Numbers in missions. Statistics. Counting. It’s a jumble out there.

There are lots of numbers about missions, worldwide Christianity, the unreached languages, etc. Have you noticed that they don’t match?

Statistics can be great for helping us to know where we are most needed and what has not yet been done; especially in regard to the Great Commission command to go to every ethnic group.

In Western culture we like numbers. Numbers paint pictures for us and help us see where more of whatever is needed. Numbers that count people are constantly changing. There are a lot of dynamic people to count.

People move across geographic and political boundaries. They adopt new languages. They change their definitions and terminology. They learn new things or discover old things. All of these changes affect numbers.

People who count also change or differ. Their theology affects their values and definitions. Their discoveries reveal previously unknown language groups or people groups. Numbers don’t lie but people do count things differently and have varying sources for their numbers.

For example, if you look at Papua New Guinea in both Operation World and in the Joshua Project, you would think it is one of the countries most reached with the Gospel. Having lived there for many years, I have reason to believe about half of the 895 languages there have not had anyone share the Good News to the understanding of the local people. It is true that people in very remote places can now sing Christian worship songs in English. It has become one of the most missionized and most syncretized places. But if they have not had anyone communicate the identity of Jesus and their need for His saving grace in a language they understand, then you still have people who are destined to hear from God, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

So, as you look at the numbers, ask yourself what the presenter is counting and how the terms used are defined before you compare those numbers with other numbers. The numbers may differ, but I believe these are honest attempts to increase awareness, prayer, and workers.

All of these numbers will show you some real needs for people who know Christ to reveal Him to people who do not. They will give you a glimpse of what needs to be done to accomplish God’s mission.

How many world languages?

How many Bibles, New Testaments, and portions have been translated?

Mission Stats from The Traveling Team – (Excellent resource.)

IMB – World People

IMB People Groups –

The Joshua Project – (See Definitions.) –

The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Seminary –

Status of Global Christianity – 2019, 2020, 2021

Gordon Conwell Annual Statistics –

Mission Conference Ideas and Stats –