esus said, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14 NASB).
Driven by obedience to Christ’s mandate, the Church of God embraces the challenge to find unreached people groups across the globe. Three billion unreached individuals live in 6,500 ethno-linguistic communities which are characterized as having little or no access to the Gospel. Missiologists say one in nine people worldwide is born again, and of the remaining eight, four are members of an unreached people group (defined as less than 2% of the population being Christian).
While it is necessary to continue evangelism and church planting among Christianized people groups, the priority in pioneer missions is to seek and find the unreached, taking the Gospel where no viable or sustainable Christian witness exists. Many unreached people groups (UPGs) are isolated by location, cultural/religious systems, or other barriers which make it difficult to enter the world’s last and largest harvest fields; however, the time is right to overcome every obstacle in world evangelization. A united body of Christ has all the spiritual, human, technological, relational, and financial resources to get the job done in one generation.
Would Christ give His Church an impossible mission? No! There are 9,000 Protestant denominations in the world. In America alone, there are 314,000 Protestant churches. For every UPG, there are more than enough churches, and groupings of churches, to finish the task. With laser-like focus and effective cooperation, global evangelization can and should be finished.
From 10 to Hundreds
Since 1992, international leadership in the Church of God has consistently emphasized the task of finishing the Great Commission. We began by targeting 10 unreached people groups, all of which have been reached on some level; then the number grew to 74 engaged UPGs in the 20 years following.
With a renewed emphasis launched in July 2014, through networking and team-building, 380 new UPG ministry opportunities have been discovered. Most of these are located in the 10-40 Window.
The FIND Coalition
A 50-member team of North Americans, Latin Americans, and South Asians called FIND Coalition was formed in April 2015, and is casting a missional net around the world in search of UPGs. The team meets once per year, has a clear mission and vision, emphasizes interdependent relationships, and works with overseers, missionaries, and national workers in various countries. In order to assist with communication, coordination, and mobilization, regional UPG coordinators have been appointed to the strategic places of South Asia and Middle East/North Africa (MENA). Eventually, coordinators may be appointed in every major region where the unreached are located.
The multinational FIND Coalition searches for the lost by following a relationship trail that starts with the people of existing churches and leads to their neighboring UPGs. This has been an amazing experience with results that exceed our expectations. All involved have discovered God’s matchless blessing which comes in direct proportion to our willingness to walk in obedience to His mandate. We simply go into the world to discover what He is already doing.
The effort to find UPGs connects globally-minded pastors and believers with many open doors in the mission field. When a new UPG ministry opportunity is discovered, local leaders and UPG coordinators work together to write a simple ministry proposal that involves answering seven basic questions:
1. What? General description of the project. 2. Why? The strategic rationale for reaching a particular community. 3. Who? Identifies the UPG as well as the human resources needed to carry out the mission. 4. Where? The place and culture. 5. When? A timeline proposed for starting and finishing the work. 6. How? A brief plan of action. 7. How much? The cost for initiating and sustaining the ministry for a period of time.
Each new ministry begins with an exit strategy in mind as our long-term goal includes the capacity for a local ministry to become self-supporting as soon as practical.
With this simple but effective approach, more and more doors open each month, and the list of new UPGs continues to grow. One of our amazing discoveries is that in most cases, ministry has already begun on some level even before a UPG ministry proposal has been officially adopted. The reason is, for more than 100 years, Church of God World Missions has invested in national leadership and Bible schools around the world, so missionary zeal burns on every continent, and foundations for pioneer ministry are already laid in most of the targeted areas.
Ministry That Lasts
For long-term success, indigenous ownership is the key. Of 380 new UPG ministry proposals in the works, only six are fully dependent on North American leadership.
In southern India during the past 12 months, a national leader has established relationships with 65 local missionaries who are touching 23 UPGs in his area. In Bangladesh, a team of 17 full-time evangelists are circulating throughout the world’s most densely-populated country, touching 20 UPGs. In Nepal, one small orphanage has a representation of eight UPGs. These children are being raised in a dynamic ministry center and will become effective missionaries in touching their own people groups.
There are many difficult barriers─including distance, language, and anti-Christian politico-religious systems─but evangelism fervor is pressing on to get the message of the Gospel to every nation, even within closed countries. Radio waves and Internet connections reach beyond boundaries of illiteracy and geographical isolation.
Children’s after-school clubs are transforming into prayer centers and house churches, as Christian workers penetrate closed communities with education, business ventures, and other entry strategies in central and northern India. Translation of the Scriptures and oral Bible recordings are being produced for UPGs in Laos and Vietnam. English and music are being taught in closed communities throughout Asia with the Bible as the textbook, and praise and worship songs as the musical repertoire.
Missionaries and national workers are reporting hundreds of house churches being planted through the African Firewall model, and orphans in that continent are being raised in the fear and admonition of the Lord through the collective efforts of Serving Orphans Worldwide and Church of God World Missions. Collaboration with the Billion Soul Network and other missions agencies is creating a powerful synergy that reaches into the most difficult places such as northwest China, Tibet, and Mongolia.
Relief efforts following the 2011 tsunami in northeast Japan opened the door for a new church plant in a large community that previously had no Christian witness. This new work is being pastored by a missionary from South America and financially supported by the Church of God in Japan. In the Tharparkar Desert of Pakistan, UPG communities are being reached with water wells and simple, open-air shelters which double as educational and worship centers provided through the support of churches in Texas.
Financial and prayer support coming from Pennsylvania and a Hispanic district in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, have facilitated the purchase of properties, construction of worship facilities, ministry training, missionary support, and assistance to local pastors who are working with a very large UPG in Central India. Many more testimonies of God’s presence and grace may be given as examples of how the FINISH Commitment is impacting people who were previously unreached.
Adopting a People Group
How can a local church adopt an Unreached People Group? Because of the sensitivity of ministry in closed areas, many of which are subject to anti-conversion laws and harsh penalties, our specific UPG efforts (names and locations) must be communicated in a very discreet manner. At present, 380 UPG proposals are awaiting adoption by individuals, churches, or districts.
Through contact with World Missions special projects personnel, these UPG ministry proposals may be shared directly with you. These proposals may involve one or more of the five pillars of pioneer missions—prayer, discipleship, church planting, social action ministry, and missionary support. Each project desperately needs a covering of intercession by a committed individual, church, or group. Also, each ministry proposal will involve some level of financial assistance for the first years ranging from $50 to $500 per month.
Together we can do this . . . we must do this . . . we will do it . . . and then the end will come.
Contact Yolanda Guy (423-478-7794) for information about a UPG.
Ken Anderson is coordinator of Unreached People Groups for Church of God World Missions.