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Unreached People Groups


Who are the Unreached People Groups?


Unreached People Groups (UPG) is the term used by theologians and missiologists to refer to group of people who are least reached by the gospel of Jesus Christ. This term arises from the discussion of how to organize the church's missionary effort to fulfill the great commission.


According to Dr. Ralph Winter, a pioneer in this discussion, UPG are people among whom there is no community of evangelical native Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize their own people without external dependence. This concept was revolutionary because it changed the focus of the missionary effort, instead of reaching geopolitically established countries like USA, Brazil, China, India and etc., now attention should be turned to peoples or ethnicities.


For the importance of this definition becomes clear and it is possible toto perceive the centrality of this concept in the organization of world missionary work, we need to understand 3 fundamental elements: what is the biblical importance of this concept, what are peoples groups and what does it mean to be unreached.


The importance of the People Group concept in the Bible


Evangelizing all the peoples of the earth is a task given by Jesus to the church. In the text of the great commission in Matthew 28: 18-20 "so go, make disciples of all nations " Jesus makes it clear that this is not an invitation to evangelization, it is an order or a mandate, " go ". The magnitude of the task is also clear, because the term “of all nations” in the original biblical text comes from the expression panta ta ethne , which means all peoples, or rather, all ethnicities.


So Jesus did not think of countries based on a geopolitical concept. The aim of the order he gave was aimed at each people or ethnicity on Earth, defined by a language, culture and religion.


In several passages in the bible, the concept of people group and the mission given by Jesus are affirmed, bringing us the conviction that God's saving plan includes all the people of the Earth.


And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world, in testimony to all nations (panta ta ethne), and then the end will come ”(Matthew 24:14)


"God have mercy on us and bless us; and let his face shine on us. That your way may be known on earth, and your salvation among all nations . Praise thee, O God, the peoples; the peoples all praise you , let the nations rejoice and rejoice, for you will judge the peoples with fairness, and you will rule the nations over the earth. Praise you, O God, the peoples; praise the peoples all ."(Psalm 67: 1-5)


After these things I looked, and here is a crowd, which no one could count, of all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues , who were before the throne, and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes and with palms on their faces. your hands; And they cried out with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.”(Revelation 7: 9-10)


The picture described by John in Revelation reveals the final result of the missionary effort. People of all the peoples of the Earth before God giving Him the worship that only He is worthy to receive. A multifaceted and diverse crowd, expressing their love for God through their own culture. This unique photograph shows us that missions are the central target of those who wish to see our God being worshiped by everyone. One day the mission will pass and it will be finally accomplished, but the worship of God will be eternal.


But, what exactly is a People Group?


According to the dictionary, people are all the men, women, and children who speak the same language, have similar customs and interests, common histories and traditions, live in community in a particular territory, nation or society. In Brazil, for example, although all people is contained in a certain geographic block and all people has who is inside this block has the right to be a Brazilian because we are part of the same country, we have 323 people groups spread across our territory. Each people has its own language, history and culture, such as indigenous tribes, ex: Tupinambá, Caiapó, Tamoio and etc.


How to identify an unreached people group?


According to Joshua Project, an unreached people is an ethnic group that has less than 2% evangelical Christians or less than 5% confessed Christians. These criteria were created to strategically assist the worldwide missionary effort. Although there is no consensus on this criterion, we at Etnos use the Joshua Project concept as a starting point. The central idea is that these are the minimum conditions necessary for the Christian presence in a given people to be able to resist in the long run without dependence on foreign missionary effort.

Also according to the Joshua Project, today around 17,000 people were accounted for in the world. Of that total, 7406 people are considered unreached. That is, there are 7406 ethnic groups that have few or no evangelical Christians, with little or no Christian history.

There are about 3.23 billion people within that group of 7406 people. This means that 41% of the global population does not yet have a Christian movement capable of surviving in the long term without a missionary presence. Within that 41%, the overwhelming majority never even had the opportunity to hear the gospel proposal in their language in a contextualized way.


Within this group of unreached peoples, there are still Unengaged Peoples (PNE), which are ethnic groups that have no Christian presence. That is, no church, no missionary agency, no person or group of people who have taken on the responsibility of evangelizing these people.


Natural Barriers


The process of evangelization in the midst of UPGs, has many intrinsic barriers. These peoples have a particular worldview, that is, another way of understanding the world around them, another language, they worship other gods, they have their own ritual and cultural practices. The missionary must be able to overcome these barriers to spread the gospel among these people. He doesn't need to change the culture, as has been done wrongly for many years.. Rather, he needs to identify all possible opportunities to redeem that culture for Christ. Because Christ wants to be adored by all peoples, and it is only possible to distinguish one people from the other through their cultural particularities.


In addition, many of these peoples are small, with about 50, 100, 300 individuals living in hard PLACES to reach, in the middle of forests, in mountains or in the midst of religious/political persecution.


There are also the most difficult religious blocks in the world to be reached. We use the acronym THUMB to identify them. They are: Tribals, Hindus, Un-religious , Muslims and Buddhists.


Another very big barrier is the process of biblical translation. Many people do not even have excerpts from the Bible translated into their own language and among these people some are nongraphical, do not have a written language, only spoken. In such cases, missionaries need to create an alphabet for that spoken language and only then, carry out the translation of the scriptures.


Missionary Effort


Less than 10% of the missionary force is among unreached people groups. This means that of the 100% of missionaries in the field, 90% are working among people who have already been reached by the gospel.


In addition, the financial resources invested by the church in working with unreached people groups are completely insufficient. 99% of the offerings collected at the church in the world go to its local maintenance. Only 1% of resources are earmarked for missions, and of this 1% only, 0.05% are directed to work among unreached people groups.


In other words, there are very few missionaries working in places where Jesus is not yet known and the financial resources are also very limited, making it difficult to advance the projects.


And now?


Every acquisition of relevant knowledge must lead us to practical changes in life. It was after more than 15 years of conversion that the founders of Etnos had access to this information and their response was to engage in Missions as field missionaries. You may not have that same specific calling, but it is undeniable that the entire church of Christ around the world has been called to be involved with this cause that is at the heart of the great commission.

Etnos offers several forms of engagement and we are sure that in at least one of them you can get involved. Click on the button below and join us in the process of reaching all the peoples of the world to Jesus.

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