How Many Christians Are There in the World & What Are Their Denominations?

How Many Christians Are There in the World & What Are Their Denominations?

Christianity houses many denominations and varying beliefs on how best to interpret the teachings of the Holy Bible. Each is rich with its own history and traditions, but the one constant is an unwavering faith in Jesus Christ.

Christian Denominations breakdown infographic

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! - Revelation 7:9-10

The Church begins with the Apostles:

Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven, for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. - Matthew 18:19-20

But the first organized Christians came in the form of the Catholic Church which eventually splintered during the 1500s. Throughout this turbulent time, six main branches of Christianity arose:

  • Catholics
  • Protestants
  • Eastern Orthodox
  • Anglicanism
  • Oriental Orthodox
  • Assyrian

However, it wasn’t until the 1950’s that a comprehensive demographic breakdown of modern Christianity was truly compiled.

David B. Barrett

David Barrett was born in 1927 in North Wales, UK. During his formative years, he gained a master’s degree in aeronautics while working for the Royal Aircraft Establishment.

Ordained as a priest in 1955 Barrett was assigned to a missionary engagement in Kenya. During his time in Kenya, Barrett befriended local priests and gained access to little known documents detailing the history of Christianity in Kenya.

Barrett’s time in Kenya was the catalyst for what would become his life’s work, comprising of a 14-year journey around the globe, visiting almost every country and compiling data on the history and current demographics of the Christian communities there.

The end result was the World Christian Encyclopaedia (WCE) the foremost reference book on the global Christian demographic. Since 1982 the WCE has been continually updated and a second edition was released in 2001, with a third edition set for release in 2020.

The Growth of Christianity in the Past 100 Years

Christianity remains the world’s most popular religion; however, while followers of the faith have increased, when measured as a percentage of the global population the Christian populace has decreased in the last 100 years.

Christian Population infographic

Global Christian Population in 1910

  • 611,810,000
  • Percentage of Christians as a Global Percentage: 34.8%

Global Christian Population in 2010

  • 2,260,440,000
  • Percentage of Christians as a Global Percentage: 32.8%

As you can see, the global Christian population has increased by 269.46% from 1910 to 2010 but decreased by -5.74% as an overall percentage of the population.

In contrast, we can see that the Muslim population has both increased in number and as a global percentage in the same period.

Global Muslim Population in 1910

  • 221,749,000
  • Percentage of Muslims as a Global Percentage: 12.6%

Global Muslim Population in 2010

  • 1,553,773,000
  • Percentage of Muslims as a Global Percentage: 22.5%

As you can see, followers of Islam are increasing as a global percentage over time, and there is a number of reasons for the disparity between the two religions. Chief among them is how fertility rates have altered over time.

The fertility rate for Christians in 1989 was 3.50 (the average amount of children birthed to Christian mothers), but over 20 years dropped to 2.58 in 2009. Fertility rates for Muslim women have also decreased in the same period, starting at 5.17 in 1989 falling to 3.23 in 2009.

However, this is still the highest birth rate of all religious groups, with Christianity pulling up second. It is expected that by 2050 both fertility rate and the number of adherents to each faith will equalize.

The Growth of Christianity from 2010 Onwards

Growth of Christianity infographic

In recent times Christianity has seen a massive boom in Sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia. While it is expected that the world’s share of Christians worldwide will remain roughly the same going forward, there is set to be a paradigm shift of Christianity from Western democracies to Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia-Pacific regions.

In China alone, surveys suggest that the Christian population has recently grown to between 7% and 10%. Even with a conservative estimate, this means there are more followers of the church in China than the entire population of the UK.

In 2010 24% of Christians resided in Sub-Saharan Africa, and an increase of between 14%-16% is expected to take place by 2050, resulting in 4 out of 10 Christians populating Sub-Saharan Africa.

Conversely, the European Christian population is set to drop from 25.5% to 15.6% during the same period, with North American populations dropping from 12.3% down to an estimated 9.8%.

Why the Regional Shift?

Projections for a shift in regional Christian demographics is expected to take place in large part due to current fertility rates. Presently, the worldwide average fertility rate for Christians is 2.7, just edging out the world’s total population average of 2.5.

However, in Sub-Saharan Africa, Christian fertility rates are almost double the world average at 4.4, with European Christians coming in last for world fertility rates at 1.6. Because of the disparity between the two areas we can expect a regional shift in the distribution of Christianity across the globe.

Zambia and Chad, in particular, are expected to see a massive surge, with both holding a much higher Christian fertility rate than anywhere else in Africa at 6.2, a 400% increase when compared to European levels of fertility.

Christian Denominations Globally

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. - John 5:14

As we have discovered, Christianity is the most populous religion in the world, comprising of 2.3 billion people globally; it is estimated that 126 countries have a majority Christian population, with Christianity being the minority in only 71 countries.

But we can break this down even further if we look at the top 10 countries by the number of Christian citizens, we can see that there are just over 1.5 billion Christians in these countries alone. This means that 65% of the worlds Christian population is located in only 10 countries, with the other 35% spread across the remaining 185 countries.

Top 10 Countries by number of Christian Citizens

Country

Number of Christians

Percentage of Population

USA

247,000,000

75.40%

Brazil

175,700,000

91.40%

Russia

117,640,000

83.60%

Mexico

122,500,000

93%

Philippines

110,664,000

85%

Nigeria

92,281,000

43.20%

Democratic Republic of Congo

68,558,000

95.60%

Ethiopia

54,978,000

64.50%

Italy

54,070,000

91.50%

Germany

47,200,000

57.30%

Largest Christian Populations by Country infographic

If we look at Christians as a percentage of the population, we can see that the smallest country on Earth, Vatican City, also has the largest percentage of the Christian population. Although I am sure this is no surprise, given that Vatican City is the primate episcopal see of the Catholic Church.

Largest Percentage of Christians by Country

Country

Percentage of Population

Number of Citizens

Vatican City

100%

800

Romania

99%

21,490,000

Papua New Guinea

99%

6,860,000

Tonga

99%

100,000

Armenia

98.5%

3,090,000

Namibia

97.6%

2,280,000

Marshall Islands

97.5%

50,000

Moldova

97.5%

3,570,000

Zambia

97.5%

13,090,000

Greece

93%

10,000,000

Most Prominent Denominations Worldwide

We must not lean on our human wisdom but must trust in God to guide us. - Proverbs 3:5-6

  • Catholics - 1.313 Billion
  • Protestants - 920 Million
  • Eastern Orthodoxy - 270 Million
  • Anglicanism - 85 Million
  • Oriental Orthodoxy - 80 Million
Most Prominent Christian Denominations and Largest Percentage of Christians By Country infographic

Regional Distribution of Christianity

Since Christianity began in the Middle East and North Africa, it has spread far and wide. In fact, the regions that gave rise to Christianity in the beginning now hold the lowest number of Christians as a percentage of the population at 4%.

Indonesia, the country with the highest population of Muslim residents is now home to more Christians than 20 combined countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Regional Distribution of Christianity infographic

A survey conducted in 2010 shows us the current regional distribution of Christianity:

  • Americas – 36.8%
  • Europe – 25.9%
  • Sub-Saharan Africa – 23.6%
  • Asia-Pacific – 13.1%
  • Middle East/North Africa – 0.6%

If we compare this to data compiled about the regional demographics of Christianity in 1910, we can see the areas of prominent growth and decline:

  • Americas – 27.1%
  • Europe – 66.3%
  • Sub-Saharan Africa – 1.4%
  • Asia-Pacific – 4.5%
  • Middle East/North Africa – 0.7%

Percentage of Denominations by Country

Percentage of Christian Denominations by Country infographic

The most recent data breaks down global Christian denominations as such:

  • Catholic – 50.1%
  • Protestant – 36.7%
  • Orthodox – 11.9%
  • Other – 1.3%

Let us take a look at the top 10 Christian countries by population and see how they compare to the global breakdown.

  1. USA
    • Protestantism – 48.9%
    • Catholicism – 23%
    • Other Christian – 1.8%
    • Non-Christian – 26.3%
  2. Brazil
    • Catholicism – 64.8%
    • Protestant – 4.0%
    • Other Christian – 20.1%
    • Non-Christian – 11.1%
  3. Russia
    • Orthodox – 42.5%
    • Other Christian – 4.6%
    • Non-Christian – 52.9%
  4. Mexico
    • Catholicism – 83%
    • Other Christian – 10%
    • Non-Christian – 7%
  5. Philippines
    • Catholicism – 81%
    • Protestant – 11%
    • Non-Christian – 8%
  6. Nigeria
    • Protestant – 32.3%
    • Catholicism – 10.9%
    • Non-Christian – 56.8%
  7. Democratic Republic of Congo
    • Catholicism – 32.8%
    • Protestant 37%
    • Other Christian – 12.2%
    • Non-Christian – 18%
  8. Ethiopia
    • Orthodox – 43.5%
    • Protestant – 18.6%
    • Catholicism – 0.7%
    • Non-Christian – 37.2
  9. Italy
    • Catholicism – 66.7%
    • Orthodox – 2.8%
    • Protestant – 1.1%
    • Other Christian – 0.8%
    • Non-Christian – 28.6%
  10. Germany
    • Catholic – 31.2%
    • Orthodox – 1.3%
    • Other Christian – 34.3%
    • Non-Christian – 33.2%
Top Ten Christian Countries by Population infographic

How Are They Alike/How Do They Differ?

There is a plethora of subtle differences between denominations, that go beyond how they worship, or the vestments worn. Many denominations are separated by their core belief system, which scriptures they follow, and their view on salvation.

If this is something that interests you, we can go in-depth into the differences between denominations, but for now we will provide a brief overview of three key differences found between denominations.

Scripture

Every religion has a source of religious doctrine, and Christianity is no different. As Christians we believe that the Holy Bible is the word of God, this is true for all denominations.

However, some denominations also find inspiration elsewhere, whether it be early writings from influential historical figures within the church, to theologians and creeds; some consider these to be faithful elucidations of Scripture.

This is true for denominations of Catholicism and Orthodoxy where many, or all, apocryphal books are considered scripture. Equally, Lutherans have the book of concord which they use as reference for Holy Absolution.

There are also differences in how denominations view theological writings, some hold them in the same regard as Scripture while others see them as enlightenments and clarifications of Scripture.

Salvation

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. - Mathew 19:25-26

Denominations differ on their views regarding the role of Christ and the salvation of humanity.

All Christians hold the belief that God provides salvation through faith, but many have different opinions regarding how believers gain faith. Some think that faith can only be provided by God through Baptism.

The view is that a believer has no hand in their own salvation, and that faith and salvation are provided by God.

Baptism for others, however, merely symbolises a person’s acceptance of Christ and of God; and salvation is given through their pronouncement of God as their saviour.

Many believe that although Christ died to ensure humanities salvation, believers can appeal to God for penance through good deeds; confession and prayer can also be used to absolve believers of sin.

Baptism/Holy Communion

Almost all denominations of Christianity observe two ordinances; Baptism and Communion, but all do not see them as a requirement for salvation. Additional sacraments may also be observed.

Baptism is a great point of contention between many denominations, almost all observe the practice but views on baptism’s role as a Means of Grace and salvation differ greatly.

Some denominations see Baptism as nothing more than symbolic of a believer’s acceptance of Christ, while others believe Baptism is a Means of Grace, absolving believers of original sin and imparting them with faith.

Some denominations see Holy Communion as nothing more than ceremony to remember the death of Christ, with many points of dispute arising regarding use of grape juice over wine; or whether the wine and bread is to be taken literally as the body and blood of Christ.

Christian Denomination in the USA

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. - Isaiah 41:10

Americans are typically far more religious than adults of other comparable western nations. Americans are more likely attend weekly mass, pray more often, and place a higher importance on faith than citizens of countries such as Australia, Canada and most of Europe.

Just over half of US citizens (55%) pray daily, if we compare this to the level of regularly praying adults in the UK (6%) or Australia (18%) we can see that America is currently leading the way for faith in the western world. In a Pew Forum study, it was shown that America is the only country that has both an above average level of prayer and wealth.

How Many American Citizens Are Christian?

It is stated that there are 247,000,000 practicing Christians in the USA, making up 75.4% of the population.

Percentage of Christians by State

1. Alabama 82%
2. Mississippi 82%
3. Tennessee 78%
4. West Virginia 77%
5. Arkansas 77%
6. Louisiana 75%
7. Kentucky 75%
8. South Carolina 74%
9. Georgia 74%
10. North Carolina 73%
11. Oklahoma 71%
12. Missouri 70%
13. Texas 69%
14. South Dakota 69%
15. Virginia 67%
16. Ohio 67%
17. Nebraska 66%
18. Wyoming 66%
19. Kansas 66%
20. Iowa 66%
21. Florida 64%
22. North Dakota 64%
23. Maryland 64%
24. Montana 64%
25. Indiana 63%
26. New Mexico 63%
27. Michigan 63%
28. Idaho 62%
29. Arizona 62%
30. Hawaii 62%
31. Utah 61%
32. Pennsylvania 61%
33. Illinois 61%
34. Delaware 61%
35. Rhode Island 60%
36. New Jersey 60%
37. Nevada 59%
38. Oregon 57%
39. Minnesota 56%
40. New York 56%
41. Wisconsin 56%
42. Colorado 55%
43. Washington 55%
45. Alaska 55%
46. District of Columbia 55%
47. California 54%
48. Connecticut 54%
49. Maine 48%
50. New Hampshire 43%
51. Vermont 41%
52. Massachusetts 40%

Percentage of Adults That Actively Attend Church Each Week by State

1. Utah 51%
2. Mississippi 47%
3. Alabama 46%

4. Louisiana

46%
5. Arkansas 45%

6. South Carolina

42%
7. Tennessee 42%
8. Kentucky 41%

9. North Carolina

40%
10. Georgia 39%
11. Oklahoma 39%
12. Texas 39%
13. New Mexico 36%
14. Delaware 35%
15. Indiana 35%
16. Missouri 35%
17. Nebraska 35%
18. Virginia 35%
19. Idaho 34%
20. West Virginia 34%
21. Arizona 33%
22. Kansas 33%
23. Florida 32%
24. Illinois 32%
25. Iowa 32%
26. Michigan 32%
27. North Dakota 32%
28. Ohio 32%
29. Pennsylvania 32%
30. Maryland 31%
31. Minnesota 31%
32. South Dakota 31%
33. New Jersey 30%
34. Wisconsin 29%
35. California 28%

36. Rhode Island

28%
37. Wyoming 28%
38. Montana 27%
39. Nevada 27%
40. New York 27%
41. Alaska 26%
42. Colorado 25%
43. Connecticut 25%
44. Hawaii 25%
45. Oregon 24%
46. Washington 24%
47. District of Columbia 23%
48. Massachusetts 22%
49. Maine 20%
50. New Hampshire 20%
51. Vermont 17%

Denominations

List of Christian denominations found in the USA:

  • Adventist
  • Baptist
  • Brethren
  • Catholic
  • The Christian Church (The Stone-Campbell Movement)
  • Church of God
  • Episcopal/Anglican
  • Friends (Quaker)
  • Lutheran
  • Mennonite
  • Methodist
  • Moravian
  • Mormon
  • Nazarene
  • Orthodox (Eastern)
  • Pentecostal
  • Presbyterian
  • Reformed
  • Spiritualist

Breakdown of All Faiths in the USA

In a 2017 survey by Gallup the religious identification of Americans was split as such:

  • Protestant/Other Christian – 48.5%
  • Catholic – 22.7%
  • Mormon – 1.8%
  • Jewish – 2.1%
  • Muslim – 0.8%
  • Other non-Christian religion – 2.9%
  • Non-religious – 21.3%

Demographics - By Age

Age distribution Believe in God; Absolutely certainty Believe in God; Fairly certain Believe in God; Not too/not at all certain Believe in God; Don't know Do not believe in God Other/don't know if the believe in God Sample size
18-29 51% 22% 8% < 1% 16% 3% 5,544
30-49 62% 21% 5% < 1% 9% 2% 9,178
50-64 69% 19% 4% 1% 6% 2% 10,296
65+ 70% 17% 4% 2% 6% 2% 9,327

Demographics - By Gender

Gender Composition Believe in God; Absolutely certainty Believe in God; Fairly certain Believe in God; Not too/not at all certain Believe in God; Don't know Do not believe in God Other/don't know if the believe in God Sample size
Men 57% 21% 7% 1% 12% 3% 17,514
Women 69% 18% 4% 1% 6% 2% 17,557

Demographics - By Ethnicity

Recial and Ethnic Composition Believe in God; Absolutely certainty Believe in God; Fairly certain Believe in God; Not too/not at all certain Believe in God; Don't know Do not believe in God Other/don't know if the believe in God Sample size
White 61% 20% 5% 1% 11% 3% 24,900
Black 83% 11% 2% 1% 2% 1% 3,394
Asian 44% 23% 12% 1% 19% 2% 937
Latino 59% 26% 6% 1% 6% 1% 3,814
Other/Mixed 66% 18% 5% 1% 8% 3% 1,504

itemprop="about"Demographics - By Income Band

Income Distribution Believe in God; Absolutely certainty Believe in God; Fairly certain Believe in God; Not too/not at all certain Believe in God; Don't know Do not believe in God Other/don't know if the believe in God Sample size
Less than $30,000 66% 20% 5% 1% 7% 2% 8,845
$30,000 - $49,999 65% 19% 4% 1% 9% 2% 5,920
%50,000 - $99,999 62% 19% 5% < 1% 11% 2% 8,723
$100,000 or more 53% 22% 8% < 1% 14% 3% 7,002

Demographics - By Political Affiliation

Party Affiliation Believe in God; Absolutely certainty Believe in God; Fairly certain Believe in God; Not too/not at all certain Believe in God; Don't know Do not believe in God Other/don't know if the believe in God Sample size
Republican / Lean toward republican 63% 17% 3% 1% 5% 1% 13,731
No Lean 62% 20% 5% 1% 9% 3% 5,658
Democratic / Leab toward Democratic 55% 21% 7% 1% 13% 2% 15,682

Demographics - By Political Ideology

Political Ideology Believe in God; Absolutely certainty Believe in God; Fairly certain Believe in God; Not too/not at all certain Believe in God; Don't know Do not believe in God Other/don't know if the believe in God Sample size
Conservative 78% 14% 3% 1% 3% 1% 12,935
Moderate 59% 23% 6% 1% 9% 2% 11,653
Liberal 45% 24% 8% 1% 19% 3% 8,504
Don't Know 65% 16% 5% 2% 8% 4% 1,979

Christian Denominations - A Breakdown - Infographic

Christian Denominations Infographic

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