hen established churches hear the call from Church of God leaders to make an all-out effort to aggressively and evangelistically target groups of people who have not heard the name of Jesus, one question immediately arises: How do we do that?
When Jesus came to save the world, He was placed among a specific group of people. Divinity chose to be clothed
in humanity for those who needed to
be reached. He became one of them. Although He was sent for a spiritual need, He often met physical needs first. When the people were hungry, He provided
fish and bread. When they were sick, He healed them. When they asked questions, He taught in ways they could understand. He made disciples, and the disciples were sent out to share the gospel. He knew how to reach people, and every soul counted.
In the effort to take the gospel to Unreached People Groups (UPGs), Church of God World Missions is following the example of Christ by establishing a presence among or near particular peoples. The church begins by making a connection, then training and sending national evangelists and church planters—often from established churches in nearby areas—to work among them to help meet needs and share the gospel. As the people receive Christ, they become disciples and share what they have discovered.
Where Can We Do Most?
When the vision to target UPGs was taking shape among World Missions leaders, the first question considered was,
“Where has God strategically placed the Church of God for this time and this mission?”
The answer to that question serves as a starting point, because the areas where Church of God congregations are already established make some groups more reachable than others. Those groups that already have a Church of God presence closest became top priority. These groups are considered a harvest ready to be reaped.
The second set of groups have a work near them and can be reached, with some effort, through mutual connections. These peoples are the next priority and considered to be in the sowing seeds phase of ministry.
The final groups targeted are the most difficult to reach from the places the Church of God is already established. The church prays over these groups and asks the Lord to open a door among them so missionaries may be sent. This phase is considered preparing the soil.
For the top-priority groups, pastors and missionaries are able to help identify the people near them that have not been reached with the gospel. Having a person from the group or with a neighboring connection to the group is key to forming a relationship. It is through such relation- ships that trust is formed and needs are more accurately assessed. Each group is different and has unique needs, so it is essential to individualize this part of the strategy for each group. For some, it may be education for their children. The gospel can be presented through Bible stories, for example, as the children learn to read. If the people suffer from poor nutrition, they need physical food before they can receive spiritual food. Meeting their primary need in a way that also shares the gospel in action creates an opportunity for them to receive Christ as they experience His love in a tangible way.
Developing trust also creates a bond that brings loyalty, especially during times that motives may be questioned by existing spiritual leaders. For example, one UPG within the 10/40 Window developed a relationship with a Church of God national missionary. One day, a group showed up from a nearby Hindu community and demanded that they not listen to the missionary, and wanted him to leave. The people defended the missionary, saying he had done more for them than anyone else. Then, they told the agitators to leave. The missionary did not have to defend himself. The people stood up for him; therefore, the work could continue among this people group.
Latinos Get Involved
As the effort to reach unreached people groups has taken shape, Latin Americans have been an integral part of a successful strategy. Roland Vaughan, Unreached People Group representative and former missionary in Central America, said of Latin Americans,
“They have been uniquely prepared for the task.”
Due to their recent history and experience of religious persecution, the Lord has prepared them to be a mission force, especially among unreached people groups. The church, particularly in Central America, came through a time of war and persecution where many paid the ultimate price. Still, others are willing to do the same for the gospel.
Not only are they emotionally and spiritually ready for the task, but also physically. Many Latinos have features
that resemble those of people in the unreached people groups, especially in the 10/40 Window. This allows them to enter certain countries more easily and be accepted by the people.
They are more often allowed in areas closed to the gospel because their countries are smaller than the United States and do not pose a political threat or give cause for concern to immigration officials. Not only have they accepted the call to go, but also congregations in Latin America are adopting unreached people groups and financially supporting the work done among them. It seems many pieces of a larger puzzle have come together to create a unique opportunity that Latin Americans are embracing.
The Church Back Home
While neighboring Christians, missionaries, and area pastors are essential to establishing a physical presence among the UPGs, the churches in North America that adopt them are the force behind financing the ministry. Monthly contributions are vital for training and sending missionaries and providing for the ministry carried out among the unreached. Financial support is only part of what the adopting churches do to support the effort. More importantly, they pray for the missionaries and the people they are reaching. This is crucial, because the battle is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities that have been set up among these people. Because of the level of spiritual warfare involved, the work among UPGs must be covered in prayer.
One story stands out as an example. An unreached people group in India, the Maratha, recently held a baptismal service for new converts. An 80-year-old woman was one of the baptismal candidates. The gift of salvation had been available all her life, yet she had not been told about it until near the end. She was baptized that day and came up from the water with a broad smile that defied her age and circumstances. She almost missed the gospel message. Thank God, she did not.
Groups may be the target, but every individual soul won for Christ is the victory.