Pew Center Global Survey of Evangelical Leaders
Although its historical roots are mostly in Northern Europe and North America, evangelical Protestantism is a global phenomenon today. In 1910, by one estimate, there were about 80 million evangelicals, and more than 90% of them lived in Europe and North America. By 2010, the number of evangelicals had risen to at least 260 million, and most lived outside Europe or North America. Indeed, the “Global South” (sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and most of Asia) is home to more evangelicals today than the “Global North” (Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand).
As the evangelical movement has grown and spread around the globe over the past century, it has become enormously diverse, ranging from Anglicans in Africa, to Baptists in Russia, to independent house churches in China, to Pentecostals in Latin America. And this diversity, in turn, gives rise to numerous questions. How much do evangelicals around the world have in common? What unites them? What divides them? Do leading evangelicals in the Global South see eye-to-eye with those in the Global North on what is essential to their faith, what is important but not essential and what is simply incompatible with evangelical Christianity?
To help answer these kinds of questions, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life conducted a survey of participants in the Third Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization. The congress takes its name from a worldwide gathering of evangelical leaders convened by the Rev. Billy Graham in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1974.
The organizers of the Cape Town 2010 gathering sought to bring together a geographically representative “global parliament” of evangelical leaders that would reflect the “demographic, cultural, theological and ecclesiastical diversity of the global Church.” The selection of participants was largely decentralized, with the LCWE’s international deputy directors working in each of 12 regions to invite participants in approximate proportion to each country’s share of the global evangelical population. This selection process resulted in a body that was ethnically and linguistically diverse. At the same time, however, the participants surveyed by the Pew Forum differ in important ways from rank-and-file evangelicals in their home countries. They are predominantly male, middle-aged and college-educated, and nearly three-quarters (74%) are employed by churches or religious organizations. Fully half (51%) are ordained ministers. Hence, the survey results do not necessarily reflect the views of evangelicals as a whole.
One advantage of surveying a leadership group, as opposed to the general public, is that the questions can be more specialized and presume more knowledge among the respondents. The Pew Forum survey asked the Lausanne Congress participants to rate the prospects for evangelical Christianity in their home countries, to express their views on what it means to be an evangelical and to describe their beliefs on a number of theological, social and political issues. We also asked for their perceptions about the relationship between evangelical Protestants and other religious groups, for their assessment of the greatest threats to evangelicalism today and for their views on evangelization, including whom to evangelize and how. The resulting report offers a detailed portrait of the beliefs and practices of this group of global evangelical leaders.
Luis Lugo, Director
Alan Cooperman, Associate Director, Research
Photo from Pew Research Center