I understand from this answer that the number of Christians in Latin America, Africa, and Asia has grown dramatically in comparison to North America and Europe. My question is, has this shift in Christian populations to the "global South" resulted in a shift in where Christian missionaries come from?

That is, how many Christian missionaries today are sent from countries in the global South? How has that number changed recently? Ideally, I'd like data by major faith traditions, like Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, and Other/Non-Nicene (for example).

For the purposes of this question, we can define "global South" as Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

  • Well, you will not like my answer (and technically it is not an answer so I put it just as a comment), but my guess is that the reason behind is simply the general poverty of what you call "global South". Traditional religions (Christianity, Islam) offer solace for poor people, while people from the rich North search something else, which they more probably find in the contemporary fashionable esoteric pseudo-religions. Jan 9, 2017 at 9:28

1 Answer 1


The best data on this topic that I'm aware of comes from the Atlas of Global Christianity, which describes how Christian missions has changed between 1910 and 2010 (unfortunately, if it does include tradition-level data, I don't have access to it). An overview report summarizes its findings:

The growth in missionary sending from the Global South is apparent in these pages but lags behind the demographics of church membership.1

By continent, we see both the raw number of missionaries sent, as well as the number per million church members, in both 1910 and 2010:1

                          1910             |             2010
                   #Sent       #/mil.      |       #Sent      #/mil.
Africa               350          30       |      20,700         44
Asia                 300          12       |      47,100        135
Europe            39,950          99       |     132,800        237
Latin America        400           5       |      58,400        107
North America     20,400         223       |     135,000        596
Oceania              600         106       |       6,000        255
Total             62,000         101       |     400,000        184

Thus, we can clearly see that Asia, Latin America, and Africa have all jumped dramatically over the last 100 years in the raw number of sent missionaries. Asia and Latin America in particular now send much higher numbers of missionaries compared to their number of church members.

That said, the global South still lags in the latter metric, compared to the global North: North America still sends, by far, the most missionaries per church member. Still, we see evidence of a diminishing gap in that nine of the top 20 countries sending Christian missionaries are in the global South. Brazil (2), South Korea (5), and India (9) are in the top 10, and South Africa, the Philippines, Mexico, China, Colombia, and Nigeria in the next group of 10.2

The report concludes:

Over the past 100 years, as global Christianity has been shifting gradually to the South, the number of foreign missionaries sent from the South has been increasing. In 1910 the vast majority of missionaries were sent from Europe and Northern America to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In 2010 the sending of foreign missionaries is more even across continents, although Europe and Northern America still have much higher per-capita sending rates than most countries of the Global South.1


  1. "Christianity 2010: A View from the New Atlas of Global Christianity." International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 34, No. 1.
  2. Atlas of Global Christianity, cited in Christianity in its Global Context, page 76.
  • 1
    I'm sure there is good tradition-level data out there, so I won't be accepting an answer until I see some of it! Jan 21, 2016 at 18:15

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