Some thought-provoking numbers from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary about Christian missionaries (PDF of full paper here, summary article here). According to this table, missionaries are not sent as frequently as I thought.
In the US, only one in 1500 church members are sent. But on the receiving end, some countries are receiving as many as one missionary for every 200 people in the country.
Also curious is the number of Christians already in the countries where missionaries are sent. From the article:
Meanwhile, most missionaries continue to go to mostly Christian nations. “The ‘top nine’ receiving countries were home to only 3.5% of the world’s non-Christians but received more than 34% of all international missionaries,” notes the CSGC. “All nine have Christian majorities, and they were home to over 34% of the world’s Christians in 2010.”
By contrast, “The ten countries with the most non-Christians in 2010 were home to 73% of all non-Christians globally. Because many of them restrict or deny missionary access, however, they received only 9% of all international missionaries,” notes the CSGC. The lion’s share are in China, India, and Nigiera, where “large numbers of home missionaries also work among non-Christians.” […]
…The countries receiving the most missionaries per million people are overwhelmingly in Oceania and the Caribbean and have majority Christian populations.
More striking, the ten countries that received the most missionaries per million non-Christians averaged almost one for every seven. This includes Samoa, at the top of the list, received more than one missionary for every three non-Christians. None of these countries was less than 90% Christian and only three were less than 95%. Suriname, with a bare Christian majority (51%), ranked 93rd on the list, while Albania, the highest-ranked country with a true Christian minority (32%), ranked 137th out of 232 countries.
In addition, Samoa received one missionary for every 2.5 non-Christians. Tonga received one missionary for every 7.4 non-Christians, and Micronesia one for every 11.1 non-Christians.
I came across this article while looking for numbers on missionaries sent from South Korea, whom I once mistakenly said did not send them. In fact, until recently South Korea was second only to the United States in missionaries sent per million church members. But that has changed:
South Korea, which previously occupied the No. 2 spot (as detailed in a 2006 CT cover story, “Missions Incredible“), now appears to have been eclipsed by unlikely contenders. According to the CSGC, Brazil, France, Spain, and Italy all sent more missionaries than South Korea did in 2010.