PART 1: Where to look for unreached people
Wouldn’t you think that after more than 2,000 years of evangelisation that the world’s population would have been reached by now, if they indeed are to be reached at all? The sad reality is that not all of the world’s population of 7 billion people has been reached. As Christ’s followers we should be concerned about the people who we have never met and are on their way to lost eternity. There are millions around us who also have not heard the Gospel of Christ. According to the Joshua Project, there are 16,500 people groups in the world and out of this number approximately 7,000 are unreached. This accounts for 40.5% of people that need to be reached.
Out of the 7,000 unreached people groups (UPGs) 3,000 are unreached, unengaged people groups (UUPGs). What type of people groups are UUPGs? These are people groups that have no church, no believers, no missionaries and no-one engaging them. They basically have no evangelical witness of one type or the other at all. Even if UUPGs may have been adopted and are the focal point of many prayers or are part of an advocacy strategy, they still remain unengaged.
It is estimated that 95% of the unreached people groups (UPGs) live in the 10/40 window. These are sometimes referred to as the THUMB people – where THUMB is being used as an acronym – Tribal, Hindus, Unreligious, Muslim, Buddhists. Not much interest has been shown by the mission agencies and churches to work among these people groups. It is estimated that less than 10% of the missionaries work in this window.
To come up with a list of all the unreached people in the world is an impossible task. They range from the elite royal families in Europe to the remote tribal groups in Africa and Latin America. However, the majority of the unreached groups can be categorised as follows:
- Refugees from Africa, Asia and the Middle East migrating to Western countries.
- The masses that are de-christianised working classes in most of Global North.
- The millions that have been secularised.
- The marginalised and exploited: These include the hearing impaired, people with special needs, people infected and affected with HIV and AIDS, orphaned and vulnerable children, sex workers and other enslaved communities.
- Non-Christian immigrants arriving in the West seeking better job opportunities.
- Students from non-Christian nations studying in Western universities.
The sad reality is that for many of our churches it has not crossed their minds to identify where to find the unreached even in the neighbourhood let alone engage them. Even in cases where they have been able to do so they have made no effort whatsoever to engage. The urgency and enormity of the task of taking the Gospel message to the whole world should compel us to develop new strategies and enlarged patterns of interaction with the unreached. It demands ingenuity and new thinking – but above all extended seasons of ceaseless prayers. May God of the harvest grant us courage for these new and challenging adventures as we seek to reach the unreached people groups.
Felix Muchimba, Ph.D., has been involved in Theological Training in Africa for over thirty years. He served with Gospel Literature Outreach (GLO) Zambia for many years as Principal. He is an author and international speaker. He serves on the African Church Based (ACBT) Program Board and is a volunteer Associate Leader for Operation Mobilization (OM) Africa Area. He is married to Eve and has three adult children and one grandson.