Was It Worth It?

The numbers are gleaned from various sources and, in many cases, are simply educated guesses by missiologists. Estimates of the number of Christians today vary widely among experts. We've used the figures of Tony Lambert of OMF (international), which seem to occupy a middle ground. 
—The Editors

Western Protestants poured money and people into China for a hundred years. Did it make a significant difference?

Protestant Missionaries 
1807: 1 
1840: 20 
1858: 81 
1865: 189 
1874: 436 
1893: 1,324 
1906: 3,833 
1918: 6,395 
1926: 8,325 
1928: 4,375 
1930: 6,346 
1951: 0

Population of China 
1812: 362 million 
1851: 380 million 
1949: 450 million 
1980: 900 million 
1990: 1.1 billion 
1996: 1.2 billion

Baptized Protestants 
1800: 0 
1834: 10 
1853: 350 
1869: 5,753 
1876: 13,035 
1898: 80,000 
1911: 207,747 
1934: 500,000 
1980: 2 million 
1996: 33 million 
(government estimate: 19 million)

Protestants per Chinese 
1850: 1 in 1 million 
1900: 1 in 2,000 
1926: 1 in 1,000 
1952: 1 in 1,000 
1996: 1 in 36

Roman Catholics 
1800: —250,000 (compared to 0 Protestants) 
1900: (about) 1 million 
1950: —3 million—or five times the number of Protestants 
1996: —18 million—or about half the number of Protestants 
(government estimate: 6 million)

Total Christians (Protestants & Catholics) in China’s population today 
4.3 percent or 1 in 23.

Source of Statistics: Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christian Missions in China (1929); Tony Lambert, OMF (INTERNATIONAL); statistics of the People’s Republic of China.

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #52 in 1996]

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