I’ve struggled with writing this all day long. Just typing the very phrase “unreached people groups” convicts me. It carries a certain dark jungle, Jim Eliot connotation with it, when in fact that is not at all what it means. That kind of situation would more properly be defined as an untouched or previously untouched people group.
So what is an unreached people group? How many are there and why does it bother me so much?
First let’s look at how many there are, then I’ll try to answer the first and third questions without getting too heavy and long-winded.
Estimates that I have most recently heard is that there are around 11,000 total people groups in the world. That is a staggering number considering I would be hard pressed to name more than a few hundred with the help of my stellar public school education, a set of very old encyclopedias and the entire internet at my finger tips. The Joshua Project has a helpful explanation of this number and how it can inflate quickly based on different factors such as caste, culture, education and behavior.
But, how many of those could we say are unreached? Again, depending on who you talk to, any where from 2,500 to 10,000.
A boat load. A bunch. Muitos. Too many.
What exactly are they then?
The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization defines a people group as “the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.” Notice the two conditions at the end, “…without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.”
For me, the first would speak to the issue of language. If I were to travel from Portugal to France and attempt to spread the gospel, I would immediately encounter a barrier of understanding. The second condition would predominantly deal with culture. For instance, while a two people groups in the same country of the Far East may not encounter barriers of understanding, depending on their lineage or social status, there are obviously barriers of acceptance.
Now, all of that is just a people group. An unreached people group is considered one whose evangelical population is less than 2-2.5% of the population of that group.
Please stay with me. I am going somewhere. Now, we’ve established a working definition, we’ve got a very wide-ranging spectrum of how many of these unreached groups exist, but we still have yet to answer why it is bothering me. Really what is the big deal?
The big deal is this: I live smack dab in the middle of an unreached people group, and I don’t feel like I’m doing enough to impact this unreached people group so that it would one day be defined as “reached.”
Think with me for a moment. The latest Portuguese census was taken last year (2011) and at that time there were roughly 9 million people above the age of 15 living in the country (about 10.5 million total of all ages). Of those 9 million people, 73,731 said that they were Protestant. That’s about .8% or 8 tenths of 1 % or 8 people out of every 1000.
In the United States, according to this report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life the percentage of the population that is Protestant? 51% or 510 out of every 1000.
What about where the Andrzejewski family lives in Portugal? Northern Portugal has a population (above 15 years old for this study) of 3.1 million people. There are only 11,070 people who claim to be Protestant. That is .3% or 3 tenths of 1 percent or 3 out of every 1000 people.
That simply means this…statistically speaking out of every 1000 people that I meet or come in contact with here in Portugal, 997 will spend an eternity separated from the Lord Jesus.
I watched a video today where David Platt defined an unreached people group by saying (+/- the 1hr 40min. mark), “…the likelihood is if you are born into one of these people groups, you will be born, you will live, and you will die without ever hearing the gospel…”
That’s where I live….that’s happening to way too many people around me.
That’s why we need your prayers. That’s why we need your financial support. That’s why we need your encouragement. That’s why we need God’s power.