Today, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, which puts out the much-consulted World Christian Database, says there are 111 million Christians in China, roughly 90 percent Protestant and mostly Pentecostal. That would make China the third-largest Christian country on earth, following only the United States and Brazil.
The Center projects that by 2050, there will be 218 million Christians in China, 16 percent of the population, enough to make China the world's second-largest Christian nation. According to the Center, there are 10,000 conversions in China every day.
It's the Pentacostals that are making the running. Their expansion since the Cultural Revolution makes the Chinese economy look sluggish, and as with all people filled with success and hope, they have the wildest dreams.
The most audacious even dream of carrying the gospel beyond the borders of China, along the old Silk Road into the Muslim world, in a campaign known as "Back to Jerusalem." As Aikman explains in Jesus in Beijing, some Chinese Evangelicals and Pentecostals believe that the basic movement of the gospel for the last 2,000 years has been westward: from Jerusalem to Antioch, from Antioch to Europe, from Europe to America, and from America to China. Now, they believe, it's their turn to complete the loop by carrying the gospel to Muslim lands, eventually arriving in Jerusalem. Once that happens, they believe, the gospel will have been preached to the entire world.
Imagine European Christians working for that!