What is the makeup of the Protestant/Evangelical Church in Thailand? Where do the majority of Thai believers live?
I am going to break down some of the statistics so we can get a better picture of where the focus has been in outreach so that we can look to the regions & people that are being underserved.
As we continue to look at a recent study from 2008, we learn that:
42% of all Christians in Thailand are tribal.
- 12% of all tribals are Christian
- compared to 0.31 % of non-tribals
Yet tribal peoples in Thailand account for only a very small percentage of the total population.
Only 0.31% of non tribals are Christians (this figure includes Chinese, Malay, and Khmer background Thai citizens). [Visser, p.77]
If we look as the Thai through the lens of “ethne” or people group thinking and pull out the three other groups from this figure, their numbers would be much lower.
The top 5 ethnic minority believers in Thailand are:
- Karen: 63k
- Lahu: 33k
- Akha: 16k
- Hmong: 8k
- Mian: 3k
Other ethnic groups include:
Bruu, Kachin, Khmu, Lawa, Leu, Lisaw, Lisu, Mon, Hmong, Pakawyaw, Palaw, Palong, Pra, Shan, So, Thin, Yao, & Malabri
The top 3 highest provinces for Christians in Thailand are:
- Chiang Mai: 23.57% of all Christians
- Chiang Rai: 19.26%
- Mae Hong Son: 8.23%
These 3 provinces (jangwats) account for over 51% of all Christians in the country.
What do we need to understand?
Much of the focus of outreach in the past 185 years has focused on the Northern provinces among tribal peoples. Great advances and work has been done within this scope of ministry.
But unless Thai Christians, and those who come to serve, make a conscious decision to bring fresh focus on the regions and “core” people outside of those listed above, Thai people will continue to remain an unreached people group.
Those who do not see the world through the lens of “ethne” or specific peoples and families (Matthew 24:14) will continue to be able to say that they are “reaching Thailand for Christ” when in fact they are reaching only a minority segment of the nation within a certain geographical area.
This post is part of an ongoing series:
Part One: Progress of the Gospel in Thailand