Does counting missionaries help? In Mark Noll’s new book, The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith, the implication is that counting tells us some important things: the prominence of Protestant missionaries and the especially high percentage of evangelical missionaries today. He has detailed tables of numbers. For example, in 1999, 38,044 of 41,957 Protestant missionaries are evangelicals. He’s not finding winners and losers here, but calculating the impact of missionaries on world culture and world Christianity.
One of the most startling results of this sketch of information is that more than 6 billion people have watched the Jesus Film. (I confess I’ve not seen it.)
According to David Barrett — the world’s most respect statistician on global facts about Christianity, in his 2001 edition: 40.6 million evangelical in USA, 22.7 in Brazil, and 22.3 in Nigeria. One hundred years ago there were almost none in Brazil and Nigeria. If one adds charismatics and Pentecostals, the numbers are even more noticeable (79.9 m in Brazil to 75.2 USA).
Noll breaks away from the theory of American dominance here, but clearly argues for influence. American Christianity has shaped and influenced world Christianity. One of the major implications here is important: American missionaries and Christianity have emphasized “voluntary and entrepreneurial culture” and this leads both to growth and to local variation in the forms of world Christianity.
Noll begins chp 5 with this important point: most of Christian influence has left behind indigenous Christianity. He lists a number of studies around the world for this sort of influence. American missionaries make it likely that the Christianity that survives in these foreign countries will be the sort that charts its own way forward. In other words, it is not colonialistic. He does not try to explain all of this by American missionaries, and observes the growth of nonAmerican countries sending missionaries, but his concern is with the impact of American Christianity on world Christianity.