By Stefanie Boyles
Staff Writer for the Daily Grace Co.
Did you know that there are at least 2 billion people that have yet to hear the gospel? According to the Joshua Project, only 18.9% of the world’s people groups are “significantly reached”. Over 40% are unreached, which amounts to over 7,000 people groups (here is the official list). A people group is a community that shares a common language and culture – essentially, a people group is an ethnic group. In fact, this word “ethnē” is actually the word used in the Great Commission when Jesus said, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus was referring to ethnic groups – His command was not relegated to the 230 recognized countries in our world but directed at the world’s 16,000+ ethnic groups.
Let all of those numbers sink in – at least 2 billion people have yet to hear the gospel. When I heard this at The Gospel Coalition 2019 Conference, I was dumbfounded. When I returned to my women’s ministry, I shared this statistic with my fellow sisters-in-Christ. Some were so shocked that they doubted it; they were sure I must have misheard the number. Personally, it was an intense moment of conviction – how insulated is my life that I was lacking basic awareness of this startling fact? How much has my westernized culture blinded me to the tangible needs of so many around the world? What are the needs in my community that I am not seeing? How do I serve my local community without neglecting God’s global mission? What can I do right now? And equally important, how do I not forget and maintain a sense of urgency?
Because we do easily forget. I was aptly reminded of this the other day when my Apple Watch broke. It was undeniably an accident. My daughter put my watch on the table by the pool per my request. My son went to grab a towel and didn’t see it, and it slipped off the table at the perfect angle to shatter the screen. I was able to rationalize all of this – my heart and mind knew it was an accident, but I couldn’t stop my blood pressure from rising. Yet, in the Lord’s tender mercy, He used this unfortunate situation for my sanctification. As I was internally fuming about my Apple Watch for longer than I’d like to admit, the Spirit sweetly convicted me that my heart’s affections are tied to luxury; to convenience; to comfort; to keeping up with trends; to money. Don’t get me wrong – I do not think it’s a sin to merely have nice products – our family has a lot of gadgets and bins upon bins of stuff collecting dust in our garage. I also do not think it’s a sin to merely feel emotions. God designed us to be creatures with emotions, and the Bible is full of them – joy (Psalm 5:11), anger (Psalm 37:8), fear (Luke 12:5), and more. However, our emotions truly do function as gauges of the hopes and affections in our hearts. Or as Pastor John Piper puts it, “Pleasure is the measure of your treasure”. Our emotions speak loud and clear of the things we love.
And what do you know, I found out that day that I love my Apple Watch quite a bit. And I have to confess that this minor instance uncovered some idols in my heart. I had elevated things so much so that I was willing to sacrifice obedience to the Word of God – I knowingly engaged in unrighteous anger because of my love for stuff! My mind was so keen on calculating the cost of broken material things and lamenting at the loss. But how much do I consider the weight of eternity of my fellow image bearers? How much do I grieve over the souls of those that have not heard the gospel?
I do not think it’s a coincidence that my Apple Watch broke the same day I was studying about the unreached people groups in the world. The Lord used my emotions to report to me the root of all sin (unbelief) that was entangled in my heart. I was not living on mission keeping an eternal focus. The idealist in me wanted to berate myself for this – “Stefanie, why do you keep forgetting? Will you ever grow out of this forgetfulness? When will you stop being so self-centered? Don’t you understand that eternity is on the line?” But here’s the truth: I will battle unbelief every single day on this side of heaven. I am called to fight the fight of faith until I am called to my eternal home. Why else would the Apostle Paul say in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”? This was near the end of Paul’s life – he had been a faithful slave of Christ for decades by this point! Yet, he refers to those decades as fighting the good fight of faith.
And it’s a battle worth fighting, day in and day out. It is a fight, but we are not left to our own devices. Believers have the indwelling Holy Spirit empowering us to fight against sin. He sanctifies us, which is a fancy way of saying He conforms us to the image of Christ. We are being made righteous day by day. Why? The short answer is: for His glory. We are ambassadors of Christ entrusted with the glorious message of reconciliation, and our aim is to see people across the world worship Him and bring Him glory! We fight sin because we want to love God and love others. We want to love God and love others because we want to see men reconciled to God in order to give Him glory and worship Him.
At least 2 billion people have yet to hear the gospel – does this stir your heart? Are you willing to let that reality break your heart? How does it affect your life today? This is God’s global purpose – He “wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). He wants the earth to be filled with His image bearers that will worship Him and treasure Christ. He does not delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23) – He is a holy judge committed to justice, but He is also love. As His people, we should love what He loves!
So where can you start? Here are some helpful tips. Watch this video from the Joshua Project (you will hear many of the tips on this list in this video).
- Repent. If you are anything like me, you need to repent for being self-centered and not missions-minded. Take time to examine your emotions and see what they reveal as your true values and affections. Beg God to stamp eternity on your eyeballs, as Jonathan Edwards said.
- Be educated. Learn the needs in the world. And study God’s Word and learn about His global mission. He is writing a grand story!
- Pray – Never underestimate the power of prayer. A helpful resource that our family uses is Window on the World: An Operation World Prayer Resource.
- Go – Unreached people groups are communities that do not have believers within their own ethnic groups. They need someone to learn the language and understand their customs!
- Send – Discover how you can support those that are going then see how you and your family can create margin specifically to minister in this capacity. You can support missionaries or church planting efforts. You can even contribute to the spread of language-based resources like the Jesus Film!
- Welcome and celebrate and befriend the various ethnicities you see in your own community – there may be unreached peoples in your city! Who knows how God will use them to fulfill His global purpose!
- Don’t forget. Do whatever you need to do to remember. Unreached people groups are not mere statistics – they’re people with souls that will last for eternity.
- Share what you have learned and encourage others to join in on God’s work!
* Affiliate links used are used where appropriate.