The third of Chuck Lawless’ ten New Year’s Resolutions, all of which relate to cross-cultural mission, says: “I will learn about, and pray weekly, for unreached peoples.” Lawless suggested that we “go to joshuaproject.net and do some research. Prayerfully choose a people, and pray that the gospel gets to them. Consider this truth: you may be one of the few persons in the world praying for this group.”
Matthew 24:14 states that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Any discussion of the second coming of Jesus logically needs to put that scripture front and central, because it says very clearly that the end will not come until all the nations have heard the gospel. “There are 195 countries in the world today. This total comprises 193 countries that are member states of the United Nations and 2 countries that are non-member observer states: the Holy See and the State of Palestine.”
Our first reaction may be to say that surely in one way or another almost all, if not all of the world’s nations, have heard the gospel in some form or another. There must be Christians amongst them. But when Jesus says "a witness to all the nations", the word for ‘nations’ (ethnos) that He used does not just mean countries or nations, it means people groups within those nations. Not China, but every one of China's 400-500 minority groups. The same for India or anywhere else. Everyone of those people groups needs to hear the gospel. But more than that, they need to hear the Gospel in their own individual language. In Matthew 24:14 Jesus does not tell us to decode the Bible to find the date of the Second Coming; we are to share Christ and make disciples amongst every people group.
Another Scripture that is vital to this topic is Revelation 5:9-10. “You (Jesus) are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” This is our heavenly Father's business, this is what Kingdom people should be doing. Jesus came not just for some people groups, but for “every tribe and language and people and nation.”
Louis Giglio has a very powerful message from this passage on YouTube. It is well worth looking at and sharing in your house group, as it makes Revelation 5:9 very real.
The Joshua Project’s current Global Summary (at the time of writing in January 2024) is that worldwide there are 17,281 different people groups of which 7,246 are as yet unreached, meaning that 41.9% of those worldwide people groups are as yet unreached.
To make the task of praying for these unreached people groups more real, the Joshua Project website offers different resources. One app is the “Unreached of the Day” app which is a great way to join thousands world-wide praying for the unreached groups. This app comes in a choice of nine different languages. Another app helps us to pray each day of the month one by one for the 31 largest frontier people groups. As you do that, ask the Lord to help you select one group in particular for which to pray. The website itself offers a variety of resources including videos, photos, maps and other statistics.
The Joshua Project states that of the world’s population of 8.00 billion people, 3.40 billion or 42.4% are as yet unreached. That figure may be too daunting. If so, better to select one group and “consider this truth: you may be one of the few persons in the world praying for this group.”
More than 100 years ago, J.O. Fraser left the UK and went with the China Inland mission to Southwest China where he gave the rest of his life to reaching one people group, the Lisu people. When he started there wasn't a single believer amongst them. But he laboured in prayer and witness amongst them, even though for almost 7 years he saw very little fruit in terms of Lisu people turning to Christ. But as he and others back home prayed, God broke through. Today the Lisu have the highest percentage of Christian believers to total population of any minority people in China. One missionary, one people group, but an extraordinary result in many, many lives.
Where will you and I begin in this huge task of reaching the unreached amongst the world’s different people groups? Start by praying for one unreached group through 2024.