By Kelsey McMullen
As I drive through the streets of Louisville, Kentucky I see church buildings on almost every street corner; this is the Bible belt, after all. Christian churches, Catholic churches, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists— they’re all well represented here in the Bluegrass state.
The people of Louisville have a broad range of choices when it comes to worship. It’s a good feeling to know that Christ is being sought by so many throughout my city. But even as I pass by so many places to worship, my heart breaks a little at the memory of a very different environment I was in just a few weeks ago.
No Churches, No Bibles
In June of this year I visited a city in North Africa where worshipping Christ the way you want is almost unheard of, not to mention illegal. There are no churches on the street corners, but there are dozens of mosques. No church bells on Sunday morning, but you can hear the call to prayer five times a day. No Bibles in the bookstores, but every home has a copy of the Koran.
The absence of Christianity in this North African city is a stark reminder of the thousands of places around the world untouched by the gospel. More than 40 percent of our world today is completely unreached by Christianity.
Let me say that again. Forty percent of our world is unreached. These unreached people are not just lost or confused. They haven’t heard about Christ and rejected him. The fact is that they’ve never been given the choice to accept or reject him because they’ve never heard of him.
Unreached People Groups
Today’s world contains 16,650 different people groups. The term people group describes a sociological group of individuals who share a common cultural, linguistic, or religious heritage. These are usually people who speak the same language, live in the same area, share the same customs, and practice the same religion.
The population of a people group may contain as few as 100 or as many as 1 billion individuals. Of those 16,650 people groups, 7,000 are considered unreached, which means there are not enough indigenous Christians within them to adequately evangelize the group.
Simply put, it means the population of an unreached people group has never heard an accurate depiction of Christ or the gospel. This could be due to a number of reasons, including: (1) the people might be strict adherents to another religion and have skewed views of Christ, (2) they may live in a part of the world that is geographically difficult to reach, or (3) they may live in a country that has outlawed Christianity and violently persecutes any who disobey that law.
Putting It into Perspective
Whatever the reason, these people have no idea who Christ is. Most have never met a Christian, seen a church, or read a Bible. They’re not rejecting Christ; they’ve just never heard of him.
Let’s put this into perspective. The 7.13 billion people on earth are comprised of 16,650 distinct people groups; 7,000 of those groups are unreached. These 7,000 unreached groups contain 2.9 billion individuals who are lost and completely unreached. It means nearly 3 billion people on earth haven’t heard the true gospel. It means 3 billion people can’t go to church even if they wanted to. It means 3 billion people have never had the opportunity to accept Christ’s sacrifice for them.
Three billion. That’s more than nine times the population of the U.S. It’s double the population of China. It’s more than the population of the entire western hemisphere.
You Can Help
Nearly 3 billion people who have never heard. Three billion people whose souls are destined to an eternity apart from God, not because they’ve seen the evidence and refused it, but because no one has shown them the evidence exists.
These are overwhelming figures that could easily be tucked away into our brains under the category of “It’s sad, but there’s nothing I can do.” But don’t tuck these numbers away so quickly. You may not be able to fly to India tonight and preach the gospel to the northern tribes who don’t have a Bible in their language, but there are many ways to reach these people from your church, your hometown, or even your living room.
One of the first things every one of us can do to help reach the 7,000 unreached people groups is to choose a group and pray for its people on a regular basis. The website Joshuaproject.net is a helpful resource full of information about unreached people groups. Explore the website to learn about the various people groups—who they are, where they live, and what they believe.
The site highlights a different unreached people group daily, lists the largest people groups, and profiles each unreached group. You can search for the unreached by country, language, or religion. Once you’ve searched through Joshuaproject.net, choose a people group and pray. Pray for workers to be sent out to them, for their hearts to be prepared for the message they hear, and for the Lord to work in their lives and draw them nearer to him.
Another valuable resource is U4theU.com. U4theU stands for Unleashed for the Unreached, a campaign designed to create awareness about unreached people and bring the gospel to the furthest corners of the earth.
U4theU sponsors a traveling exhibit known as the Wall of Unreached People. The Wall lists all 7,000 unreached people groups by country and includes their name, population, and religion. It’s moving to see 27 panels filled with names of people groups that have never been exposed to Christ. If you want to bring awareness about the unreached to your church or organization, this is a great exhibit to display. You can find out how to get the Wall of Unreached People at your church or event at U4theU.com/thewall.
What’s at Stake
Whatever it is you decide to do with this information, whether you decide to pray for unreached groups, share this knowledge with your small group, or encourage your church to host the Wall of Unreached People at your next missions event, I urge you to do something. These 7,000 unreached people groups don’t know the most important truth that exists. These 2.9 billion people could spend eternity apart from Christ because they’ve never heard his name. Who will tell them, if not us?
“How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14).
Kelsey McMullen is project fulfillment specialist for Team Expansion in Louisville, Kentucky and daughter of The Lookout editor, Shawn McMullen.
Resources from U4thU
Unleashed for the Unreached has numerous resources on their website. Here are just a few: