This is an article from the July-August 1979 issue: Founder’s Reference Issue

The Hidden Peoples

The Last Frontiers

The Hidden Peoples

In 1961 a small metallic object rocketed into airless space and began to circle the earth. Overnight, a startled world stepped hesitantly into the space age. Within ten years the same world watched as a man named Armstrong stepped down on the moon. As a result, modern man plunged into an awareness of a new frontier. THE FIRST ERA--1792 A similar new awareness startled English-speaking Christians almost two hundred years earlier when a man named William Carey wrote a small book that confronted his readers with a massive omission. His basic facts and figures proved their obligation to reach the heathen nations with the Gospel. As a result, after almost three centuries of virtually no Protestant outreach, a dozen mission societies sprang into existence, and what was to become a flood tide of evangelical mission activities began to reach every corner of the globe. This was the first stage of Protestant missions.


However, almost as soon as mission work began to succeed in Africa and Asia, missionaries came to be overwhelmingly preoccuped with the growing national churches they established, and became less and less aware of peoples still unreached--a second massive omission. Eventually, in 1865, Hudson Taylor launched the second stage of Protestant missions by shifting the gaze of mission leaders from the coastlands to the inland areas. He crossed this geographical frontier and jolted the Christians of his day not only with a new awareness of vast areas of hidden people but with a new means to reach them, and the massive new "faith mission" movement was born.

This new thrust sparked recurrent attention to new frontiers throughout the next 100 years of unprecedented Christian growth until today almost half the people in the world are either committed to Christ or at least claim to be Christians.
But the unbelievable impact of Christian missions upon the world can hardly be measured in its full scope. It has spanned oceans and coastlands and reached inland frontiers and, in those particular cultures which it has penetrated, it has become a transforming power. Quite understandably, it has also typically become overwhelmingly preoccupied with the mushrooming obligations of its success. Revivals are like a fire tut of control in many parts of Africa, Latin America, Indonesia and Korea, with 1,000 new churches opening their doors each week. Just to keep up with the needs of this growing movement consumes virtually all present mission efforts.


Thus it is a quite disturbing new awareness in the midst of this success to discover that all those thousands of language and cultural pockets now penetrated contain one out of five of the world's non-Christians. The bombshell confrontation for our time is not quite the same as Carey's (the "heathens" can and must be reached) or Taylor's (we've forgotten the inland peoples) but rather, what about the 4 out of 5 non-Christians who are still beyond invisible cultural frontiers?

Careful studies first presented at the International Congress on World Evangelization at Lausanne, Switzerland, introduced the concept of the remaining cultural frontiers to be spanned in order for 80% of the world's non-Christians to be won to Christ.

More precisely, of 3,060 million nonChristians in the world today, 2,456 million are beyond these invisible, cultural frontiers. Nearly a billion Chinese with about half billion each of Muslims, Hindus, and other tribal or Asian people, are locked within a mosaic of subcultures, language barriers and social prejudices where as yet no viable Christian church has been founded. Yet, these are the 37 problems which faced the Apostle Paul and 2000 years of missionary outreach. Would you like to visualize how many people that is? Preaching to 60,000 different people per day in this group would take you over 100 years to touch 2,456 million people!

The tragedy is not in the obstacles. This is nothing new in the story of the spread of the Gospel. The tragedy is that less than 1% of all Christian workers are concentrating on these 2.5 billion lost and furthermore, there are almost no plans to reach them.

Nevertheless, there are many indications that these forgotten people will be receptive to the Gospel if the means and strategies are developed to reach them. The new U.S Center for World Mission in Pasadena is small in comparison to the immensity of the task but it is the largest single property in the world today dedicated exclusively to reaching the hidden people What has been launched in Pasadena must alert us, as did that first satellite, that we have entered a new age, and nothing short of a total effort will conquer this last frontier.



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