This is not a new article (it came out in 2013), but Christianity Today engages with some data published by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell. The article is titled, “The Craziest Statistic You’ll Read About North American Missions.” That may be an overstatement, but the article does point to some astonishing realities that churches in the United States need to understand.
The statistic that prompts the article is this, “20 percent of non-Christians in North America really do not ‘personally know’ any Christians.”
Admittedly, that is crazy. In fact, it should be embarrassing.
Now, to be clear, that statistic is not merely listing people who identify as something other than Christian. That number is higher. This is listing people who identify as non-Christian and say they do not know someone who is a Christian. Not only do they not follow Christ, they have no one in their life to tell them the gospel.
The article goes on to tease out some of the other research that grounds that claim. Here are some of the significant points it raises:
- The total number that fall in to the non-Christian category without any know Christian relationships is a staggering 13.4 million people. Put them together and that is the size of Los Angeles.
- The biggest factor appears to be immigration. Two quotes: “The U.S. attracts more Buddhist, atheist, and agnostic immigrants than any other country in the world. It ranks second for Hindu and Jewish immigrants, and seventh for Muslim immigrants,” and, ”Migrants move into enclaves and don’t venture out. But even Christians who live close to Chinatowns and Little Italys don’t often venture in, Johnson said.”
- The researchers noted an “apparent apathy among Christians” regarding any form of relationship with non-Christians. This become more apparent when it involved reaching out to people from another country. “I don’t know how many more million Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews need to come to this country before it becomes a priority,” said Gina Bellofatto, one of the researchers.
Why this matters:
In all honesty, I hope the reason this matters is self-evident. American Evangelicals, especially in the South, have long held that they are the majority in this country. However, the rhetoric about the United States being a “Christian nation” falls flat if one out of five people in the country do not even know a Christian, or more precisely, do not realize the people they see in town or work beside in the office are Christians.
One would think, of anywhere in the world, that a non-Christian would have to at least interact with Christianity in the United States. Unfortunately, that assumption by most Christians is precisely the problem. The article goes on to quote Jeff Christopherson, of the North American Mission Board, saying, ”We hide in our own evangelical ghetto. We send our kids to Christian schools, we go to churches that would only be welcoming to people that think like us.”
I strongly suggest giving the article a read, and perhaps passing it on to some friends. You can find the full article here:
And take this as a challenge to go meet someone new today…