June 22, 2011

Global Survey of Evangelical Protestant Leaders

Priorities and Strategies for Evangelization

There is strong consensus among the global evangelical leaders on methods and strategies for evangelization. Eight-in-ten (80%) think the focus of evangelization efforts should be on changing individual hearts, not social institutions. There is also widespread agreement that evangelizing people who are not religious should be a top priority.

A. Frequency of Sharing Faith

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About half of the Lausanne leaders (51%) report sharing their faith with people of other religions at least once or twice a month, with nearly three-in-ten (27%) saying they do so weekly. Another three-in-ten (30%) say they share their faith several times a year. One-third of Global South leaders (34%) say they share their faith with someone of another religion at least weekly, compared with 16% of Global North leaders.

B. Methods of Evangelization

Eight-in-ten leaders say efforts to promote Christianity in their respective countries should focus “more on changing individual hearts,” while 16% say efforts should focus “more on reforming social institutions.” There is little difference on this question between leaders living in the Global South and Global North.

In the Global South, 78% of leaders say evangelicals should focus on changing individual hearts, while 18% say the focus should be on reforming social institutions. In the Global North, 82% of leaders say the focus should be on changing individual hearts, and 13% say it should be on reforming social institutions.

Most leaders believe that empowering local missionaries is more effective in promoting Christianity (86%) than is sending missionaries to other countries (12%). Leaders from the Global North and the Global South are about equally likely to say empowering local missionaries is more effective.

When asked to rate the value of short-term missions (those lasting a few weeks or months) in promoting Christianity, 28% of leaders say such missions are very valuable, 42% say they are somewhat valuable, and 30% say they are either not too valuable or not at all valuable. Leaders from the Global South are more positive than those from the Global North about short-term missions. About a third of leaders in the Global South (33%) say short-term missions are very valuable, while just a fifth of leaders in the Global North (20%) agree. Leaders living in sub-Saharan Africa give short-term missions particularly positive ratings; among this group, 42% say short-term missions are very valuable.
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Christian schools are another venue for promoting Christianity in many countries. The survey included two questions about Christian schools. One asked for an evaluation of the academic quality of Christian schools, and a second asked respondents to evaluate how well the schools do at nurturing children in the Christian faith. Among all leaders responding, 78% rate Christian schools in their country as either good or excellent in terms of academic quality, while 22% say they are only fair or poor. But evangelical leaders are more divided when it comes to how well Christian schools nurture children in the faith. Less than half (45%) of those expressing an opinion say that Christian schools in their country do a good or excellent job of nurturing children in this regard, while a majority of the leaders (55%) say they are only fair or poor.

Leaders from the Global North are more positive in their assessment of how well religious schools teach Christianity. A majority of leaders from the Global North (54%) say the schools are excellent or good at nurturing children in the Christian faith; this compares with 39% among Global South leaders. Among U.S. evangelical leaders, 58% say Christian schools are doing an excellent or good job at nurturing children in the faith.

C. Priorities for Evangelization

The survey asked leaders to rate the importance of evangelizing among each of seven groups in their respective countries today. One group is seen as a top priority for evangelization by nearly three-quarters (73%) of all leaders responding: those who are not religious. In addition, a solid majority of leaders (59%) see Muslims as a top priority for evangelization in their country. Other religious groups are generally seen as a lower priority. About four-in-ten leaders (39%) say that evangelizing either Buddhists or Hindus is a top priority in their country. Fewer consider Jews, Catholics and other (non-evangelical) Christians to be a high priority for evangelization.22

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Those who are not religious are considered a top priority for evangelizing by a majority of leaders surveyed from all regions of the world. More than eight-in-ten evangelical leaders (83%) from Europe, where the non-religious are particularly numerous, say this group is a top priority for evangelizing, as do 78% of leaders from the United States. Among leaders from the Global South, 66% say that evangelizing among the non-religious is a top priority.

Priorities for evangelization also appear to be influenced, in part, by the relative size and geographic concentration of the potential target groups. Leaders living in Muslim-majority countries are more likely than others to say that evangelizing Muslims is a top priority (80% call this a top priority, compared with 56% of those living in non-Muslim-majority countries). Similarly, those living in Hindu-majority and Buddhist-majority countries are more likely than other leaders to say that evangelizing among Hindus and Buddhists, respectively, is a top priority in their country today. Nearly nine-in-ten (87%) leaders answering from Hindu-majority countries say evangelizing among Hindus is a top priority; 35% of other leaders say the same. And 83% of leaders responding from Buddhist-majority countries call it a top priority to evangelize among Buddhists in their country, while 37% of other leaders say the same.

D. Which Is Attracting More Converts – Christianity or Islam?

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In the eyes of most of the evangelical leaders surveyed, Christianity is making greater strides at attracting converts than Islam. More than three-quarters (78%) say that Christianity is converting more people in their country, compared with 17% who say Islam is making more converts.

However, there are wide differences in judgment about this among leaders in various countries. Those from predominantly Christian countries overwhelmingly say that Christianity is winning more converts than Islam in their country (82%). More than eight-in-ten leaders from Hindu-majority and Buddhist-majority countries also think that Christianity is attracting more converts. But those from Muslim-majority countries are evenly divided, with 47% saying Islam is converting more people and 48% saying Christianity is converting more followers.


Footnotes:

22 These items were asked in a fixed order, with “Catholics” listed earlier in the list than “non-evangelical Christians.” (return to text)

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