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Fruitful Practice # 1 Target the Unreached

Welcome to the first in a series of articles on Fruitful Practices for Church Planting. Periodically, I will discuss some fruitful practices for church planting that I have come to understand over the past thirty-eight years.

The term Fruitful Practices really fits what I want to discuss. Some organizations have a list of “standard practices” that refer to requirements for excellence or certification. Fruitful Practices, on the other hand, is not a list of benchmarks to be met. They are practices that are found in thousands of church planting movements. New church planting efforts would do well to follow them. Denominations and agencies would benefit from using them to evaluate their present church planting efforts.


Fruitful Practice #1 Target the Unreached

Two decades ago I wrote an article detailing The Importance of Ethnic Groups in Africa. They are no less important to missions in other parts of the world. There are more than 16,400 unique people groups in the world, many of whom view the world vastly different from their fellow citizens on the planet. God not only established this diversity of ethnic groups, he went on to send us to each of them with His saving message.

Right now, there are churches on every continent, yet many ethnic groups still lack a vital, multiplying community of believers. The Joshua Project, one of the premier people group data repositories, reports that more than 6,700 people groups still need an initial church planting movement. Other researchers contend there are many more. In a blog article I defined the term unreached peoples and discussed why researchers come up with different numbers. By anyone’s measurement there are thousands of groups without churches.

If you are tempted to think that these unreached people groups are small, hidden away peoples, you would be surprised to know that 34 of them have a population of 10 million or more. Hundreds of them have a million or more.

It is a sad truth of the current state of Christian missions that, even though unreached people groups have been showcased at international forums for more than three decades, churches, denominations, and agencies continue to send the overwhelming bulk of their workers and spend the majority of their monies on missions among the reached people groups.

Before any of us begin any new work, I suggest that we ask ourselves an extremely important question. Is this new mission effort going to be mounted among an unreached people group? If not, why do we consider this mission a priority over working among the unreached?

I am not pleading for pull out from existing works among the reached. However we need to seriously consider beginning new works among those who have been neglected for decades. If you are a member of a congregation that is about to begin something new in missions, ask leadership the above question. If you are an administrator or consultant for a denomination or agency that is considering launching a new work, ask the same question.

Many of these unreached people groups do not have the scriptures in their own language. Translation agencies have the opportunity to give these people mother tongue scriptures and play a role in planting the first churches among them. When translation agencies target churched or reached populations with their translations they run the risk of the mother-tongue scriptures they produce being marginalized because the Christians, especially the leaders, have grown accustomed to using a language of wider use translations. When the Bibleless unreached are targeted, scripture translation becomes a tool in an overall program of church planting. The mother-tongue scriptures are part of congregational life from the outset.

Please pray for the unreached people groups of the world. God is already there, preparing them for reception of His saving grace. Ask the Lord of the Harvest what role you can play in reaching them.

Additional Articles of Mine on This Topic:
A Field Selection Model for Use at Academic Institutions
Field Selection Criteria for Africa
Field Selection Criteria Definitions

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