Recently, we found most of our travelling friends had deserted us. But still a good few hundred million remain on God’s mission in this world, sharing His heartbeat for the nations and ultimately for His glory. We’re on our travels to share the good news of Jesus with unreached and unengaged people groups. Easy with all of us hundreds of million, right?
Well, no, as we’ll soon find out. Why? I’m going to suggest five main practical reasons, one main underlying one.
- We don’t understand what Unreached and Unengaged People Groups are
- The Church in many areas of the world is greedy to keep its best
- Christians across the world are quick to replace the “best” with the “good”
- Denominational boundaries hamper witness, but lack of ecclesiology kills teams
- We forget our first love
And the underlying story in all of these:
The devil will try anything to prevent God receiving the glory he deserves. Sin will creep in at any and every level where Christ is not seen as more beautiful and true. But in the end, His name will be lifted up and those from all peoples will one day praise Him. And so here, I try to paint Christ as exactly that via thoughts on travel.
So firstly, surely all people who aren’t Christians are unreached? What is this about an unreached people group (UPG) or unengaged, unreached people groups (UUPG)?
Photos and definitions all taken directly and copyright to www.peoplegroups.org
WHAT IS A PEOPLE GROUP?
An ethno-linguistic group with a common self-identity that is shared by the various members. For strategic purposes it is the largest group within which the Gospel can spread without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance. There are 11,741 people groups in the world, with 7.2 billion people in them.
WHY ARE THEY UNREACHED?
A people group is considered unreached (UPG) when there is no indigenous community of believing Christians able to engage this people group with church planting. Technically speaking, the percentage of evangelical Christians in this people group is less than 2 percent. There are 7,024 unreached people groups which have approximately with 4.3 billion people in them.
WHO ARE THE UNENGAGED?
Unreached people groups are unengaged (UUPG) when there is no church planting strategy, consistent with evangelical faith and practice, under way. Gathering believers and planting churches are the keys to establishing an effective and multiplying presence among these people groups. 3,178 of these people groups are in this condition, consisting of 220 million people.
You see, regardless of whether you see the definitions as technically 100% helpful/accurate (is 2% a realistic figure for “unreached” peoples?), it at least gives us a reference point, and a helpful one at that. Because it answers many common objections to prioritising unengaged (and unreached) mission fields:
- most people could hear of the good news if they wanted to. (No, no they couldn’t)
- we have great unreached needs on our own doorstep. (Great needs, but not many of them “unreached” officially, nevermind unengaged)
- everyone can go online to find out about Jesus in English [/insert colonial language here]. (Internet in some places doesn’t exist, many cultures can’t understand colonising languages, and I would argue it’s not a Biblical model of evangelism to leave people to such means)
- we must build our own church before reaching others. (I’ll respond more extensively to this in the days ahead, but sadly where this attitude prevails, very little outreach ever happens in future, if patterns in history are observed)
- Europe is largely under 2% reached. (In many places, no, but even if where you are is under 2%, then at least look to the unengaged world!)
I would assume this would mean that Unengaged (Unreached) People Groups will get more of our attention as a worldwide church for future work. Instead sadly, few churches have even heard the term “Unengaged” and even fewer prioritise supporting mission to the unengaged.
I would assume this would mean that many of us would be praying for workers to go to potential unengaged people groups and training up people in light of that. In reality, the pressing needs of our local church and local area often crowd this important need out.
I would assume that mission organisations would gradually be shaping sustainable future options to withdraw from places with huge Christian resources, and move towards less engaged shores. Instead, for comfort, many mission organisations go wherever they can get funding in Christian hubs and see big results, quickly.
Millions are perishing into everlasting death without Christ, and we’re sending at least 95% of our money, resources and missionaries to reached places. It’s a tragedy that must stop.
We’ve whittled down our Gideon band of people concerned and informed for the unreached world to a small posse that is INCREDIBLY small. Sadly we’re about to go smaller. But throughout history, it’s been what has showed that God is on the throne, that it is Him who is acting in this world, and that it is for His glory alone.
For more, see:
The Joshua Project: https://joshuaproject.net/resources
Southern Baptist Mission Board: https://www.imb.org/research-reports/
People Groups website: www.peoplegroups.org