International Day for the Unreached – Who Are They? (Part 1)

PASADENA, CA – Sunday, June 9, 2019, is the International Day for the Unreached. This is the first in a short series of articles that will explain who they are, where they are, how we are doing, and how we can do better.

Sunday, June 9, 2019, is the International Day for the Unreached. This is the first in a short series of articles that will explain who they are, where they are, how we are doing, and how we can do better.

Let’s begin with explaining who the unreached are. The simplest description might be anyone with whom the Gospel has not been shared. While there is an element of truth to that, it is at best, a lazy man’s definition.

Jesus did more than commission his disciples to go into all the world. He shared a template, telling them that His plan was for them to go to Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, and ultimately, to the uttermost parts of the earth. The plan was to share the Gospel in a pattern of continual outreach. They were to recognize who was unreached and continually expand their work outward beyond the reached. It is still the pattern for reaching the world for Christ.

Naturally, missional work has generally recognized two groups of people; the reached (those with an existing internal witness) and the unreached (those still needing someone from “the outside”). Because the world is more complicated than that, some ministries added a separate group of “unengaged.” That was a step in the right direction, but we are still dealing in definitions. A goal has to have definable objectives, plus a plan designed to successfully reach those objectives and, ultimately, the final goal.

The Joshua Project has been doing an excellent job explaining who the unreached are by carefully defining and accounting for distinctive subgroups. To do so, they first had to clarify what Christian means, realizing that not all who self-proclaim as Christian are truly Christ followers. They did it this way:

Professing Christian – One who professes to be a follower of the Christian religion in any form.

Evangelical – Followers of Christ who generally emphasize “the Lord Jesus Christ as the sole source of salvation through faith in Him, a personal faith and conversion with regeneration by the Holy Spirit, recognition of the inspired Word of God as the only basis for faith and living, a commitment to Biblical preaching and evangelism that brings others to faith in Christ.

Using these definitions as essential criteria, the Joshua Project has defined five major groups determined by the percentage of the population that is defined as Evangelical and Professing Christian.

Significantly Reached – Where Evangelicals account for more than 10 percent of the population and have a significant presence.

Partially Reached – Where Evangelicals account for between 2 and 10 percent of the population and have a modest presence.

Superficially Reached – Where Evangelicals account for 2 percent or less of the population and Professing Christians account for more than 50 percent. These people identify as Christians but lack a commitment to biblical faith.

Minimally Reached – Where Evangelicals account for 2 percent or less of the population and Professing Christians account for between five and 50 percent.

Unreached – Where Evangelicals account for less than 2 percent of the population and Professing Christians account for 5 percent or less.

As a preview of articles to follow – and a revelation of the scope of work yet to be done – about 1.7 billion people fit the definition of Significantly Reached. The number of Unreached exceeds 3.1 billion.

Clearly, there is much work to be done.


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