Three kids in Sana’a, Yemen. Source: yeowatzup (Flikr/Creative Commons).
What You Can Do for Those Waiting for their Day to Come
By Shane Bennett
The big news in my family is that our oldest, Joseph, has gotten engaged. This is a whole new world for us. I’m happy the only boy in the clan is the one diving in first because I hear it’s a bigger deal when daughters have weddings! With that in mind, and the reality that it was only, what, a month ago, the girls were all diapers and cheerios, I’m must say I’m glad they’re so far unengaged. But that likely won’t last, will it? There is good reason to hope that their day will likewise come.
In recent years missions experts have begun to talk about people groups still waiting for their day to come, for perhaps the first efforts for the gospel to begin among them. They’ve called these groups unengaged. Though the way the term is used may vary, the actual definition is precise: a people group is unreached when the number of Evangelical Christians is less than 2% of its population. It is further called unengaged when there is no church planting strategy consistent with Evangelical faith and practice under way. A people group in not engaged when it has been merely adopted, is the object of focused prayer, or is part of an advocacy strategy.
Mike Latsko, in an article for Mission Frontiers asserts that 34% of all unreached Hindu peoples are unengaged, as are 43% of all Buddhist unreached and 59% of all Muslim unreached.
That 59% number translates into 1168 distinct Muslim people groups among whom, as far as we can tell, no one is currently living, speaking a local language, and working hard to spark movements of disciples to Jesus. That means if each church in my home state of Indiana took on one group, they would all be covered… with churches to spare for Hindus and Buddhists!
Can It Be Done?
Like many things, engaging the unengaged is easy to understand, but very difficult to do. I checked, and not every church in Indiana is interested! And beginning work among unengaged is not the only thing God is doing. But 1168?! You and me and God?! Why would we not think we can do this?
Well, there’s the fact that it’s hard. Many of the unengaged Muslims live in really hot places. Almost all of them speak foreign languages! In America, and maybe other countries as well, we have spent the past decade nurturing a fear and anger toward Muslims that plays right into the hands of the more antagonistic elements of Islam. And the list goes on. The “con” column is long and formidable.
On the other side, Latsko says, “We can do this if we will. His Word is sufficient. His Spirit convicts and empowers. His presence is sure. We have the money. We have the workers. We have the know-how. The unengaged have been the new hidden, but they are hidden no more. We can do this if we will. So let us do it in our day, in full dependence upon him, and in collaboration with one another. Let us do it in our day, and give honor to his name. Let us do it in our day, and hasten the day when many others will sing with us, ‘Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised.’”
So what do you think? What might you do? Before you answer, in a phone call just this morning a friend asserted, “Everything you do changes you.” So your smart response at this point would be to do nothing! Because anything might lead to something else and before you know it, oh my!
If, however, this idea of dropping that 1168 number to zero is getting under your skin, if the Holy Spirit is niggling you, implying that, in fact, it is people like you who do things like this, or if you relate to Saint Paul in that you’ve made it your ambition to preach the gospel where Christ has not already been named, lest you build on someone else’s foundation (Romans 15:20-21), then what might you do?
Five Things You Can Do
Here’s a (laboriously) alliterated plan to get you going. And if you’re already going toward the unengaged, would you mind taking a minute to comment and encourage the rest of us?
Let’s ask God to take away our “Jonah” eyes and help us see the peoples of the world as he does. Let’s dream big that God could use us to start a new work among a new people. Let’s pray that he keeps us humble along the way and that he brings a sharp cadre of teammates to work with us.
2. Dial in.
At some point, just pick a people! God loves them all and plans to do a great work among each of them. You can consult this list for starters. If it kills you to narrow down to one people (Myers Briggs P’s, you know who you are!), connect with a ministry like Frontiers to find a strategic city in which many unengaged Muslims peoples are present.
3. Develop a tribe.
Get Seth Godin’s book Tribes, read it in an hour, and put it into action. You can also read about how Jesus pulled together a bunch of people to launch his start up. Good people all over the place are waiting for you to lead them!
Actually start to engage. Discover who else cares about your people and contact them. Start writing a newsletter for your group. Make a Facebook page. Equip people far and wide to pray. Take a subset of your tribe to visit your people. Pray and then ask everyone you meet if they might be able to lead the first team.
Equip five people to do for another unengaged group what you’re doing for “yours.”
What if we could live to see the number of unengaged people groups drop to zero? May God let it be! If I can help you in any of this, let’s talk.
» Comment on this article below or on our Facebook page and please forward or share it freely. See also an earlier article on this topic, Sowing among the Seedless: Learning to Love Jesus among the Unengaged.