International (MNN) — Many ministries focus on how they can bring the Gospel to a population of people known as “the unreached.” But who qualifies for that name? How unreached are the unreached?
According to Ed Weaver of Spoken Worldwide, “At least in the terms that I think [are] generally accepted in mission circles, it would be 2% or less evangelical believers in a given population or people group.”
This definition operates on the idea that if a people group’s evangelical population reaches 2% or higher, “there’s a sense that there’s enough local church momentum to be able to take over the mission of the Gospel to that people group,” Weaver explains. “There’s enough critical mass, if you will.”
But if a local Church only makes up 2% of a people group, are they really equipped with the skills, resources, and contacts they need to effectively reach their neighbors with the Gospel? There may be believers, but growing Christian networks need Bible schools, seminaries, Scripture translations, and more to “really deepen the existing believers’ basis in Scripture.”
Then you come to Spoken Worldwide’s focus: oral populations. In some cases, a people group may rely primarily on oral learning. However, they may have only been provided with written resources and discipleship tools.
That means “the ability to expand the number of believers, to expand the capacity of disciple-making, to expand the capacity of church planting, and those people groups can be extraordinarily limited, but yet it falls on the category of a reached people group, because it’s more than 2% Christian.”
On the flip side, a local Church may have access to access to oral Scripture-based resources, like the ones Spoken Worldwide provides, but may not have a written translation of the Bible. As Weaver says, “There’s still a value placed on the written text, and I wouldn’t take that away from anybody.”
So which option should ministries provide, oral tools or a written text? Weaver thinks that’s the wrong question.
“We just need to do that in a strategic way and we need to as missions organizations, we need to be able to look at that and say, ‘This is a both/and. This is not an either/or; the needs of the people need to be taken into consideration.’”
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“There’s a lot of prayer that’s necessary around us to really help organizations be able to understand where they need to put the appropriate level of resources, both in terms of human resources and financial resources, in order to be able to answer these questions and to minister to people that are really the highest priority.”
Weaver hopes orality-based and literacy-based ministries can both understand and value one another’s participation in the global Church. He says they can “help one another grow and understand how best to reach these people groups and create a unified front, one that has different focuses, different ways to impact, to make sure that we’re reaching the entire culture, not just part [of it].”
Want to pray? Follow along with Weaver’s own prayer:
“May we be more united. May literate-focused ministries and oral-focused ministries be one and be willing to make the necessary adjustments, walking in humility, hand in hand, so that we really are proving that we love the people we’re trying to reach. We love them more than we love our own ministries.”