Urbanization and the least-reached

January 1, 0001

In a brief conversation today, a friend of mine at the office and I began speculating on how one would calculate just what percentage of the unevangelized (2.1 billion) are rural, vs. urban.This is not an easy calculation, since “World A” (the unevangelized, those with no access to the Gospel–not quite the same as unreached) is measured by either country or people group. The people group data does not have % Urban. The countries do, but Christians could very well be concentrated in the cities, thus making the rural area more unevangelized (and the unevangelized more rural than the national average). Out of curiosity, I queried my District Survey database. Of 3,803 provinces in the database, 1,528 are less than 50% Christian, with populations of 4.4 billion. 130 have population densities > 1,000/sqkm, with pop. of 657 million. 1,223 have population densities < 1,000/sqkm, with pop. of 3.8 billion. 1,152 have population densities < 500/sqkm, pop. 2.7 billion 751 have population densities <100/sqkm, with pop. 710 million. Population density is not quite the same as urbanization. People clump within provinces. Nevertheless, it’s not a bad correlation (I don’t have % urban at the provincial level, comprehensively for the world). The “most dense,” “least Christian” (<50% Christian) places:

  • Cairo, Egypt, 8 million
  • Rif Dimashq, Syria, 2.7 million
  • Beirut, Lebanon (32% Christian), 0.4 million
  • Macao, China, 0.5 million
  • Seoul, Korea (31% Christian), 9.6 million
  • Jakarta, Indonesia (20% Christian), 9.6 million
  • Algiers, Algeria, 3.4 million
  • Delhi, India, 16.7 million
  • N’Djamena, Chad (38% Christian), 1.0 million
  • Toshkent, Uzbekistan, 2.9 million

The bottom line conclusion: about as many people live in very-low-density places (<100 per sq km) as in very-high-density places (>1,000/sqkm). About twice as many people live in relatively low-density (2 billion, <500/sqkm) as in relatively high density (1.1 billion, between 500 and 1,000/sq km density). Much of our work amongst the unreached will be in more “rural-ish” cities and towns (places such as those in India: populous cities that have a very rural feel and rural connections), but a not insignificant amount (1.7 bln) live in high-density, highly urban places like Beijing, Tokyo, Jakarta, Cairo, Seoul. (These numbers are very rough and are centered on populations, but they should give you a basic feel.) As you recruit workers, they need to be understand the possibilities of rural and megacity life, and how strategies differ. The stereotypical “unreached person” is not a tribesman living in a thatched hut; it’s equally possible to be a middle-class urbanite with a non-Christian religious background.