There is an article in the newspaper Today’s Christian from February of 1974 that is entitled “May We Have Your Opinion, Ralph Winter?” The question is regarding whether or not the number of Christians in the world is keeping up with the growth in the world population at this time. Dr. Winter is consulted on the matter because he is known as “one of the nation’s foremost historians of Christian missions.” He disagrees with the notion that there will be fewer Christians as the world population increases. In fact, he observes that the percentage of Christians in the cultures of the world is not lower than it was seventy-two years before. Winter states, “For seventy-two years ago, Christians in Africa were three per cent of the population, and are thirty per cent today. This is not going backwards, is it?”
Dr. Winter does point out that as the world population explodes, so do the number of non-Christians. He writes that the prediction that there will be three billion non-Western people groups that are not Christian does not discourage him because of his confidence that the number of Christians will continue to rise in the non-Western world. He notes that devout, church-going Christians are not the only evidence of the impact Jesus Christ has had on a culture in the non-Western world. Winter mentions, “Asia is still inscrutably oriental and all that, but if you step back and look at it, both Africa and Asia are fairly riddled with attitudes, morals, and values which have come from Christianity.” Missionaries in Japan have not figured out what a truly Japanese Christian church is like. Although few Japanese belong to a church, when asked by a government census who the greatest religious leader in history is, seventy-eight per cent respond Jesus Christ and not Gautama Buddha. This does not provide an accurate count of Christians, but it is one measure of Jesus Christ’s influence in this culture.
Because Dr. Winter was a man of statistics in his knowledge base, he indicates that more than twice as many of the world’s people this year claim to be Christian than any other religion. “With 5,000 independent new denominations in Africa, (and practically a new one each day), one would not likely predict the demise of Christianity,” Winter says. He rejoices that the Christian movement is clearly out of control, and that the white man no longer controls it. It is the only world religion that is both international and non-national at the same time.
Dr. Winter is identified as a professor of the historical development of Christian mission at Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of World Mission and Institute of Church Growth, as it was originally known. His mission field was Guatemala for ten years. The quotation of his for this article was taken from his book The Twenty-Five Unbelievable Years 1945-1969, published by the publishing company Winter founded, William Carey Library, one year after it started.