Monday, 18 June 2012

Unreached people groups next door

For those of us who grew up with an old 'missionary' mindset, unreached people groups were exotic tribes in far flung places. Our basic understanding was that these people were totally different from us in every aspect of language, culture, education, and lifestyle. They didn't know the gospel and someone would have to go to them.

In more recent years we became aware of phrases like 'the 10/40 window'; That helpful description of the geographical area of longitude and latitude which covers the least evangelised people on the planet.Stretching across the Arab world, North Africa, through the Middle East, eastwards towards it's extreme end point, Japan.

This truly is unreached territory, and rightly has the focus of mission groups and churches. The most unreached nation on the planet, Tunisia, has a Christian population of 0.21%, of which a sum total of 0% are evangelical believers! Indeed, of the top twenty most unreached nations, 19 of them are Islamic, and one, Israel is not!

However, there is a growing population of unreached peoples on our doorstep. People who are not far from us culturally, people who share the same tribal roots and even aspects of language with us.

In mission terms, populations with less than 2% evangelical believers are rightly classed as unreached with the gospel. In many cases they have a relatively high nominal christian population, and even a state church, but they are unevangelised. These are nations where there is so little dynamic New Testament church life, where the gospel is no longer deeply embedded into culture and national life.

It may surprise you to know that from this unreached list, 15 of the top 20 nations are in Europe - the home of reformed Christianity. Indeed, of the top 40 most unreached, 27 are European. On the list are our French cousins, Italy, Belgium, Spain. Many nations which are nominally Catholic, and some Orthodox as you move into Eastern Europe. Britain is not too far behind. All now, effectively unreached with the gospel. All now with less than 2% of the population that have any meaningful roots in biblical Christianity. All similar to us in culture, with all our shared history.

Our missionary understanding and methodology may be changing, but whilst we continue to send and train cross culturally to the 10/40 window, who will come alongside and work with those small groups of believers in post-Christian Europe, in order to reverse this decline and see authentic Christian community established and spreading again?

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