The Unreached and the Unbeliever

by Mikel Berger


Almost every Sunday, we end our worship gathering with the phrase, “a community of disciple-makers toward the Great Commission.” But what is “the Great Commission”? 


Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, 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 28:16–20, ESV)


Christ has given every single one of his disciples this command. But, of course, we don’t do it alone. Jesus is with us, and we also go together. But we all have a role to play. 


So, Christians, how are we doing with this commission Jesus has given us?


Today, estimates of the global population are about 7.84 billion people. Joshua Project divides that population into 17,416 people groups. Everyone is part of a people group. Here’s mine, for example. 


People groups are “...the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.”


There are 7,403 of those people groups that are unreached. An unreached people group “is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group without outside assistance.”


Of the 7.84 billion people on the planet, 3.27 billion people live in those unreached people groups. That doesn’t mean that the 4.59 billion people that live in a reached people group are all disciples of Jesus. It means there’s already a church full of Christians within the people group to share the gospel with them. We have many unbelieving folks right here in Lafayette, Indiana. We want to share the gospel with each of them.


But there is no church sharing the gospel with the 3.27 billion people in the 7,403 unreached people groups. There’s no believing coworker to invite them to a church service. That’s because there is neither a believing coworker nor a church service to attend. No neighbor is willing to bring them a meal and pray for them when they get sick. So, as a result, they will be born, live their entire lives, and die without knowing or experiencing the love of Christ as their savior.


There is a difference between someone being an unbeliever and someone being from an unreached people group. Both need to believe the gospel, but only one has access to the gospel.


So, people from churches like ours have to be willing to live among the unreached people group until there are enough indigenous believers for the church to be sustainable—in other words, until that people group becomes "reached."


This pattern is how it has always worked. In the book of Acts, we get the earliest accounts of how God grew his church. God moves his people around. God’s people can’t stop telling people about Jesus. They do it while they worship. They do it while they work. They even do it while they are in prison.


World leaders force people to move. People move in search of work. Each of these movements provides an opportunity to share the gospel with new people in new places.


I’ve become increasingly aware of how God uses our work to advance his kingdom and bring him glory. It is a method he is particularly using today to spread his gospel to the least-reached people groups. Over the next couple of weeks, we want to share some of what we’ve been learning. We will learn more about marketplace missions during our annual missions emphasis Sundays. This method takes an almost uncountable number of forms. Each situation is particular to the goer, the supporters, and the unreached people group.


Marketplace missions work requires believers to have a robust theology of work. We have to see work as good and designed by God, while also marked in all ways by the effects of sin. If you don’t see your current work situation as advancing the gospel, the first step isn’t a new work situation. The answer is a more biblically informed understanding of your work situation. If you don’t have that here, how will you do it there or in support of others?


We have a Great Commission. So we ought to be willing to use whatever methods we can at whatever cost we can. It will be costly, but God has guaranteed the outcome. So pray with me that God would teach us much over the coming weeks and fulfill the Great Commission for his glory.