Many members of the Anchored Passion staff are located in the Bible Belt. I can confidently say that there are numerous streets, both near my home in Tennessee and college in Alabama, that have more churches located on them than I can count on one hand, and even on my two hands sometimes. Since we are comfortably nestled in a place where Christianity is the norm, it is sometimes difficult to fully comprehend that there are unreached people groups in the world who have never even heard the name of Jesus before.
The Overwhelming Demand
An unreached people group is a group of people who have never heard of the Gospel before nor have a Bible translated into their language or dialect. According to the Joshua Project, “an unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group without outside assistance.”
“This means that these people groups are not merely outside of Christ but also outside the current reach of the Gospel,” The Church at Brook Hills global pastor Chip Bugnar said. “Practically speaking, a person among this people group will likely live and die without ever hearing the Gospel and therefore will perish outside of Christ.”
According to the Joshua Project, out of 17,459 people groups in the world, there are 7,422 unreached people groups, meaning there are 3.23 billion people who have never heard of the Gospel. While some people within these groups may identify as Christians or may have heard the Gospel, there are not enough members within the group or resources to enable a widespread, healthy growth of Christianity.
“Estimates and projections for those that identify as professing Christians are at or below 5% of the population and for those that identify as Evangelical Christians are at or below 2% of the population,” Radical project manager Daniel Weiss said. “So while there might be some Christians and churches within an unreached people group, their numbers are insufficient to allow for widespread Gospel access.”
Bugnar explained that The Church at Brook Hills, along with others, is shifting away from unreached people groups towards least-reached people groups for a qualitative threshold.
“A robust gospel infrastructure, gospel clarity, healthy churches, leadership development pathways and networks, scripture translation, resource translation, theological education, etc., is needed to qualitatively analyze where a people group is on the spectrum from unreached to reached or in our vocabulary: least-reached to reached,” Bugnar said.
It is important for people to not only hear the promise of the Gospel, but to also have resources, knowledge and leadership to promote spiritual growth and community in Christ.
The Great Commission
By Christ, Christians are called to fulfill the Great Commission, sharing the Gospel and making disciples of all nations.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. – Matthew 28:18-20
I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. – Ephesians 3:7-9
“As Believers in Jesus, God gives us the gift of salvation when we repent from our sins and believe in Him. We should be eager to share our salvation with others, including the unreached, whom have no access to the Gospel,” Pray for the Unreached operations director Conner Womack said. “The Bible also says that every tribe, nation and tongue will be represented around the throne in Heaven. This means that every people group, including those currently unreached, will be in Heaven, meaning Jesus can’t come back until they’re all reached.”
Bugnar expressed that the diversity of heaven’s worship beckons Christians to evangelize the unreached.
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. – Revelation 7:9
Even though the Great Commission is an important and vital call for all Christians, Weiss and Redeemer Community Church missions training coordinator James Minor explained that Christians are also called to remember God’s redemption shown throughout Scripture.
“We see throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that God’s story is about rescuing peoples from all the earth to know and worship Him,” Minor said. “We care because we see the imbalance in our world today and that it is unfair that many of us in the states get to hear the Gospel over and over throughout our lives and never lack resources on the Bible and learning, but so many people around the world don’t get these chances to hear of the only One who can rescue them from the domain of darkness and transfer them to the kingdom of life with God.”
Witnessing God’s redemptive story throughout Scripture should motivate Christians to evangelize others, so they may also be redeemed through Christ.
“While the basis for missions is often reduced to the Great Commission, the entire Bible is full of God’s redemptive plan and purpose,” Weiss said. “We should passionately prioritize discipleship and evangelism to the unreached precisely because in not doing so, God’s plan and purpose for all creation cannot and will not be achieved.”
Christians need to focus not only on reaching people groups that are geographically remote or those that speak an uncommon dialect, but also on reaching the people within their communities who have never heard the Gospel before and never had someone invest in discipling them.
“We should testify about Jesus and share the good news with the ones that haven’t heard it before, even in our colleges or in our workplaces, so they would be able to hear the truth of the Gospel and choose if they want to place their faith in Jesus or not,” Pray for the Unreached outreach coordinator Lakshmi Trejo said.
Reaching the Unreached
“You may be still in college and asking yourself, ‘how can I impact the unreached right now as a college student while in my studies?’ and ‘I can’t go overseas next week’. There are still many ways to help see the unreached come to know Jesus,” Minor said.
The first step Christians can do to reach the unreached is to educate themselves on the demand and the specific people groups who need to hear the Gospel.
“I always find that knowledge and exposure are the most effective ways to overcome barriers of unfamiliarity,” Weiss said. “Familiarity breeds empathy, empathy breeds passion and passion breeds action.”
Radical, a resource ministry in Birmingham, Alabama founded by David Platt, is releasing a platform called Stratus in late April 2021 during Secret Church. Stratus will provide information on both the spiritual and physical needs of unreached people groups, prioritizing work and attention to the areas in most need.
“Our hope is that with access to the information that Stratus presents, the Church will have a tool that implicitly works to begin rectifying the great imbalance and equip people, pastors and churches all over the world to allocate their resources most effectively towards overcoming the barriers that keep people unreached,” Weiss said.
Another step Christians can take to reach the unreached is to devote a part of their prayer time to pray for unreached people groups.
“Pray for all these people that have never heard the good news, pray for their countries, for their hearts that they will be open to hear about Jesus and that they could experience the great love that God has toward the whole humanity,” Trejo said.
Christians can also pray for others to be led to share the Gospel and disciple the unreached along with praying for the missionaries who are already investing in these people.
“We can also ask the Lord to lift up women and men with the desire to go to these nations,” Trejo said. “We can pray for the missionaries that are already in these countries that the Lord may protect them, renew their strength and also pray that the Lord provides everything that they could need physically and spiritually.”
Another step Christians can take to reach the unreached is to become missionaries themselves. Bugnar encourages Christians to look at those who have discipled them as examples and mentors in order to help guide the Christians themselves to become a disciple to others.
“Start a conversation with your elders or pastors about how to be equipped and affirmed to be sent to engage the least-reached,” Bugnar said.
While not every Christian may be called to become a long-term missionary in a foreign country, there are other ways Christians can become disciples by utilizing other resources and spiritual gifts.
“For so many people, there is this conception that the only way to reach the unreached is to leave everything and become a traditional long-term missionary in a village somewhere very far away,” Weiss said. “But there is no wrong way to leverage your life, interests, gifts, finances, skills, passions and assets…the most important thing is to find a way to leverage your life that most uniquely reflects who you are, and the context God has put you in.”
Bugnar and Womack spoke of the importance of giving financially to your local church and other groups that support mission opportunities and church planting.
“Financially supporting missionaries to the unreached places is really important,” Womack said. “One percent of all money going to missions goes to unreached places. Americans spend more money annually on Halloween costumes for their pets than they do on unreached missions.”
Bugnar and Trejo stressed the importance of striving to break the language boundaries prohibiting Christians from sharing the Gospel. Trejo encourages people to consider learning another language. Bugnar encourages people to teach English on online apps, which could be a way to engage with the unengaged. Focusing on languages, Christians can also give to ministries and nonprofits that translate Bibles for these people groups, such as IllumiNations.
“The centrality of God’s purpose to receive worship from all peoples and the incomparable joy of partnering with God in accomplishing His purpose among the unreached should steer the thoughts, decisions and actions of every professing believer,” Weiss said. “There is no greater need and no worthier cause for God’s church.”