When pondering countries with overtly Christian inclinations, China likely isn’t one of the first to come to mind. But one expert believes that the East Asian nation is poised to see major growth in the faith arena.

Fenggang Yang, professor of sociology and director of Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University, recently said that the estimated 58 million Christians in China will exponentially increase to around 160 million by the year 2025, according to the Telegraph.

And he believes the growth won’t end there. By 2030, the total Christian population could exceed 247 million, he posits. The current population of China is over 1.3 billion.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

If this unfolds, it would mean that China, which is officially an atheist nation, would outpace the U.S. in its number of Christians — a major development considering the nature of the cultural and religious dynamics in both nations.

“By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon,” Yang told the outlet. “It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change.”

Yang said that Mao Zedong’s efforts to purge religion from China have failed and that Christianity is surging decades after faith was officially stripped from the public sphere.

“Mao thought he could eliminate religion. He thought he had accomplished this,” Yang told the Telegraph. “It’s ironic — they didn’t. They actually failed completely.”

Despite the professor’s predictions, that doesn’t mean the current environment is easy to navigate for Chinese Christians.

With the increase in adherents has come reports of more persecution at the hands of government officials. Open Doors USA, a group that monitors international persecution of Christians, found that China ranked 38th on its list of nations with the worst persecution in 2013.

Read more about Christianity in China here.

(H/T: Deseret News)

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