Why the Unreached Are Unreached

31 07 2013



I just spent a week in Wyoming on the Wind River Indian Reservation among a beautiful tribe of people called the Northern Arapaho. I have been to a South American country to work with Indigenous Tribes along the Amazon River Basin. I have walked among a completely unreached, unengaged tribe in the isolated mountains of Central Asia. I have even lived for three years working with an unreached tribe in Tanzania.

Before I get to the topic, some things need to be defined first. What does it mean when we say, “Unreached?” When speaking about a tribe of people being unreached, it is universally recognized by missionaries and missiologists that the tribe in question has 2% or less of their population being evangelical Christians. This is no arbitrary number. It has been studied that in most cases a tribe that has more evangelical Christians in its population than 2% of its total has a viable church that has the opportunity to spread the gospel among its own tribe. You might even go as far as asking why this is important. In Matthew 24:14 Jesus says, “This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.” The word “nations” in this passage of scripture literally means “tribes” or “people groups.” Therefore, Jesus is saying that before He returns and ushers in the end of this age, all of the tribes will be reached. We see a glimpse of the future in Revelation 7:9 when John writes about seeing a “vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language…” (italics mine) If this is true, and I tend to believe in the truth of the Bible, then this makes unreached people groups a priority for churches. With only an estimated 6,900 people groups left unreached, we are literally seeing the end in sight. It is possible that we could be the generation that has the blessing of ushering in the return of Jesus Christ.

With all of our technology, communication advances, and transportation ease, why are these last unreached people groups still unreached? I believe, having seen it firsthand, that there are many common reasons that all play a role as to why a group is still unreached. First and foremost, we have to recognize that Satan is still very active in this world and maybe more so as his time runs short. He has had these groups and their land in his grasp for generations and generations, and he will not give them up without a fight. Many of these tribes remain unreached, because the church has not engaged in the spiritual battle. Individuals may have fought in the past, but it will take the effort of many praying for extended periods of time before the battle can be won. I am encouraged that more and more churches are recognizing the fact that it will take more than a 3-year partnership to see these remaining peoples reached. We can no longer afford to move on to another people group after just three years and know that we have accomplished anything. This brings me to the next reason these tribes are unreached. Most of these groups are calloused or hard-hearted toward Christianity. The Muslim Tribe in Central Asia sees it as a Western religion, and if one converts, that one is considered a traitor to his family and culture. The point is that in different ways, Satan has gained a deep foothold in these people both individually and culturally. These are holds that only God can break, and through His mercy, He has chosen to use you and me to be His ambassadors and soldiers.

Although not as important as the spiritual reasons, there are also physical reasons why these groups are not reached. Many of them are very difficult to get to. When I lived in Tanzania, it still took me hours driving on treacherous dirt roads along cliff edges to get to the majority of the people group. We had a team earlier this year go to Ecuador to work with an unreached tribe. Once they arrived in the country, they still had hours and hours of driving on horrible roads, boating on a dangerous river, and living in the rain forest. Not only are these groups, in many cases, physically distant, but they are also culturally distant. The languages are difficult to learn. The cultures are completely foreign to us and hard to understand. The food makes us sick. These and more are all reasons why these groups remain unreached, but if we believe the Bible, then we have to believe that these reasons must be overcome.

In these last days, God is looking for individuals and churches that are spiritually and physically tough to finish the task.

The Unreached Among Us

16 04 2012

I had the great pleasure of speaking with Chris Read on the phone late last week. He and his wife, Cheryl, are working with a large group of refugees from the country of Bhutan. Since 1989, the heavily Buddhist government has cracked down on anything that is not Buddhist, including Nepali Hindus and Bhutanese Christians. According to the book, Operation World by Jason Mandryk, “…Proselytism and incitement to convert are illegal. Church buildings are not allowed, and Christians are not privy to many of the state benefits available to Buddhists, such as free education.” Because of this persecution by the government, led by King Wangchuk, many people have been displaced out of the country with a large population of them finding themselves in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

In many cases, the first friend that a Bhutanese refugee will meet once they enter the United States is Chris or Cheryl Read. Chris and Cheryl are both very normal people who have an exceptional, Godly love for the refugees from Bhutan. Both of them are volunteers and are striving their best to put food on the table and support their own children through college. Cheryl is a school teacher, and Chris works for a telephone company. Yet in their “spare” time they reach out to a people that are hurting and helpless. In my book, they are heroes, and I am excited about the possibility of our church working with them and the newly planted First Bhutanese Baptist Church.

It is hard to imagine that just 5 hours away from us, God has provided us with an unreached people group. We certainly live in a day of blessing – a day when God has said that if His people will not go, He will bring the nations to them. God could have just decided to forget about us, because of our disobedience. We would have deserved just that, but instead, right here in Fort Smith, Arkansas, we have people from Vietnam, Laos, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, India, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Korea, etc. As believers, we must open our eyes! The unreached people groups of the world are living among us, and we cannot afford to waste this opportunity! God is giving us another chance. The question is whether or not we will take that chance.

In Tanzania, one day, I received a call from a local pastor/friend who told me that a village elder called to ask us to come, because his village was ready to receive the Lord. That is fruit that is ripe and ready to be picked! I believe that God has planted an amazing diversity of fruit trees in America with a lot of fruit that is ripe for the harvest. The job for us now is to, first, recognize those trees, and, second, to pick the fruit. That seems to be the simplest job in the world, yet how many will rise up to it?

Here is one simple thing that you can do this week to get started… Instead of going to eat another meal at a fast food chain restaurant, find a hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop ethnic restaurant, and commit to go there at least once per week. Get to know the wait staff and the cooks. Complement their food. Ask them to teach you how to greet someone in their language and use it the next time. This can be a fun way to meet a person from another culture and open your eyes to all those that are ripe for the harvest.

Please be in prayer for Chris and Cheryl Read as they continue this important work among the Bhutanese refugees in Texas.

%d bloggers like this: