What is an Unreached People Group?
Paul had a passion to share the message of Christ to those who have never heard it before. Paul wanted the privilege of telling them the good news. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15) He wanted to have beautiful feet. He wanted to reach the unreached.
Where are the unreached today? You may have heard of the 10/40 Window—a rectangular area marked on the globe between 10 and 40 degrees north, sweeping from northern Africa to East Asia and the Pacific. Most of the remaining unreached people groups live in this area of the world. However, drawing a rectangle on a map isn’t the most accurate way to describe the location of the unreached. Some reached groups are inside the rectangle and some unreached groups lie without. But the majority of the countries that have land area inside this region represent the least reached part of our world and the location of the greatest number of unreached people groups.
But what is a people group? When Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…,” the Greek word used is ethne. Ethne is the origin of the English word ‘ethnic’ and refers to a culturally/linguistically defined group or tribe of people. The term ‘nations,’ commonly used to translate the word ethne, is most commonly associated today with geo-political countries such as Italy, Russia, Brazil or India. Consequently, ‘nations’ is not the best translation of ethne. In recent times, the term “people group” has gained traction as a better translation for ethne.
The Joshua Project, a Christian organization dedicated to bringing definition to the task of world evangelization, defines people group as, “A significantly large sociological grouping of individuals who perceive themselves to have a common affinity with one another.” The Lausanne Committee commissioned to grapple with mission-related terms and issues presented the following definition in 1982: “For evangelization purposes, a people group is the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.”
The Joshua Project website (www.JoshuaProject.net) is a great resource for Christians who seek to serve, send or pray for “the nations.” On their site they catalogue all the people groups in the world. It is an ever-growing resource of information, including demographic information about each group and narrative descriptions.
Subsequently, Joshua Project describes an unreached people group as “…a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group.” Thus, a missionary is a Christian worker from outside the people group who goes to assist (or ignite) the work of evangelism, discipleship and church planting in that group.
Currently, Joshua project lists over 16,000 people groups in the world, of which more than 7,000 are unreached. Please visit their website to see the complete definitions and the difficulty of trying to define such complexities. But take some time to study all the global statistics they give there as well as the information on the Iu Mien of Southeast Asia.
The Mien are one of the almost 7,000 unreached people groups in our world today. Yet, they are strategically placed to be able to reach many others in the region should a church multiplication movement take hold among them. Please pray with us that it does!