Of the seven billion people living on the planet about a third claim to be Christians. While the numbers are fluid and difficult to know exactly, nearly everyone grants that “Christianity” is by far the world’s largest religion. This information comforts many believers in Christ because they see it as confirming their faith. However, is Christianity really the world’s most popular religion?
To answer this question we must first know how the numbers come together. The data comes from polling people and religious institutions. In-other-words, if one claims to be a Christian he’s counted as a Christian. Never mind the nature or degree of his faith, the manner in which he became a Child of God, or his life-style and service because it’s all about what he says. So the figures lack any hard evidence or research.
Remember claims are not always accurate or true. People have corrupted the Bible’s teaching on what it takes to become a Child of God for a long time. Thus when you compare what most say about this with God’s Word the two do not match. Some believe that infants inherit the guilt of Adam’s sin and so they need forgiveness. To satisfy this need they sprinkle or pour a little water on them and call it baptism. They also practice something called “confirmation”, which involves educating these small children so they can confirm their own faith when they reach the right age. The problem with all of this is that none of it is in the Bible. You cannot find one case of infant baptism because baptism is for believers (Acts 8:36-38). Baptism means to immerse and so sprinkling a little water on someone’s head is not consistent with God’s Word. Neither does the Bible mention an act of “confirmation” as practiced by Catholicism.
We now come to a second theory of faith called Calvinism, which teaches faith only salvation. Most Protestant and independent churches hold to some form of this theology. It says that a person becomes a Christian at the moment he believes in Christ, but that is not what the Bible teaches (Acts 2:26-41) They may call for a candidate to recite the “sinner’s prayer” or to testify about his changed life before they accept him. A person may have to come before the church to state his belief in Christ, or it may simply be a private salvation moment. Again, the problem with all of this is that none of it is in the Bible.
The Bible clearly states that many believers in Christ will be among the lost. Jesus said “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt 2:21). The point is, we must both believe in Jesus and obey God’s Word. So while many claim to be disciple of Christ that does not make it true. Since most people belong to one of the two groups mention above, and both fail to follow the Bible, they do not belong to God. If you take them out of the equation the number of Christians drops dramatically.
Let’s talk about another group that reduces the number even more. I am talking about those who did the right thing to begin with, but are no longer faithful. This group includes those who have gone back into the world (2 Tim. 4:10). Christians can become entangled by the allure of worldly pollutions (2 Peter 2:20-22). They can fall into the trap of worldly lusts and enticements (1 John 2:14-17). It is possible to be overcome by persecution, trials, and the pressure from others (1 Peter 4:3-13). Just the routine of doing right can overthrow our faith. Some do not endure with patience the life-style of service and sacrifice (Heb. 10:23-27). As a result most congregations know the heartache of losing members to Satan (1 Peter 5:8). The problem is that people who should and do know better give up on God. What is telling about unfaithful members is if you ask them if they are Christians most will say yes. So the number of Christians drops even further.
All of this is in line with Bible teaching. Christianity has never been the largest religion. Jesus predicted this point when He said, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). Sadly, Jesus does not know most who say they are Christians. He said, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matt. 7:22-23)
We do not need a majority to confirm our faith or give us comfort. All we need is God’s guarantee and help to be happy, peaceful, and secure (Heb. 6:17-20). Let us all be like Paul when he said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
I would like to add another thought about Christianity being the largest religion in the world. Though the statement has never been true, there was a time when more people held Bible values. It would be good for our citizens to go back to these principles on marriage and family, moral issues, and general goodness. Our country has taken a real hit over the past few years because people are abandoning the values that made us strong. But that happens when so many are “Christians” by name only. If they ignore the Bible’s message about salvation then why would they honor its teachings on values? Remember the wise man’s words, “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34).
– Terry Starling