Friday, April 04, 2008

Missions again

A few posts back I talked about different things I think about missions. One particular part of missions I want to highlight is the term "unreached," what it means and what it does not mean. The term unreached is a missiological term missionaries have been working to define and clarify so that it is very specific. It is a technical term that has been hammered out so to speak and refers to a rather specific situation. Unfortunately, it has become a bit of a buzz word in the American Church not unlike the term "missional" has been in danger of becoming, if it isn't already.

Here is a rather unfortunate example where the term "unreached" is misapplied and used as a buzz word that sadly and unnecessarily ends up pitting home missions against world missions. (Let me know what you think, and if you agree.)

So what does the term "unreached" mean? To what context/situations does it apply?

To start, "unreached" refers to a very specific socio-cultural (even linguistically unique) situation. It has to do with the idea of a specific group of people who have very little to no access to the story of Jesus such that there are very very few to no near neighbor witnesses who can relate to them the message of the Christian gospel. It also refers to a situation where a specific people group has no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize it own people.

So then what is a "people group"? It refers to a specific group of people who have their own socio-cultural-linguistic distinctives such that they differ from another group and barriers of misunderstanding can exist. If you go to the Joshua Project website, you see that they also note that they quote the 1982 Lausanne Committee Chicago meeting's definition of a people group which reads, "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."

So, if you browsed the article linked and looked over the Joshua Project website you'll probably notice that unwed moms, teenagers, addicts, disillusioned college kids, homeless people, divorced or single parents, etc, do not fit the specific missiological classification of an "unreached" people group.

Would you agree?



At 7:46 PM, Blogger Nathan Stitt said...

I suppose I would agree that they don't fit that description. I tend to view the unreached in terms of cultures that don't have exposure to the gospel. People groups are similar in that I view them from a more ethical or cultural perspective. The groups you point out at the end are found across cultures and I would view them as more of a subset or something.

At 11:02 PM, Blogger Brian said...

Hay Nathan, thanks for the note. The groups I point out at the end are ones the author of the article I linked points out as supposed "unreached" people groups - and in my opinion, this is missiologically misinformed.

You said "ethical" did you mean "Ethnic"?

At 11:02 PM, Blogger Brian said...

Hay? Gosh, I must be tired....

At 11:32 PM, Blogger Rhea said...

I think that the issue is that some ppl live in places where they literally have no chance to hear the Gospel, unless we go in there and tell them. On the other hand, there are other "unreached groups" that you mentioned right here in the US, BUT, the difference is that in almost all cases, if they WANTED to learn about God and Christianity, they could look it up online, go to a church service, etc.

At 8:13 PM, Blogger Brian said...

Thanks for the note Rhea. I agree. If we are going to talk about people who actually fit the category of an unreached people group here in the states then we need to talk about the Buddhist population in Denver, the Muslim population in Dearborn, Mich, and so on. These folks also have social-cultural barriers that keep them from hearing the gospel unless someone outright shares it with them.


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