I grew up in a Christian culture, part of a small Christian-majority state of northeast India. Missions or the need of the unreached was not something I remember hearing much about. I do remember though, in our joint family home, a group of elderly men talking with one another. One of them said: “Why do we need to send missionaries to other places when we have so much need here ourselves?” As far as I can remember, everyone agreed that there was not necessary. They obviously had not heard about the great need of unreached people. Nor were they familiar with the facts I’ll share with you here.
Those days, I was a young boy and didn’t yet know Jesus personally. It was fifteen years or so later, at age twenty-five, that a life-changing encounter with Jesus turned my world upside-down.
I was filled with the joy of salvation. Profound concern for the spiritual welfare of people began to stir within. So many of my friends and relatives did not know Jesus! Even so, I was not aware of unreached people groups and their lack of access to the gospel.
Shortly after coming to Christ, I met people who talked about missions. I came across literature that highlighted the unfinished task. Learning about places and peoples where the gospel was not yet known was heart-breaking. It opened my eyes to the tremendous need of the unreached. God seemed to be sharing his burning heart with me.
Learning about the Unreached
One of the things I learned about the unreached is how they are defined. When we use the term unreached people we are referring to ethnic groups with less than 2% true followers of Jesus in their population.
This in itself was alarming. I was quite shocked to learn that many people groups do not even have a single person in their community who follow Jesus! “After 2000 years of church history – and missions history – how could this be?” I asked myself. I still ask the same question today.
According to the research group Joshua Project, out of 17,400 people groups in the world, 7,400 are unreached. That is about 3,200 million people, about 41% of the world’s population. This is both sobering and sad.
Sadder still is that out of the 7,400 unreached peoples, over 5,000 have less than 0.1% believers among them. They are known as Frontier Peoples. The Bania of India is an example. Out of a population of over 29 million, there are no known followers of Christ among them.
God is Working
Thinking about the unreached can be overwhelming. That is understandable. We should take courage in the fact that God is working powerfully among the unreached. One great example of this is the Bhojpuri of North India. In the last twenty-five years, hundreds of thousands of Bhojpuri have become followers of Jesus. Another example is how at least 1 million Iranians have come to Christ during the last forty years. There are many more stories like these.
Even as we celebrate what God is doing among the unreached, we know that there is still much work that remains.
An important question is: What do the unreached need so that more breakthroughs may occur among them?
What the Unreached Need Us to Do
1. The unreached need our consistent and fervent prayers:
All efforts and strategies to reach the unreached will fall flat without a major investment of prayer.
Extraordinary prayer will produce an extraordinary breakthrough and extraordinary fruit. With prayer, the unreached also need us to fast for them. Ask God to give you tears from His heart to weep with love for the unreached.
2. The unreached need our attention:
The unreached are not vague or abstract entities or random numbers. They are precious fellow human beings, created in the image of God. Christ also died for them.
In our busyness, it is easy to forget the unreached and their needs. Ignoring the reality of the unreached does not make it go away, however!
3. The unreached need us to champion them:
They need us to be their advocates (someone who speaks up on their behalf). We must shout from the rooftops that they are waiting for the gospel to come to them!
We can do our part in educating and mobilizing churches and Christians in general, highlighting the unreached and their need.
4. The unreached need us to go to them:
Too few missionaries are working among the unreached. Only 3% of all missionaries serve among unreached peoples and even less (1%) serve among Frontier Peoples.
Paul’s heart-wrenching questions, “How can they believe in the One in whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14) and “How will anyone go unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:15) are still relevant for us today.
Some unreached people groups have small, minuscule numbers of believers. But they are too few to be able to reach the rest of their own people, without help from people of other cultures and groups.
5. The unreached need our resources:
Here’s something that is almost unbelievable. Less than 0.5 % of all missions finances go towards disciple-making and church planting efforts among the unreached. This is not only an imbalance. It is injustice.
This reality calls for serious introspection among God’s people. We must take significant steps towards changing this!
6. The unreached need the Word:
Today, more than 700 languages have the entire Bible while almost 1600 languages have only the New Testament.
In some languages, God’s Word is available in audio format only. About 1160 languages have some portions of the Bible translated. Translation needs to start for at least another 2000 languages.
While progress should be celebrated, there is still much to be done.
For Bible translation to progress, new teams need to form for this purpose. Fundraising is also urgently needed.
Love- Their Most Critical Need
We can add many other things to the list. Unreached people’s greatest need, however, is to know that we love them. Everything we do about the things mentioned above needs to flow from a place of love.
Lost people are all around. The lost, including many unreached peoples, are not far away from many of us. They go to our schools. We work in companies together. They live not nearby. Immigrant communities are often made up of unreached people. They wait tables for us or clean buildings, doing jobs no one else wants to do.
What can we do to build a bridge across the cultural distance and find ways to let them know we love them?
*This above article was written by A.S. a YWAM leader in India.