Archive for the ‘Reaching the Unreached’ Category
How does the gospel get to the ends of the earth?
If your answer to that question is missionaries – those who are trained, supported, and sent out to other cultures by churches and missions entities here in the U.S. – then, of course, you’re right. Our missionaries have been and continue to be critical to the advance of the gospel, which is why we must continue to support them with our prayers and our giving.
However, the work of getting the gospel to all nations is also happening in ways that may not be on your radar. Consider three of these ways below, and think about how you might support the following missions efforts by praying, giving, or by your own participation:
1. Translation work
While it’s true that someone can hear and believe the gospel without having written resources in their own language, such resources are critical to the long-term spiritual health of individuals and churches. That’s why we have translation teams, or sometimes just individuals, who do the hard work of translating the Bible and Bible-based resources into other languages. Getting these resources to pastors and church leaders is an especially important first step. How else will believers be nourished, if not by the Word of life?
2. International immigration
We often think about going to the nations, but the nations continue to come to us. Sometimes they even live in our own neighborhoods. Whether it’s the Chinese student at a nearby college, the Sudanese family on your street that has immigrated to the U.S. for economic or safety reasons, or any number of scenarios, there are opportunities to reach the nations without boarding a plane. Simply opening up your home is a great way to minister to those who who face social and economic challenges. In some cases, these individuals may even come from unreached people groups, so your witness may be more strategic than you know.
3. Missionaries who are international
The United States isn’t the only country with Christians in it, which also means that it’s not the only country that sends out missionaries. Churches across the globe send missionaries across the globe. We should pray that God would continue to raise up men and women from other countries, countries that may even have better access than we do to certain people groups.
Can you think of some other ways the gospel is going forth that we don’t normally think about when we talk about missions?
Posted on February 3rd, 2015 by Jonathan
If you didn’t catch our previous announcement, Vietnam is our Secret Church 15 prayer focus. Why are we highlighting this area? Two reasons, both of which you’ll hear more about in the coming months on the Secret Church blog. Make sure you go there for regular posts and updates.
- Unreached People Groups – Vietnam has 74 unique people groups comprised of 93,530,125 individuals. Of those, 71 are unreached. Of those unreached groups, 23 are unengaged. Only three people groups in the country are reached with the gospel.
- Persecution – According to Open Doors’ World Watch List, Vietnam is the 16th worst country for Christians to live in, in terms of persecution. Much of the opposition comes from communist authorities. However, in a country that is overrun with various mixtures of Buddhism and animism, Christianity isn’t exactly welcomed by the friends and family members of believers.
As we’ve learned, persecution accompanies witness because the goal of persecution is to silence witness. This means we cannot simply pray for suffering Christians to endure and persecution to end; we must also pray for the gospel to increase and the number of UPGs to decrease.
On behalf the persecuted Christians and their persecutors, and on behalf of the unreached peoples and those trying to reach them, won’t you join us in praying for Vietnam?
Posted on January 27th, 2015 by David Burnette
Imagine being so motivated by your faith that you are willing to leave the comforts of home in order to travel over land and sea, all so that people will be converted. You refuse to be silent about what you believe, even if it means making a sacrifice. Then imagine your reaction when Jesus comes to you and, in light of all your efforts, calls you a child of hell.
This is exactly what happened to some first-century missionaries – you may know them as the scribes and Pharisees. Here’s how Jesus responded to their disciple-making efforts:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. (Matt 23:15)
The scribes and Pharisees illustrate for us why zeal, in and of itself, is not enough. They were willing to get a passport and jump on a plane, so to speak, but in the process they were making people “twice as much a child of hell” as they were (Matt 23:15). These hypocrites were zealous, but for the wrong, gospel-denying reasons.
Religious groups that deny the gospel are still willing to travel across the world to make converts in our day. The Mormons are one of the more obvious examples. Admittedly, we can respect the commitment and the willingness of such groups to make sacrifices for what they believe, especially when they know their message won’t be well received. After all, we too should be zealous in our service to the Lord. But we don’t want to have the testimony of Israel in Paul’s day: “They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom 10:2). All the sincerity and passion in the world are not enough if we are not fueled by the truth.
As Christians, our zeal has a very specific foundation, and it’s not simply a positive attitude or even a selfless desire to help others. No, our zeal is based on the gospel. It’s a Spirit-prompted response to God’s mercy in Christ, a response that includes submission, gratefulness, and a strong desire to obey. It’s what Paul meant when he said, “For the love of Christ controls us” (2 Cor 5:14).
Just to be clear: making sure that our zeal is motivated by the gospel is not a call to temper our excitement about Jesus. Rather, it’s a reminder to feed our affections for him by reflecting on his glories as revealed in Scripture. This helps us to obey Paul’s command, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Rom 12:11).
So regardless of whether or not our service to the Lord requires traveling over land and sea, let’s make sure we have have the right kind of zeal – a zeal based on truth.
Posted on January 8th, 2015 by Jonathan
It may seem like we’re splitting hairs to differentiate between “lost” and “unreached,” but we aren’t.
In a previous post, we discussed unreached peoples, who they are, and what it practically means to be unreached. The definition we gave for unreached was: “people groups among whom there is no indigenous community of believing Christians able to engage the people group with church planting.” In describing what it would mean to be in an unreached people group (UPG), David Platt illuminates the one factor that makes a UPG different than merely being lost:
You don’t have access to the gospel. And this is key; this is why we don’t say, Well, I don’t know why we talk about unreached people around the world when there are unreached people who work at my office. Not true. Those people aren’t unreached. Why? Because they have access to the gospel. You are their access to the gospel!
The people who don’t know Christ at your office are lost. For the salvation of their souls, they must respond to the gospel with repentance and faith. But because you are in their life (and, presumably, so are other Christians), they are not unreached.
While an individual can’t be more or less lost (you either know Jesus or you don’t), an individual can have more or less access to the gospel. For this reason, we talk about UPGs a lot.
We should always be sensitive to the lost, having eternity in our eyes and the good news on our lips. But when there are over 6,500 UPGSs comprised of at least 2 billion individual people… it’s safe to say that the unreached deserve our urgent attention.
There are 48 unreached people groups in Vietnam (the Secret Church 15 prayer focus) comprised of 89,160,250 individuals. Of those 48 people groups, 24 are unengaged. Below, David Platt helps us understand just what it means to be unreached . . .
Who are the unreached in our day? Who are the people who have never heard?
The unreached are people groups among whom there is no indigenous community of believing Christians able to engage the people group with church planting. Now you’ll notice in that definition the term “people group.” And just to remind you what that means . . .
When Jesus commanded the church to make disciples of all the nations, the word he used for nations there is “ethnē,” from which we get words like “ethnic groups.” And this is important, because when Jesus was talking about nations there in Matthew 28:19, he wasn’t referring to nations like we think of nations today – 200 or so geopolitical nations in the world that, quite frankly, didn’t exist 2000 years ago, when Jesus said this, in the way they do now. No, Jesus is specifically talking about ethnic groups: groups of people that share common cultural and language characteristics. And among 200 nations today, there are a plethora of people groupings.
And not just among nations, but in cities. We had a group of church members who recently went into our city to make connections with different people groups represented here, and they went to international restaurants and markets, community centers and college campuses, where they met Thai, Filipino, Vietnamese, Punjabi, Gujarati, Colombian, Salvadoran, Palestinian Arab, Jordanian Arab, Northern Yemeni Arab, and Moroccan Arab people, just to name a few! And that’s in Birmingham, AL, hardly the most cosmopolitan city in the world.
So think about 200 nations filled with a diverse array of peoples. Most anthropologists and missiological scholars say there are over 11,000 different people groups. So unreached peoples, then, are people groups who don’t have “an indigenous community of believing Christians” – and what that means is that there is not a church made up of men and women from that people that is sufficient to engage that people with the gospel . . . that has enough presence to make the gospel known among that people.
Technically speaking, when we say “unreached,” we’re saying that the percentage of evangelical Christians in this people group is less than 2%. And why that’s important is because what that means is that if there’s not a substantial church presence among a people, then not only do over 98% of the people not believe the gospel, but because there’s no church around them, and no Christians among them, then most of them have never even met a Christian (i.e., a person who would share the gospel with them). They are “unreached.” Most (if not almost all) of the people in that people group have not been reached by a Christian . . . and Christ has not been named/preached among them.
So how many people are unreached in the world today? And our best estimate is that out of over 11,000 distinct people groups, over 6,500 people groups are unreached. Over 6,500 are classified as unreached according to the definition above. And just to make sure we feel the weight of that number of people groups, 6,500 people groups includes at least 2 billion individual people. So we’re talking in a world of 7 billion people, at least 2 billion of them are unreached—2 billion people who’ve still not been reached with the gospel of Christ.
And just to put one more term on the table – “unengaged.” Over 3,000 of these 6,500 people groups are also unengaged, meaning there is currently no evangelical church planting strategy underway to reach that people group. And those people groups include around 200 million individual people. So in many cases (not in all, but many), these are smaller people groups that don’t comprise large swaths of people, but they still have distinct ethnicity and many times language. I was spending some time recently with a group of missionaries from the International Mission Board . . . and these missionaries were working to reach people groups who still have had no contact whatsoever with the outside – living in total isolation.
Now what was encouraging was that there were people working to get the gospel to them. What is overwhelming is to think that, right now, there’s at least 3,000 people groups (many of which are smaller ethnic groups), that have no one specifically trying to reach them with the gospel. There’s only one thing worse than being lost; that’s being lost and having no one try to find you.
Now all these numbers of unreached and unengaged can feel distant. That’s the way numbers and statistics work. So, practically, what does it mean to be unreached? . . . I want you to put yourself in the shoes of one of these two billion people in the world who are unreached.
So imagine you, your family, or your kids – so not two billion, but one or two or three or four of you – if you are unreached, practically, that means that you do not currently have access to the gospel. In other words, you likely don’t even know it exists. Either, like some people I have met in the world, you have never even heard the name of Jesus: “Jesus . . . who’s that?” Or, you’ve heard of Jesus, but you know as much about Him as you know about Confucius: “I think he taught on personal and governmental philosophy, maybe . . . and had influence on Eastern thinking . . .” But that’s about all you know. And you don’t know any Christian. You don’t know anyone who knows the truth about Christ. You’ve never met anyone who knows the truth about Christ . . .
If you’re unreached, it means you don’t have access to Christians, to truth about what Christ has done, and unless something changes, you will likely be born, live, and die without ever hearing the gospel. That’s what we’re talking about practically – people who, if they die today (so put yourself in their shoes . . . if you die today and you are in their shoes, you) will die likely never having heard the good news of what God has done in Christ.
Posted on December 29th, 2014 by Jonathan
Most of us would do well to be more involved in global missions. But it simply won’t do to make a New Year’s resolution to “be more missional” . . . you are likely already well aware that you should be praying more, giving more, and/or going more. Knowing how to do these things is another matter, and not knowing where to begin can leave you feeling overwhelmed and discouraged.
So, below are several starting points. The list is not meant to be exhaustive, but practical and manageable. It may even get you thinking about other ways you can be more about the Great Commission.
Write a Missionary Every Month
There is little more encouraging to missionaries than genuine interest in their ministry from friends and family back home. When you take the time to sit down and ask them how they are doing, update them on what’s new with you, share what God is teaching you, and tell them how you are praying for them, your care is evident. You, too, will be blessed, encouraged, and challenged by this practice. Though emails are good, an occasional hand-written letter is a nice touch. And every so often, send a care package.
Educate Yourself on Regions of the World
Choose different areas of the world to learn about and pray for. The regions could be big (ex: Siberia) or small (ex: Lebanon), and you can shift your focus once a month, twice a month, or once a quarter. Learn about the area’s people groups, culture, government, economy, and history. Make it a family activity, and have fun with it. You can prepare a meal common to the region, listen the its traditional music, or play a game/sport that originates there. As you begin to appreciate the area’s people and culture, you will see it as less of an abstract shape on a map and more of a real place with real people who have real physical and spiritual needs.
Serve International Students at a Nearby College
It’s often surprising how many people groups are present when you look around you. What might be more surprising is the large number of them who are never invited into an American home. Try seeking them out. You might go to ethnic restaurants, markets, or other places where they gather, but one of the most natural channels is through your local college or university. Many of them have sizable populations of international students who are studying abroad in America, and some them even have programs set up to connect them to Americans. Ask if there’s any way you can get involved.
Organize a Fundraiser
The less missionaries have to worry about sustaining themselves, the more they can focus on the work at hand. Consider organizing a car wash, a tournament, a garage sale, or some other creative method of raising money for a missionary family, organization, or church fund. Whether or not you already give, a world missions fundraiser has several benefits. 1) They can be effective ways to quickly raise and give more money than a small group of individuals can give on their own. 2) Fundraisers also raise awareness – among both the people giving and the people you recruit to help put it on. This can often be more valuable than any monetary gain. 3) Going out of your way to set up a fundraiser helps create solidarity with missionaries in the field while greatly encouraging them at the same time.
Serve Missionaries on Furlough
If your church has commissioned missionaries, ask your church leaders if and when they’ll be returning on furlough, and find out what their needs are. Do they need a place to stay for a couple of months? Do they need a car? A cell phone? Once you know what their practical needs are, see if there’s anything you can do to help meet them, even sacrificially.
Pray for the Persecuted
Many of you already pray for unreached people groups with the help of resources like PeopleGroups.org, Operation World, or Joshua Project. As you continue this, remember that proclamation of the gospel to the least reached is often accompanied by opposition and persecution. Learn of specific ways to begin praying for persecuted Christians and the ones imposing it on them with the help of Open Doors or Voice of the Martyrs.
Posted on November 11th, 2014 by Jonathan
Thousands of missionaries are spreading the gospel among unreached people groups all over the world. They are able to live and labor in difficult circumstances because of the support they receive from believers like you and me. They need our prayers, our encouragement, and our generosity. So, to support missionaries on the field and send more their way, the IMB is kicking off a new campaign that encourages giving to missions.
The idea is simple. Sometime this month, with Thanksgiving feasts on the horizon, skip a meal and give the money that you would have spent on it to missions. Go without that hamburger combo meal you’ve become so fond of. Or, skip your Friday night out. Whether you would have spent $10, $20, or more, missing that meal and instead donating that money to missions will serve our workers abroad. We would encouraging your giving here to be above and beyond what you already give to and through your local church.
There are a couple ways to do this. The easiest way is to text your donation. By texting “4Mission” to 80888, you can instantly give $10 through your phone company. The next easiest way is to give online at IMB.org/meal. You can be sure that 100% of your donation will go to missionaries and their work in spreading the gospel around the world, particularly among unreached peoples. Hopefully, these convenient options will make missing a meal #ForTheMission simple, quick, and sure.
That’s the other thing – the hashtag #ForTheMission. We want you to spread the word through social media. So, as you miss a meal and donate money, encourage others to do the same by posting pictures of yourself with an empty plate and using the hashtag #ForTheMission. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram . . . whatever you use, we want this thing to go viral.
Join us this month, and miss a meal #ForTheMission.
Feel free to use the below images for your social media avatars/cover photos.
Posted on October 25th, 2014 by Jonathan
Each weekday, Desiring God posts a feature on their website called Ask Pastor John. In it, John Piper addresses a wide variety of issues based on questions that people send in. The segments are short, interesting, and practical; we highly recommend taking advantage of this resource.
In last Thursday’s edition, Piper talked about his reaction to David Platt recently becoming the president of the International Mission Board. It was a good reminder of the weight of the task before us, to say the least. We wanted to point it out to you as a motivator to pray for David and the missionaries of the IMB. Not only is the IMB an important organization with worldwide and eternal impact, but David’s appointment comes at an important time in the course of Christian missions.
Join John Piper in praying that this transition “will have a global, God-glorifying, mission-completeing impact of historic scope, all out of proportion to [Platt’s] limitations. May it be, indeed, an end-time move of the Spirit to hasten the Day of God.”
Posted on October 22nd, 2014 by David Burnette
David Platt encourages you to consider how you might be involved in reaching those who have never heard the gospel, whether that’s by going or giving. Reaching the unreached is at the heart of the mission of the IMB.
Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks and months as we highlight a number of practical and creative ways you can participate in giving. Your giving will go directly to help support IMB workers who are taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. You can give by going here.
Posted on October 21st, 2014 by Jonathan
If you’ve ever taken a vegan friend to lunch, chances are your first suggestion was not Whataburger. You probably stayed away from all restaurants the fell under the “fast food hamburger joints” category. But not only did knowing your restaurant categories prove to be helpful; so did knowing the category your friend fell into – “vegan.” When used correctly, categories are good and helpful tools.
One category that Jesus makes use of is ethne, translated “nations” in the Great Commission – “make disciples of all ethne.” This command drives us to go and steers us toward our many destinations: the ethne of the world. But ethne doesn’t refer to nation-states such as Uganda, India, or China. Rather, it refers to categories of people (people groups) such as the Seminole Nation, the Yazidis, or the Kurds. Our desire to fully obey this command has led us to identify who these people groups are, and then to prioritize the ones that have little to no believers among them – unreached people groups (UPGs). We have a clear aim.
Categorizing people into groups doesn’t just give us an aim, though; it assists us in attaining it. Knowing a person’s specific people group can help you prepare to share the gospel with him or her by indicating language, cultural customs, religious beliefs, social norms, assumptions, values, and more. The good news cannot spread where there is no understanding, and people group categories help us find some common ground so we can meet them where they are.
For example, let’s suppose you meet an Afghan woman. Knowing that her Afghan people group is unreached, you decide to go out of your way to share the gospel with her. Based on her people group, you infer that she speaks Dari, practices Islam, is offended by women in shorts, and doesn’t talk directly to men. So you learn a few Dari words, study the basics of Islam, make sure you’re modestly dressed, and make sure there’s no one-on-one situation with a male.
People Groups and the People that Comprise Them
But what if the Afghan woman’s parents immigrated to America shortly after she was born and she grew up in the California public school system? Will she feel that you cared more about her than her Afghan-ness? Does your preparation allow you enough flexibility to still be an effective witness?
What if people don’t always fit their people group mold?
We must remember that individuals are not people groups. Though people from within the same group will necessarily share some characteristics, they won’t necessarily share all characteristics. In fact, chances are, you’ll find a whole gamut of differences within each group. Our mission is still clear: to make disciples of all of the people groups. And these people groups give us a huge jump start in knowing about a person so as to communicate with them well. But as we seek to share the gospel with individuals, we must learn to use people group categories as guiding tools rather than hard line rules.
I have an Iranian friend named Ali. He came to the United States as a student in engineering. One night, a close friend and I were talking with him, and we began to steer the conversation toward spiritual things. I thought I knew how it would go: What do you believe? Islam? Great, let’s talk about the difference between Islam and Christianity. To my surprise, not only was Ali not Muslim… he was more interested in finding out where American guys go to meet American girls. In fact, according to him, the Iranian government was far more Muslim than the people they governed. He shared a heart language and cultural identity with the Persian people of Iran, but not the majority religious belief.
Again, categories – including people groups – are good and helpful tools to utilize… when they are used correctly.
There are more than 11,000 people groups, and well over half of them are unreached. Though the Great Commission demands we make disciples among each of them, we ought to be careful not to approach individuals mechanically with regard only to who their people group says they are supposed to be. In the end, all ethne will be represented around God’s throne in heaven. And the representatives will all be unique individuals. May our ministry reflect both these truths.
BOOK: Let The Nations Be Glad (and related resources), John Piper
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