roughly 5,600 Christians were murdered, more than 6,000 were detained or imprisoned, and another 4,000 were kidnapped. In addition, more than 5,000 churches and other religious facilities were destroyed. Did you know this information? Probably not. Why not? It’s being kept from you. The media doesn't see this as news.

The media is actively harassing the Christian faith. This is mainly directed toward Protestants which they call fundamentalist. They cram “pride” month, the LGBTQIA+ agenda, political correctness, woke culture and pro-choice propaganda down the throats of Christians that hold to a biblical worldview. In the past year, think of how many martyrs are highlighted in the news. Infrequently. Yet we know there are many. This is not reported in the news.

Did you notice that the BBC ran a story in 2019 saying, “The persecution of Christians in parts of the world is at near genocide levels.” It was estimated that one in three Christians suffer from religious persecution. Have you read about what’s happening to Christians in Afghanistan, North Korea, China or Russia? Probably not. Why not? It’s being kept from you. The media is uninterested in sharing this information with you.

Our culture has been taught that it’s okay to pick on Christians. The media influences various socio-economic, political, and cultural norms. They present a false narrative about Christians and target our households in an effort to “educate” us. Why? So the truth is kept from you. There is an agenda.

Go back to the top of this list. Those who consider themselves “Christians” are statistically in the majority. Nothing aggravates atheists and agnostics like Christianity. It’s why they attempt to devalue the Bible and propagate hatred toward Christians. The culture war rages because liberals hate everything for which Christianity stands. We seek biblical standards. We lift up the family and the home. We believe in traditional marriage. We recognize there is only one God. We teach absolute truth. We choose life. The list goes on and on.

Persecuting Christianity should be viewed as a hate crime. Christophobia or Christianophobia feeds discrimination and intolerance against Christians. Where is the outrage? Who is reporting the news stories, current stats and daily persecution? We need to open our eyes and do our own research.

Stand up for the cause of Christ. Be strong in the face of Christian intolerance. Don’t sit idly but when we are mocked. Use your vote and your voice to make a difference.

You are loved.

Dr. Ray Reynolds

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