What is God Doing?

by Michael Reynolds (@mrobertreynolds)

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations (πάντα τὰ ἔθνη), baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” - Matthew 28:18-20

We have a command from our Lord to reach every ethnic group (πάντα τὰ ἔθνη), but this brings in numerous tribal, linguistic, and religious variables. “For evangelization purposes, a people group is the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance”[1]. To say it more simply there may be an ethnic group that has 10 languages, 5 religions, spread across 3 warring tribes thus requiring many more workers to reach that one ethnic group. 

Another helpful definition of a people group is (a) all individuals in the group understand each other reasonably well and (b) cultural/relationship barriers aren’t so high that the transmission of the Gospel is seriously impeded[2]. The task of the Great Commission is greater than simply getting the Gospel across every national border, but it requires getting it across numerous borders of understanding and acceptance. 

By country there are 6,562+ unreached people groups and across countries there are 3,978+ unreached people groups. The Kurds are a great example of what that means; they are predominantly in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran which requires access to four countries in order to reach one ethnic group (not counting linguistic, cultural, and political barriers). One church planting movement could potentially spread across these four national borders, but it will more likely require at least four (probably many more) unique movements to reach them. The Kurds, then, are counted at least four times by country and only one time across country. This leaves us with the higher number being much more functional for our understanding of the task. Some of these groups are being reached currently, but inside of the 6,562+ people groups there are 3,096 that are not being engaged by any Christians[3]. This seems daunting, right? 

Good news: 

  • There are 44,000 Christians denominations in the world – 14 for every unengaged people group.
  • There are 700 million evangelical Christians in the world – 225,000 for every unengaged people group. 
  • There are 4.5 million Christian congregations in the world – 1,451 congregations for every unengaged people group. 
  • There are 4,900 Christian foreign mission sending agencies in the world – 1.5 agencies for every unengaged group.[4]

Bad news: 

  • We have less than 10,000 Christian missionaries laboring in the Muslim World – This leaves the ratio of Muslims to Christian workers at 200,000:1.[5]
  • Daesh (ISIS) has recruited 20,000+ foreign fighters since January of 2014.[6]

Daesh’s numbers are bad news, but not in the way you might think. It is bad news because they have recruited twice as many Jihadists as we have missionaries. It is bad news because it is an indictment. Out of 700 million evangelical Christians there are less than 10,000 serving in Muslim lands and out of the $42 Trillion that all Christians made last year only 0.001% was given towards reaching unreached people groups. That is $1 out of every $100,000 that Christians made. A lack of resources is not the issue. We have the people to do it and we have the money to do it, but the biggest issue is harder to heal than lacking resources; we don’t have the will to do it. 

In light of our corporate dismissal of Arab lands and Muslim people I must say that God is bringing the work to our front door in the current refugee crisis. We should bow low before his hand to be used by him. It is not too late. 


[1] 1982 Lausanne Committee Chicago meeting
[2] Joshua Project http://joshuaproject.net/assets/media/articles/what-is-a-people-group.pdf
[3] November 2015 Monthly GSEC Reports (Data as of 11/1/2015)
[4] January 2013 issue of The International Bulletin of Missionary Research (vol. 37, no. 1) 
[5] GordonConwell.edu/resources/Center-for-the-Study-of-Global-Christianity.cfm/
[6] ICSI. Peter R. Neumann. Foreign fighter total in Syria/Iraq now exceeds 20,000; surpasses Afghanistan conflict in the 1980s. http://icsr.info/2015/01/foreign-fighter-total-syriairaq-now-exceeds-20000-surpasses-afghanistan-conflict-1980s/