How about shaping your 2020 travel plans around something different? Read on…
One of the groups of posts that I have received most feedback about is this one, outlining what Unengaged People Groups are, and why so few are going to them (from a western, reformed perspective). Millions in our world are left with little or no access to the good news of Jesus, and very few of our churches are aware, or perhaps are able to think through how to shape their whole church-life around such a heartbeat – God’s heartbeat for the nations.
Having already introduced Unreached People Groups and Unengaged People Groups (see link above), I have a third category today which I’ve been learning about recently, which will help clear up a number of issues.
Frontier People Groups
What are Frontier People Groups?
Why isn’t ‘Unreached’ and ‘Unengaged’ terminology enough?
There are many problems with the term “Unreached”, and its definition as a people group with under 2% evangelical believers. It means that both the Republic of Ireland and Yemeni people (in Yemen) fall into the same category. But they’re not. In the Republic of Ireland, there has been Judeo-Christian framework shaping the land for hundreds of years, the Bible freely accessible and indigenous evangelical churches growing fast. In Yemen, to the best of my knowledge, none of this is readily available, apart from perhaps the Bible online in a written (variant?) of Arabic. Yet both are called “unreached”.
Hence the addition of “unengaged”?
Well, yes. Unengaged People Groups don’t have workers amongst them, don’t have the scriptures in their language, and have no local indigenous evangelical church movement. But there are still problems with this definition, or at least the usage of it.
Often agencies have been working together to ensure that the most “unengaged” peoples are reached. And as soon as a team, or individuals go to that people group, they become “engaged”. Now if that people group is under 50,000 people, fantastic! But what if that people group is 5 million people? Is this one team now engaging them all? Sadly they are often taken off lists of “unengaged” at this stage, with little understanding that teams are only language learning (not really engaging people), and could well be chucked out (in many Creative Access Nations) very quickly.
There are also some places, where other locals from surrounding areas, could indeed reach into this people group, without a total outsider coming to them, as they have similar culture, language or heritage. We might like to differentiate between these “Unengaged” groups, and unengaged peoples who have no chance of that happening.
And so we arrive at Frontier People Groups.
There’s a danger that such terminology can soon swamp us and dull our imaginations by forcing non-Biblical (though not un-biblical) definitions on us as a narrow framework. But given the lack in emphasis towards the least reached, in our misisonal giving and sending, I hope such definitions will instead sharpen us and be of much use in the years ahead.
And where some of these Frontier People Groups may be inaccessible, some may be dangerous to visit, and some may be unwise to visit on holiday, there are others which the more adventurous amongst you could indeed think about visiting and getting a feel of whether you or your church could be pray-ers, senders or supporters of those who go to such people groups with the good news of Jesus.