China will become the ‘world’s most Christian nation’ in the next 15 years, says ‘religion in China’ expert Professor Fenggang Yang.
Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University in Indiana, and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival Under Communist Rule spoke with the UK’s Telegraph newspaper about his prediction that China’s Christian population would expand to 160 million by 2025 and by 2030 could exceed 247 million, including Catholics. That number would outrank the United States, Brazil and Mexico as the largest Christian population in the world.
“It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change,” Yang told The Telegraph.
The number of Christians currently in China is difficult to verify. The ‘official’ estimate from the Chinese government in 2010 is 29 million Christians. Other independent estimates show a higher figure. According to the Pew Research Centre’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, in 2010 China’s Christian population (protestant only) was 58 million.
Even going by the official figures, the number of Protestants in China has increased 30 times since 1949 (also the year when Communists came to power in China).
United Bible Societies China Partnership says there will be many in China who disagree with Professor Yang’s predictions. But there is no denying the rapid growth of Christianity in the country.
“Over the past decade, the Church has been growing at an average net rate of one million Christians year, with 500,000 baptisms each year. Each year, 1,000 new churches are built to cope with the growth,” said Kua Wee Seng, Director of United Bible Societies (UBS) China Partnership.
Those figures do not include the millions of Christians who worship in unregistered churches and home meetings through China.
According to the UBS China Partnership, China’s Christian population can be mostly found in rural areas. But Wee Seng says that urbanisation is gathering pace as workers, including Christians, from rural villages flock to the cities, and grow a new Christian population there.
The printing and distribution of the Bible in China has played an integral role in the spread of Christianity in the country. The Amity Printing Company, established by the United Bible Societies is printing 12 million copies of the Bible every year, for use within China and around the world. It’s the largest Bible press in the world.
“The Lord has established the world’s largest Bible press in the most populous atheist nation and the most powerful Communist State in the world!” says Kua Wee Seng.
Yet, even if Professor Yang’s predictions are true—that China will become the world’s most Christian nation in the next 15 years—there still aren’t enough Bibles to meet demand.
There are 1.35 billion people in China (according to the World Bank in 2012). Since the Amity Printing Company opened in 1987, over 60 million Bibles have been distributed in China. It’s not enough, says Bible Society, which says Christians in China are sharing Bibles within their congregations.
“Although China is now the second largest economy in the world,” says Wee Seng, “it ranks 90th in terms of GDP per capita [based on figures from the International Monetary Fund].
“Wealth in China is mainly in the hands of a small minority, and there is huge income disparity amongst the population. Many Chinese, including most Christian Chinese, are poor.”
Wee Seng says United Bible Societies has been working for nearly 30 years to make Bibles affordable for Chinese Christians. But funding is difficult.
“The provision and distribution of Bibles has helped fuel the spread of Christianity and sustain the growth of the Church in China over the past decades. We are afraid that the lack of Bibles will affect the growth of the Church in China, both numerically and spiritually,” he says.
Whether or not China does become the world’s most Christian nation, there is much we can learn from Chinese Christianity, says Wee Seng.
“Their spiritual fervor for the Lord, their love of the Word of God, their commitment to prayer, their experiences of miraculous healing and answers to prayers, their care for one another and their outreach to the unsaved, their care for the sick and needy: all these have contributed to the growth of Christianity in China.”
Bible Society Australia is helping print and distribute Bibles in China in 2014, but many hands make light work! You can help today. Find out more by clicking the link below: