Who are the ‘unreached’ and why do they matter?

By November 11, 2020

International (MNN) — Before he ascended to heaven, Christ commanded his followers to take his Gospel to every nation, tribe, and tongue. Some call it the Great Commission, and it’s outlined in Matthew 28. Tracking the number of unreached people groups, also known as UPGs, shows believers how much work remains.

What makes a people group “unreached”? Marv Newell of Missio Nexus says UPGs meet the “three no’s” criteria.

“We’re talking about people [groups] where there’s no churches in the area, no Bible, and no believers,” Newell explains.

Everything comes down to Gospel access.

“Unfortunately, Gospel-bearing witnesses cannot freely access these people. That’s why a third of humanity still does not have a clue of what the Gospel is.”

Three barriers to Gospel access

For believers in developed nations, it’s hard to imagine life without Gospel access. Christians have Scripture literally at their fingertips thanks to dozens of smartphone apps, widespread WiFi access, and electronic devices. There are more than 400 versions of the Bible available in English.

According to the latest Wycliffe Global Alliance report, seven billion people who use at least one of 3,415 languages have some access to Scripture. More Bible translation updates here. While this progress is encouraging, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of the remaining spiritual needs.

IDU_great commission

(Graphic courtesy IDU via Facebook)

Newell identifies three reasons why some people groups remain unreached:

  • Hard to find – Gospel workers traditionally overlook these groups because they are embedded within a larger reached – or unreached – community. Deaf people groups often fall into this category because the surrounding “hearing” community may have Gospel access, but there is no Scripture in sign language. More about unreached Deaf here.
  • Surrounded by religion – Similarly, some people groups remain unreached because they are “insulated” by their surrounding community’s religion. “These [people groups] are so insulated in their religious experience that they’re happy with what there is, but they do not know the truth of the Gospel,” Newell says of some Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist UPGs.
  • Hard to reach – These people groups remain unreached because of geographic surroundings or geopolitical environment. In some countries, “the Gospel is not permitted even to be uttered or mentioned,” Newell says. “We’re talking about places like Yemen, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Afghanistan.”

The good news? You can help tear these barriers down.

Find your place in the story

Missio Nexus is part of the Alliance for the Unreached, a coalition of ministries determined to reach every unreached person on earth. Learn more here. Alliance members develop resources and raise awareness to support ministry work among the unreached.

“[We provide] a lot of visuals, a lot of guides, and there’s a special day that we set apart for helping a third of humanity get the Gospel,” Newell says of the Alliance.

“One thing we can do is get people to rally around that day and make sure these unreached peoples do not get forgotten.”

This “special day” is called the International Day for the Unreached, and it falls every year on Pentecost Sunday. Watch the 2020 IDU event here. Don’t forget to save the date for next year’s event! The International Day of the Unreached is May 23rd, 2021.

“Hopefully, churches would be able to focus one day on those unreached people groups,” Newell says. Become an advocate for the unreached here.



Header image courtesy of DOOR International.

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