Unreached people groups

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.

 

  • Paul andrzejewski

    As your father I am so proud of all your work. Hang in there and trust in the LORD, you have tremendous FAITH and I hope you can accomplish all you desire in life.. We miss you terribly but i try to understand.
    Love Dad

    • http://cbcpm.net Michael

      Dad, thank you very much for the kind words. You don’t know how much we would love to be closer. I hope to call and chat tomorrow, if time permits. Tell Toni we love her and miss her too.

  • Pam Kilmer

    Dearest Michael, This is not about you. God will move when He is ready. All you have to do is stay obedient to His calling and remain led by the Holy Spirit, not your own strength. He has put you there for a purpose, and when you are feeling like you are not doing enough, and you are not seeing any results, is exactly when you need to stay steadfast, stay the course and when God is ready to move He will. You are doing a great job Michael, you are reaching whomever God puts in your path.

    Also, you are used to the South where you are in the Bible belt, and the Bible is still respected and God is feared. Here in NY, I battle what you are experiencing now. I just try to touch one life at a time and make a difference in that one life for Christ. It’s not easy, but I feel the personal touch is much more effective than the masses.

    Love to you and your family,
    Aunt Pam x0x0x0

    • http://cbcpm.net Michael

      Aunt Pam, you are completely right. Over the last almost 5 years we have learned to trust more on the Holy Spirit and less on our own feelings and emotions. We pray that the Lord will have mercy on Portugal as a nation. I understand that many places all over the world are in the same spiritual condition as Portugal, and it does help to concentrate on a smaller scale. Thanks again for the encouragement.

  • Arthur Talley

    Dear Bro, Michael, Keep the faith, it’s worse than you think. The most of the so called Protestants, have believed another Gospel, the Gospel of works, our job as Baptist Christians, is to preach the truth were ever we are.The Holy Spirits job is ti take the preached word and demonstrate the power of God, giving faith to those that believe. I can not save anybody, but I can preach the truth where i am, and i can do what God has given me to do, pray the Lord of the harvest will sent forth labors into his harvest. Keep up the Good work. Remember our Job description is found in Eph. 4:11-16

    Complete the circle, Evangelize, Baptist and stabilize, that those we minister to will conform to the image of Christ and do the same.

    We love you all
    1 Cor 15:34
    Bro Talley

    • http://cbcpm.net Michael

      Bro. Talley, you are exactly right, and I trust the Lord to do His job. Thanks for the note.
      Michael recently posted..What I’m ReadingMy Profile

  • Dennis Kirk

    Bro. Michael

    Thank you for the powerful article. It is truly hard to fathom someone being born, living their life, having children and grandchildren, and then dying and going out into eternity without once ever hearing the clear simple plan of salvation. I truly desire for the Lord to increase both my burden and vision for how the Lord can use me to somehow make a difference, even though be it ever so small. I know that I am not on a foreign mission field but I must honestly say that I feel the same way here in Lenoir City, TN. I often struggle with feeling that I am doing nothing to really make an impact on eternity. My prayer so often lately has been, “O God send the rain, O God send the rain.” Thanks again for the article and helping us to know how better to pray for you and the ministry you have in Portugal.
    All By God’s Grace – Dennis Kirk

    • http://cbcpm.net Michael

      Bro. Kirk, it is tough to swallow knowing how many people won’t hear the gospel here in Portugal…moms, dads, kids, grandparents. Please do keep praying for us to be faithful to sow the seed and beg for God to send the rain.
      Michael recently posted..What I’m ReadingMy Profile

  • Richard Hivner

    Dear Brother,
    A little over a year and a half ago I was in a city of over 9 million people in the midst of communist China. I could not speak the language, and even if I could it was criminal for me to witness on the streets. I wondered then, “if with all the liberties we have in the Houston area, I am only able to truly reach a handful of people, how can anybody reach these.”
    I still do not know the answer on how to reach them, but I got a report today of two being saved. Two more out of the 9 million are Christ’s.
    I look at Fairland, Indiana, a town of less than 2000, and wonder, “How can I reach this town?” I have a burden and a responsibility to try. It is the burden of anyone who spends time with our Lord.
    I noticed something in John 1. Andrew did not focus on the whole of his family, but the individual whom he found. Philiip did not focus on all of his friends but found Nathaniel. The Lord saw the multitudes and was broken over them (Matthew 23:37), but focused on the individuals that He found (John 1:43) and those that would follow.
    What I am saying is that we will always be overwhelmed and broken over the multitudes who need Christ whether it be 997 out of 1000 or 49 of 100 (51% protestant. I think less than 51% of the 51% possibly know the Lord Jesus). If we look at the one’s who we have reached, and have responded to the Light of the glorious gospel of Chirst we can rejoice over the Simon Peters, Philips, and Nathanaels who have been found.

    • http://cbcpm.net Michael

      Bro. Richard, I’ve had that same thought about Phillip, but in the sense of Nathaniel being blessed to have someone to take him to Jesus. I desperately want to be that person (Phillip) for my friends and family.
      Michael recently posted..What I’m ReadingMy Profile

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