The website www.visualcapitalist.com publishes from time to time nicely done graphics to present statistics in an attractive way. Recently it published a graphic that makes the growth of the world population visible, and how it is divided over the continents. It is an animated graphic which leads you through the years from 1950 to 2100. The first 65 years is a representation of the facts as they are known, while the last 80 years are an estimate.
It is interesting to see how the population will be divided over the continents in the coming decades.
Where in 1950 Oceania had all together 10 million people, and at the moment around 40 million, there it is expected to continue to grow to 70 million in 2010. Another developed continent that will continue to grow, is North America, from 170 million in 1950 to 360 million in 2015, to 500 million in 2100.
Africa is the continent which will see the strongest growth: from 250 million in 1950, via 1190 million now to 4470 million in 2100.
It is remarkable that the other three continents are expected to peak in a certain year and then decrease in population. Europe is at its peak now at 740 million. Asia will peak at 5270 million and then decrease to 4780 in 2100. South and Central America will grow to 790 million and then decrease to 710 million.
Of course this are all expectations and things can change. Nevertheless, this can lead to some interesting conclusions.
- Africa is known as the poorest continent at the moment. It will continue to grow. This is for two reasons. First that the fertility rate will remain high, whereas in other continents this is declining. Second that the life expectancy at birth will go up as well. This as a result of better hygiene and medical care, and generally a better (or safer) environment.
- Asia is at the moment by far the continent with the highest population. It will continue to grow, but then decline and in 2100 it will not be much higher than it is now.
- North America and Oceania are considered to be continents of developed countries (or ‘western’ countries). The population in these continents will continue to grow, probably because of immigration. Europe, another developed (‘western’) continent, will not grow, but decline.
Compared to the situation as it is now, the by far largest part of the growth will take place in Africa. Soon after 2100 Africa may very well become the continent with the highest population. China realises the importance of this and is heavily investing in Africa. It would be good for us as Christians to ask ourselves what this means for us. We know that Christ gathers His Church and in doing so He also works throughout the generations. We should notice that God says to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 that in him all the families of the earth will be blessed. It doesn’t say ‘individuals’ or ‘human beings’. The gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ must be proclaimed to families. The Bible speaks about families coming to faith and being baptised. With the fertility rate in Africa remaining high, families there are usually big families. If one family becomes Christian now, that may mean that in 80 years, two or three generations later, the choice of these parents may impact even twenty to fifty families.
The Word of God must be preached to all peoples and nations and we should not stop doing mission work in the areas where we are working now. However, it would also be good not to forget Africa. In 2100, forty percent of the world population will probably live in Africa. How many of them will be Christian?
Preaching the gospel to Africa, not only because we want to win as many as possible for Christ, through the grace of God, but also because we believe that where Christianity flourishes, whole nations will be blessed. History teaches us. When Christianity spread all around the Mediterranean Sea in the first centuries, it brought prosperity to the whole area. When the church in the western part deteriorated, during the Middle Ages, then the European continent went down into what we call the ‘Dark Middle Ages’. During that time, the church in the eastern and southern part of the Mediterranean area (Asia and North Africa) continued to flourish up until the fourteenth century. It was during that time that much of the development in Europe came from those countries. Those who went to go on the crusades, took a lot of knowledge back to Europe.
It was in the fourteenth century that Islam radicalised and oppressed Christianity. Many Christian churches disappeared and the area impoverished, until in the 19th and beginning of 20th century much of it was in the power of western colonising countries.
At the same time we see that in the 15th century slowly but surely the church in Europe was being prepared for the Reformation and in the 16th and following centuries, the Reformation brought dramatic changes in Europe. Especially the countries in North-West Europe, most of which became reformed, became strong and prosperous.
Later, Christianity spread to North America, and North America became prosperous and in the 20th century also powerful. However, with the decline of Christianity in western countries it seems as if the prosperity in those countries has also peaked. And one can wonder if the rise of China might have a connection with the rise of Christianity in China.
The gospel brings prosperity to the world. In the first place spiritual prosperity. Who believes in Jesus Christ and is saved by Him, will prosper. But it will also bring material prosperity. We are not preaching a health and wealth gospel. It is not that everyone who has a strong faith will be healthy and rich. God can also be testing us and make us spiritually rich by sickness or adversity. Nevertheless, we believe that God’s commandments are good for the people. Not only for those who believe, but for the entire nation. Where God’s commandments are being obeyed, there that in itself will be a blessing. Where God’s commandments are being pushed aside and ignored, there sin will become powerful and the long term result of sin is always misery. To bring prosperity to the world we will have to begin with preaching the true gospel, of salvation in Christ alone, by faith alone.