If you have been hanging around WEC for even a short while now, you will have no doubt come across the term Unreached and Unreached People Groups (or UPGs). That is because, these unreached people groups are the focus of WEC ministry, and so we talk about them a lot.
Every WEC branch works either directly ministering to or with the purpose of sending people to minister to UPGs. But, what does that actually mean, and why does WEC have this focus?
It all comes back to the great commission - to go and make disciples
of all nations. Today when we think of nations people think
of the 195 countries around today. However, this wasn’t what Jesus
had in mind when he sent his disciples to all nations.
Jesus had a very different view of what a nation
was. Whilst the modern English translation is 'nations' the word Jesus used
was Ethne, the Greek from which we get the word ethnic, or ethnicity.
The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, the Kittites and the Rodanites. (From these the maritime peoples spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language. (Genesis 10:4-5)
There are many places in the old testament where we see God referring to ethnic groups as nations - In Genesis 10 we see the account of Noah's descendants - they were recorded not as families but as nations. We see that these familial groups of people were called nations - and
they had their own languages and developed their own cultures.
In missiological terms today we call these nations People
Groups. Or an ethno-linguistic group. That is a group of people with
their own distinct culture and language.
Today there are 17,423 people groups in existance (Joshuaproject.net).
So, what does Unreached mean?
Simply put, Unreached means they have not been reached (touched by the gospel) in such a way as to develop a national church that is strong enough to evangelise its own people. Missiologists often use a ball park figure of 2% Christian to be considered 'Reached'.
This also means that unless someone from outside their group takes the gospel to them the majority will never have the chance to hear the gospel for themselves.
For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:13-15)
So out of the 17,423 People groups in the world 7,410 groups are considered unreached. That is 42% of the world's population. Or in other words 3.19 billion people live in unreached people groups. And for the majority of these, unless someone (a missionary) goes to them with the Gospel they will never hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
(Note this 3.19 billion doesn’t include unsaved people in the ten thousand or
so people groups that are considered reached.)
So when people ask the question of 'Do we need to send missionaries today?' having a correct understanding of unreached peoples is vital to answer this question effectively. Currently less than 1% of all missionaries work among these unreached people.
It is estimated that each year, 30 million unreached people will die having never heard the name of Jesus…
…Unless someone goes…
…Unless someone tells them.