American Missionaries

  • Overseas
  • 2010

Having done so for two centuries, America still dispatches more missionaries overseas each year than any other nation. Research by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity found that the U.S. sent 127,000 missionaries abroad in 2010, as many as the next six top-sending countries (Brazil, France, Spain, Italy, South Korea, U.K.) combined. U.S. givers are also by far the largest source of funding for missions, donating several billion dollars for overseas ministry every year (a figure that is growing fast). These days, about a thousand U.S. agencies with a religious mission carry out relief work overseas, according to the Mission Handbook.

In the 1960s, the argument that mission work is “imperialistic” burst forth. There are also counterviews. In a 2008 London Times essay, journalist Matthew Parris described himself as “a confirmed atheist” but argued that “I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular non-governmental organizations, government projects, and international aid efforts…. Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good…. Those who want Africa to walk tall amid twenty-first-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted…. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone, and the machete.”