The U.S. Sends—and Receives—More Christian Missionaries Than Any Other Country

The Story: According to a news report by Reuters, the United States sends—and receives—more Christian missionaries abroad than any other country on the planet.

The Background: According to Todd Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, in 2010 the U.S. sent out one out of every four missionaries—127,000 of the world’s estimated 400,000 missionaries. In distant second place is Brazil, which sent 34,000 missionaries abroad.

The U.S. receives the most missionaries as well, says Johnson, with 32,400 in 2010. Many are Brazilians largely working in Brazilian communities in the Northeast.

Why It Matters: Missionaries today tend to work independently or through organizations not affiliated with churches that traditionally ran missionary agencies, adds Johnson. And their work may be focused on providing humanitarian aid rather than founding churches and winning converts.

Some mission groups question whether to send missionaries to developing countries at all, Johnson said. “There are still streams within Christian missions that are suspicious of all preaching, or suspicious of all social action.”

While the U.S. is blessed to be able to send so many missionaries across the globe, having so many come from one country could be viewed as an attempt at American cultural hegemony. We should pray that God will raise up mission workers from across the world—and continue to send them to help us in the task of sharing the Gospel in North America.

  • Brett

    Please help. I am trying to follow the logic of the “Why it Matters” part: 1)Many foreign missionaries are suspect because they are not affiliated with churches, 2) Many of those folks are going to be doing humanitarian aid instead of church-planting, 3) Some mission groups questing sending missionaries to developing countries at all because some within Christian missions are suspicious, 4)Having so many US missionaries may be BAD because it “could be viewed as an attempt at American cultural hegemony,” 5) Therefore, we should pray that God will send missionaries from other countries to America to help spread the Gospel in the US/Canada/Mexico.

    Really bothered by what looks like the conclusion of this article if I am reading it right (point 5). Very confused about the negative connotation of point 4 as I read it. Confused as to the relevance of point 3, though I agree with the concern to some degree. Confused as to the trouble with point 2 that seems present in the tone. And again confused by the relevance of point 1 although I agree with the concern to some degree.

    Some additional commentary would be really helpful. As this post currently stands it sounds very anti-foreign missions for the sake of having more workers and resources for US church planting. Hope I am misunderstanding!

    • Joe Carter


      Points #1, #2, and #3 probably should have been moved up into the “Background” section, since it is really just an addition to Johnson’s other points.

      #4 and #5 are really the heart of the point I wanted to make in the “Why It Matters” section. On point #4, I merely meant that it could be problematic for the work of missions. While its certainly not the fault of U.S. missionaries, the impression some countries have of Americans is so negative that it might hinder their ability to share the Gospel. If the global church had more people from other countries who could carry out the mission work, it would probably be helpful to have them serving in those countries.

      I don’t think I’m saying anything most missionaries would disagree with. It’s similar to a website like TGC. Some people may simply not like my writing and would refuse to visit the site if I were the sole contributor. But by having other voices, they are able to find someone they could relate to.

      Also—and I didn’t say it because I assumed it was too obvious—sending out missionaries is a sign (normally) of an active, vibrant church. If other countries begin to increase the number of missionaries they send out, it is likely to be a signal of the growing influence of Christianity on that country.

    • Sonya Boldt

      Hey ha! I have a friend named Brett. Her twin sis is Britt Nicole.
      Are you Britt’s sis? Isnt Laputa: Castle in the sky, just the most awsome movie?

    • Sonya Boldt

      Joe Carter. Hmmm. Is that you’re fake name? Are you Pazu from Laputa: Castle in the Sky? Ha! If you’re Pazu, I bet cha I’m Sheeta!

  • Tiago Hirayama

    It depends , if you are talking about word of faith and prosperity gospel missionaries, yes, Brazil has sented a lot of people, but I live in Japan and I am Brazilian, the most people that claim to be a missionary , they don’t even know the language, ether the culture, and never study , should I call this people missionaries???

    • Sonya Boldt

      Tiago! Is that you’re real name? Are you really Sheeta? Where is Pazu? If you’re from Laputa: Castle in the Sky, then you know what i mean. Ciao!

  • Elaine

    It is a mystery to me Brazil’s missionary outflux, seeing that a lot of North Americans are sent to Brazil as missionaries. Why send people to North America when in their own country missionaries are so needed? I can’t really talk for the North Americans going to Brazil (some that I know went on short humanitarians trips only), but I can, to some extent, speak about the Brazilians who come to North America – in this case Canada, where I live.

    I am Brazilian. My first contact with Brazilian churches in Canada (Toronto area) was in 1993. All the “churches” planted by Brazilian “missionaries” are in one way or another affiliated with big ministries in Brazil. They are, for the most part (all that I have visited over a period of many years), all Arminian/Pentecostal or both. The true Gospel is not preached in these churches; many preach the prosperity gospel. “Pastors” come and live a life of comfort and luxury, while 90% of their congregation works around the clock to feed their family and to support the “annointed one” and their families. These “pastors” have very expensive cars, live in beautiful and huge homes, they dress well, they eat well, and many are involved in adultery. I’ve been in a church where the topic most preferred to preach was about the widow mites. Some “missionaries” come here and start visiting churches only to cause division and splits; then they start their own churches with the people who left the other church. Once they have enough money, they sometimes move to another place or simply go back to Brazil, or immigration gets to them and makes them leave (Brazilian churches are a haven for illegals).

    In the States is not too different, from what I’ve heard. I went to a “church” in Atlanta where the “pastor” prayed that the American Consulate in Brazil would approve people’s application for tourist visas so they could come and work in North America.

    It’s shameful, really. None, none of these people would ever go to poor countries to preach the Gospel (well, they themselves don’t even know what the Gospel is; while living in this Christian environment for several years I was never offered the Gospel, only to “try” Jesus and see if He would fix my problems; I was also never confronted with my sins) they would refuse. They love North America though.

    Having said all that, the fact that Brazil sends out so many missionaries is not a sign of the growing influence of Christianity in Brazil, far from it actually. The most preached gospel in Brazil is the gospel of health and wealth, prosperity, and the blasphemous word of faith. And that’s exactly what they send out to North America.

    • Sonya Boldt

      North America is a awsome contident.
      Have you watched Laputa: Castle in the sky? If you have then you know who Sheeta and Pazu are. If you havent, you’re missing out on life.

    • Sonya Boldt

      Elaine. Hi Elaine. I’m Sheeta from Laputa: Castle in the Sky. I hope you watched that movie. It is sooooooo awsome. Ciao!

  • Andrew

    From the developing world.
    I do not wish to directly challenge Elaine, in fact I agree with her assessment of the majority of missionaries from developing nations. However, I must say that there is actually a growing influence of the gospel in Brazil and other developing nations in Latin America. On the whole there is not a depth of maturity in these churches as yet and the competing gospels flooding from certain missiological cultures make it difficult for these humble congregations to grow. In sum, it is not satisfactory to measure the growth of the gospel by the sending of missionaries – nor does it give a clear indication of the maturity of the church.
    A much more grave response to this news item must be a call to North Americans to examine the preparation and maturity of their own plethora of missionaries if the echo that is returning takes the form that so concerns Elaine. It is the growth of the gospel that is the focus of God in Scripture – not the number of missionaries (note Philippians 1) or the numbers in churches.

    • Sonya Boldt

      That is right, Pete. Laputa: Castle in the Sky, is the MOST awsome movie EVER. Watch it Now!

    • Sonya Boldt

      Andrew, if you’re real name is Pazu, you’re in luck. Pazu is the 2nd main charictor from Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Watch it in secret from Joel on myspace video! Ciao!

  • Pete

    As someone with experience in Latin America, I agree with the comments on the lack of concurrence between maturity of the national church and the sending of workers to foreign fields.

    On another note, often workers from other parts of the world, be they Latins or Asians end up working with their own people group in the foreign country –which while not exactly “foreign” missions, it is important work.

    To balance this, having been to a less reached country, I have had the great privilege of visiting similar workers who are making a difference in the host culture as well.

    The criticisms of workers from other cultures are warranted to some degree, but those same criticisms are valid with many North American workers as well.

  • Pingback: Misused Bible Verses, Part Two: 2 Chronicles 7:14, “The Prescription for Revival” |()

  • Sonya

    It’s awsome, acurate, and tells people about todays’ missionaries

  • Ridwanul Haque

    I would like to contact with a responsible person from Bangladesh in order to make a relationship with them.

    Thanks and best regards.

    Ridwanul Haque
    Cell : 0184 2027217