This issue brings us up to date on the current state of world evangelization and what needs to change in order for us to make progress. We are introduced to Frontier People Groups who are the most neglected or overlooked peoples in the world today. You will learn about the Pray for the 31-Prayer Guide, a booklet that you can order to guide you in prayer for these people every day. Additionally, in 1978 Ralph Winter put his statistics into a pie chart titled Penetrating the Last Frontiers. The purpose of this chart was to clarify which people in the world had no chance of learning about Jesus from someone in their own people group. This issue updates that pie chart to 2018 and clarifies the remaining tasks and people groups still waiting to hear about the Good News of Jesus. See all the articles
For forty years, now Frontier Ventures and many other mission organizations have had a laser-like focus on taking the gospel to the Unreached Peoples of the world. We have worked tirelessly to mobilize the Church to reach these “hidden peoples” who have been forgotten by our global mission efforts. So how much progress have we made? With a specificity and clarity not seen in decades we lay out the progress we’ve made, where we stand today and the hopeful future that stands before us if we have the courage to embrace what needs changing and renew our commitment to bring the blessings of the gospel to every people.
In 1974, while preparing his speech for the first Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, Dr. Ralph Winter realized that thousands of people groups were being completely overlooked by mission agencies and churches around the world. Due to the great success of outreach in places like Korea, sub-Saharan Africa, and island and jungle tribes, some were in fact insisting that missionaries were no longer needed. Others were insisting that missionaries should only partner with and serve the national churches, assuming that national churches were everywhere.
Whenever the only believers inside a people group are scattered individuals estranged from their family and community, the blessing of God remains unknown to that people group, and that people group’s interest in the gospel is low. However, God promised to Abram (Abraham) that every family line of humanity will be blessed (Gen. 12:3, etc.) and Jesus commissioned us to disciple each of these family lines (people groups). And once the Holy Spirit begins blessing the first contagious community of believing households1 inside that people group, it becomes like the seed of an orchard—bearing the multiplying fruit of God’s blessing such as we see on households throughout the book of Acts, and indeed the whole of Scripture.
On March 21, 2018, someone who had been studying the new idea of Frontier People Groups (FPGs) mentioned to a few prayer leaders the surprising discovery that half the population of all FPGs lives in just 31 people groups with populations of ten million or more. “Thirty-one is a good number for a prayer guide,” someone observed. Prayer led to quick consensus, then further prayer and sustained collaboration in developing such a prayer guide. Forty days later, to the day, volunteers had integrated feedback from a variety of prayer and mission leaders and sent to the printer the first edition of a prayer guide for the 31 largest Frontier People Groups.
Throughout most of Christian history, movements to Christ have developed in new cultures following certain biblical principles. Historically, not one people group has been won to Christ without an indigenous movement developing at some point within the group.
In recent centuries, Western society has embraced individualism—valuing the independence of individuals above family and societal expectations. Individualism says, “Save your own life and pursue your own dreams, regardless of how that affects others.” This contributes to the breakdown of families.
Seeing things from God’s point of view may be the best way for us to envision an evangelized world. Our promise-keeping God has made it clear that He will bring forth blessing amidst every people. To bring forth blessing in every ethnicity, Christ has been unfolding His work throughout every ethnohistory, pursuing His purpose in the intricacies of every passing season. To fulfill our work of world evangelization we must think clearly, not only about how to bring the gospel to all nations; we must also consider how God’s blessing will abound to all generations.
While sipping an iced coffee, I intently listened to a friend who serves as a missionary in Asia share about a recent experience. A local leader asked her if she would pay for his expenses to attend a leadership gathering within the organization in which he serves. With kindness, and declining to oblige to his request, she redirected him to share his need with his local church and suggested he pray for God to supply for this need.
Church Planting Movement practitioners believe CPM methods follow the ministry methods of Jesus. Perhaps the time has come for our missionary training methods to follow the mentoring models of Christ as well. With some exceptions, the “shocking secret” about missionary training is that the large majority of workers sent to the mission field receive little to no practical field training prior to their deployment.
I was at a meeting with him in a large city in India. We were gathered for an organizational event that would start at 9 am. Waking early, as was my habit, I went into the hallway to get some filtered water. I heard a strange noise coming from down the corridor. It was still early, only 5 am. Who was making noise down there? Curious, I wandered down the hall. There he was, sitting on the couch, a light blanket covering his head. His eyes were closed. He sat with head bowed, rocking back and forth a bit. I listened in and heard him calling out the names of people in his congregation. He was thanking God for them in his indigenous language. I wondered how long he had been there and how long he would stay.
Momentum is paramount in movements. With the right impetus by human catalysts and the divine empowering of the Holy Spirit, Church-Planting Movements (CPMs) can and should continue in momentum generation after generation as they spread to saturate a people group or area. Many CPMs also cascade into other unreached people groups. CPM practitioners understanding the nature of this momentum is critical if the human catalyst side of the equation is to be effective.
Behind the global turmoil that preoccupies so much of the world’s attention, God is quietly reaping the greatest spiritual harvest in history, while preparing an even greater harvest. And at the center of this global outpouring is prayer, along with the intentional pursuit of movements, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to motivate and equip disciples and small churches to reproduce rapidly (rather than just gathering believers to receive ministry).
Since my wife and I arrived in Pasadena in 1983 to join the staff of the U.S. Center for World Mission, I’ve heard lots of strategies from global workers trying to reach the Unreached. Some hear and learn cultural, historical or religious stories—which they hope might impact whole people groups for the gospel. For example, I’ve heard how certain Chinese characters have underlying meanings that point to spiritual truth. Or how various Sanskrit scriptures have epic stories that make for great analogies to share with Hindus.
This video demonstrates the remaining mission task across the globe by showing which people in the world have no chance of learning about Jesus from someone within their own people group. Use the link to watch the video on YouTube.