4 minute read


A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal launched a fascinating multimedia piece call Demographic Destiny. The site analyzes demographic research and visualizes the information in stunning project of what life will be like as we approach 2050. The topics covered are primarily population based, such as gender trends, age ranges and workforce capacity, and urban density concentrations.

Think of it as census data meets Disney’s Tommorowland.

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]These articles give a snapshot of the world we will be trying to reach with the gospel. [/pullquote]

I bring it to your attention for a couple of reasons. First, it is a lot of fun to look through. So, feel free to lose yourself in the scroll animations at your desk for the next 45 mins. Just don’t tell your boss I sent you there.

Second, there are several really important pieces of information concerning missions and ministry. Now, you have to do some digging through the various articles, but they provide a treasure trove of useful predictions concerning global demographics moving toward 2050. In other words, these articles give a snapshot of the world we will be trying to reach with the gospel.

To show you the kind of data hiding out in this WSJ piece, I pulled some highlights:

  • We are becoming an urban planet. “The number of metropolitan areas in the world with populations over 1 million people has jumped from 77 to 501 since 1950. The U.N. projects that number to grow to over 660 by the year 2030.” The global population turned the corner around 2009, and the world is still rapidly urbanizing. The article does well to define what it means by urban. An urban area is anywhere the population density grows past 1500 people per square mile. The article titled “Urban Planet” has several animations that visualize this rapid advance.
  • The global population is getting older… fast. ”Next year, the world’s advanced economies will reach a critical milestone. For the first time since 1950, their combined working-age population will decline.” This is a big deal for a number of reasons. As the global population ages, the number of working-age people shrinks. This is happening all over the developed world (including the USA), and in rapidly developing nations like China and India. The global crisis may no longer be overpopulation, but not having enough workers to support the children and elderly. In addition, this aging has a tremendous effect on how we approach the task of missions, both overseas and at home. How do we reach an aging population when the majority of conversions occur at a young age?
  • Asia’s gender divide is catching up to them. “Cultural preference for male children has cost Asia dearly. Count up all the girls who were never born because of selective abortion, victims of infanticide and females who died from neglect and there are upwards of 100 million women missing on the continent today by some estimates.” The one child policy in China has cut their legs out from under them concerning their continued growth. Not only does this serve as a sobering example of consequences wrought by not valuing life and treating some people as less valuable than others, it is going to radically change everything from the global economy to the building blocks of society in these areas.
  • But Africa is on the move. “The biggest human increase in modern history is under way in Africa. On every other continent, growth rates are slowing toward a standstill for the first time in centuries.” While the workforce shrinks across the globe, Africa will become the world’s leader in population growth and will have a strong workforce for a number of years to come. This shift has the potential to change the ball-game when it comes to the global economy. The poorest continent in the world may become the best source for labor. This may produce an economic boom in this region of the world. Or, it may cause migration to grow to even more staggering heights.

The above are just a few of the significant highlights for mission. In my estimation, the WSJ piece raises as many questions as it answers. There is little mention given to the effects of migration moving forward. With populations starting to shrink in developed areas and booming in places like Africa, I wonder if this will only increase migration.

In addition, there is little-to-no mention of religious factors in the piece. That is a big blind spot in any prediction about demographics, but it is one most secular organizations gladly make. Truthfully, religion is a bigger deal in most of the world than we Westerners make it. Many of the areas in Africa with such population rise are Islamic, or more precisely Folk Islamic. Others are Christianized. Both of those consider themselves missionary religions.

You can check out the whole multi-media piece by clicking on the image below:

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