Category Archives: Unreached People Groups

Why All This Attention on the Unreached?

Many years ago I became aware of unreached or least-reached people groups and it changed my whole view regarding my purpose and calling. I would like to share with you how this came about, but first let me give you a simple definition of the unreached (also called least-reached). According to Joshua Project and many others who have also embraced this definition, it is

“An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group”.

Now a people group is simply a group of people who have a common affinity with one another in which the gospel can spread without encountering barriers of understanding and acceptance (also from Joshua Project).

I was serving as pastor of a small church that we planted in 1983 in West Chester, PA. After about five or six years we began to prepare ourselves and others in the congregation to take a team into inner city Philadelphia to plant a church in the Kensington/Northern Liberties area of Philly. I enrolled in the Center for Urban Theological Studies in Philly (part of Geneva College) to hopefully prepare me for the road ahead. I had always had an interest in missions, and it was during that time that I subscribed to Mission Frontiers magazine. One of the issues I received contained a chart of all the unreached people groups in the world. As I began to read the over 7,000 names of these people groups from nations around the world I began to weep and desired to know more about what it would take to reach these who know nothing about Jesus, and no one is going to them to tell them about Him. I also had “ears to hear” when I read Matthew 24:14 which says:

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (NIV)

It was not long after that that I received and invitation to go to Indonesia and serve in the development of a recently established indigenous bible school. My strategy to go to the inner city and plant a church became pointless since there are thousands of churches in Philly, but my heart was now consumed with the fact that there were over 7,000 people groups that had no gospel witness available to them in the form of a church in their own language and culture.

Within two years my family (my wife and four daughters) moved to Indonesia to serve for the primary purpose of assisting the students of that bible school to focus their efforts on those people groups in Indonesia and other nations who have no gospel witness. Our adventure in Southeast Asia began and continues on to this day even though we do not presently live there.

Over the years, we have found ourselves involved in ministries overseas as well as here in the states that have reaching the unreached as their primary task. But lately, another passion has developed while serving in Asia assisting others to reach the unreached; and that is, seeing the church function in a more simple, organic way that focuses on making disciples. While training workers to go into the unreached areas of Southeast Asia we had to first “un-train” them regarding how to do and be the church and learn how to make disciples in a simple, organic way that fit the culture and understanding of the people they were reaching.

Upon returning to the states, I was “ruined” for church as I had always known and even served as leadership in the past. I longed for a more simple, organic expression focusing on making disciples rather than all the other “stuff” churches find themselves invested in.  So I began to familiarize myself with those who are part of the simple, organic and house church movements here in the USA. What a blessing to meet those who had come to the same conclusions as I had regarding church. But something was lacking: the zeal and burden for the unreached. This new direction caused me to be involved with many who have no present tangible desire to reach the unreached. Fortunately, I had met a few who were personally sacrificing and doing what they could to reach unreached peoples in India, China, and other nations, but these individuals are few, and congregation and networks are hardly nowhere to be found although I am sure there are some out there.

This is why in 2007 we started House2Harvest Network to serve, network and assist simple, organic churches and house churches to do strategic missions in order to finish the task of reaching all peoples with the gospel. Needless to say, the results have been slow. Unfortunately I have not been able to devote as much time as needed to accomplish our goals, but we are praying that this will soon change. I am still deeply moved when I read the list of unreached people groups, and I pray that our role in the near future will become more productive in seeing hundreds of teams from the simple, organic, house church movements take the gospel to these pioneer regions and begin making disciples where there are no disciples.

You can find the most recent list at: Joshua Project’s Unreached Listing

Will you weep with me!

Race With His Benediction

In the times that we live in, it is easy to drift away from the Lord and his direction in our life. We can get overcome by circumstances, disappointments and doubts. We can get caught up in theological debates, or trying to “do church” the right way, that we miss the basics. In our reaction against a system that can be abusive and controlling, we can easily enter into a state of self-centeredness and forget the call to reach those who have never heard the gospel, or have not heard the complete gospel of the Kingdom. The important thing is that we run and finish the race that our Lord has set before us.

Several years ago I heard this illustration (I forget the source, so I apologize if I get some of the details wrong.): During the Olympics in Mexico there was an amazing track and field event where a runner from Africa arrived to the finish line, which was in the stadium, long after the race was finished. He came limping into the stadium barely able to walk. He had fallen during the race and broken his leg. His arrival into the stadium was so late that everyone was packing up and cleaning. There were less than 1,000 folks left in the stands. The runner refused to stop and makes his last lap of the race around the stadium track. As he approaches the final turn, people stopped what they were doing and begin to applaud. Everyone left in the stadium gave him a standing ovation. Years later he was being interviewed about his experience in the Olympics. This runner, who was a poor farmer in Africa, was asked; “Why did you insist on doing that final lap around the stadium that day knowing that your leg was injured and you were the last to arrive, and it was very late? This humble African farmer answered; “My country did not send me to the Olympics to start and run a race, but to finish the race!”

Are we prepared to finish the race that the Lord has set before us? One of the portions of Scripture that speaks to me that helps me is that Psalm that is used many times in traditional services that speak a blessing over the congregation as a benediction. This is usually spoken at the end of a service, but it is really the Lords blessing over us as we are sent out with his blessing, his benediction! It reveals our Lord’s desire for his people.  In these short seven verses God reveals his heart for the nations and his desire to involve you in the process by blessing you.

Psalm 67.

v.1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, Selah

The Lord give you grace and he blesses you like an affirming parent, looking at you with endearment. Why does he do this?

v.2 that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.

He blesses us so that His ways will be known on the earth, this includes all nations. The result of this promise or this blessing is found in verse 3.

v.3 May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.

The nations will praise God because his kingdom has come to them. Will you reveal Jesus to them?

v.4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth.  Selah

v.5 May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.

When this is happening, great things happen! Harvest will come!

v.6 Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us.

v.7 God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him.

The race set before us is really the Lord’s race, and we run with Him to take his gospel to the nations and to our neighbors.  He blesses us to be a blessing to the world around us, not forgetting the nations. Are we willing to finish the race regardless of how we perceive our condition, or our position in the race? As a proponent of simple, organic church life, let us not forget our Lord’s purpose for blessing us.

What should we do? Where to do we begin? This is something we do together with those we fellowship and serve. Do you need help finishing the race? That is why we need one another, provoking one another in love to do the Lord’s will. If you or your fellowship needs some help in this area, I would be glad to correspond with you or come to your group and talk about it. May you be blessed to reach those who do not yet know Jesus! You can contact me at dondavis@house2harvest.org

Blessings to You!

Don

Missions, Money and Simple Church

[For the sake of full disclosure, I have a selfish motive regarding this subject, I am involved in missions work traveling to Asia from time to time. My wife and I plan to do this in a greater capacity as soon as possible, therefore we are seeking more funding than we presently receive.]

Now with that out of the way, I want to share with you some of my observations regarding missions, money and simple church. (When I speak of simple church, that also includes organic and house churches in varying degrees) ].

One of the factors that convinced us to be more simple in our way of being the Church is that we do not have to raise funds to pay for buildings, big shots, programs, staff or parking lots. What a freedom to be relieved of these burdens. Of course most of our local mission to make disciples takes very little money at all; the cost of a cup of coffee, a meal, or just doing life together. The funds that are now available to us are certainly greater than before and we can be a blessing and help those who are normally forgotten, and left out of typical “church budgets.” Our income that is available in our simple churches and networks can do great things with just a handful of folks who give sacrificially, cheerfully and generously. (see the article: “Assessing The State Of Simple Churches In The USA Regarding Releasing Resources Toward Finishing The Great Commission” by Steve Lyzenga for a thorough look at this subject). So what do we do with our money now? We certainly have needs that arise within our simple church or network that needs attention. I am making the assumption that you are already making sure that no one in your simple church lacks and that you are following the pattern we see in Acts when a need arises. Mission also includes taking the gospel to all nations (people groups), and some of these groups still have no access to the gospel. How do we fund these efforts to reach the nations?

Here are a few questions to ask yourselves as you seek the Lord’s leading in these areas:

In your simple/organic church how are you doing missions?

  • What about those who are connected with folks in the church who have not yet become believers but have material needs, how are you meeting those needs?
  • Are you seeking the Lord regarding how you can now use the funds you have to minister to those in the “household of faith” so that none among you lack?
  • What about the unreached, or out of reach nations? There are over 6000 nations (ethnic or people groups) who are out of reach and have no opportunity to hear about the gospel of the Kingdom. (For more information and statistics about unreached people groups go to: http://www.joshuaproject.net )
  • Since we no longer have up to 90% of our budgets going to serve ourselves, are we supporting apostolic servants of the Lord who have been called to these unreached groups?
  • Are we sending financial support to those who are training others who live near these people groups to reach them?
  • Are we funding apostolic leaders and teams to go into an area to make disciples of a few new believers in an unreached area that will train them to be disciple makers seeing churches planted among their own people?
  • Who is better equipped to go and make a handful of disciples in an unreached area and prepare these disciples to go and make disciples seeing churches planted? I believe it is those who are now function as part of a simple, organic church are prepared for this hour to reach the most difficult nations (people groups) around us. Are you seeking the Lord as to how He would have you do this?
  • Is your network ready to prepare a team to go to these unreached areas and send them with the proper funding, prayer and training?
  • Are you part of a regional network that can link together in order to accomplish more than one single simple church could? If not, are you willing to be a part of one and if there is not one to be the catalyst to start one?
  • If you are already sending teams to the unreached nations and/or serving the needy in your community, are you willing to share your story with others?

I challenge all who are involved in simple, organic churches and networks to seek the Lord regarding what you should be doing regarding taking the gospel of the Kingdom to the unreached nations as well as to those in need around you. Remember, Jesus said: “This gospel of the Kingdom will be preached to the whole world as a testimony to all nations (people groups), and then the end will come.” Matt 24:14. Let’s remember that the purpose of the church is not for our needs, what we can get out it, but to reach out and serve the lost and fallen world around us. We exist for others, not for ourselves.

I would love to hear about what you are doing or plan to do as well as how you are processing some of these questions so that we can learn from your experience. One way you can do this is to go to www.house2harvest.com and then click on the “Relationship Room” link and sign up to be a part of a network of folks who are simple church folks interested in doing mission and tell your story. Or you could just send me an email and tell me your story (dondavis@house2harvest.org ) I have a feeling that more is going on than we know.

….oh, and by the way, regarding my selfish motives – if you want to partner with my wife and I or want to know more about what we are doing let me know and I would love to share with you what we are doing and what our needs are. Send me an email at dondavis@house2harvest.org or you can comment here.

Parts 7- 10: Becoming an Apostolic Simple, Organic, House Church

Final installment of the series (Parts 7- 10) Becoming an Apostolic Simple, Organic, House Church: http://wp.me/pc3Ln-3k

Part 3 of 10: Becoming an Apostolic Simple, Organic, House Church

Don has just posted part three of a ten part series on house churches doing frontier missions. You can read these articles at his blog: The Dreaming Revolutionary

Join in with the discussion!

Simple Church Adopts an Unreached People Group

[This is a great report from Norm who is a part of House2Harvest Network]

The S. people are refugees forced to live in the desert for the last thirty eight years.  In July and August the roads, where they do exist, get hot enough to melt-down the tires on a car!  Water and food is shipped in by the United Nations.  Most of the men go off either to fight to regain their home land or find work in Spain.  There are about ten national believers in Jesus among the more than 167,000 who live in the camps.

In January 2008 I met a businessman who took a bold leap of faith.  He asked me how much it would cost to prepare and send a worker to an unengaged unreached people group who were oral learners.  I quickly responded with a conservative figure of $30,000 a year.  He responded by saying, “I want to cover expenses to send a team for two years.”  This gave us the capital to begin looking for a people and a team to send them to.  The Lord led us to the S. people.

At the end of the Labor Day 2008 House2House congress I ran into a couple who attended a few of the missions tracks.  While we were talking the Lord knit our hearts and I was able to give them some counsel regarding the call they were feeling.  I never mentioned the S. people.  A few months later Wayne* called me back asking that I mentor them because they have had a burden to work among the S. people.  Wow!

Wayne and Elizabeth* are simple church people in Texas and help lead a network of churches.  They are both around thirty years old.  They traveled among the S. people but now wanted to live with them.  In their network was another couple who soon joined them in their vision.  In November Wayne and Tom* traveled to the refugee camps where the S. people live, to begin the process of relocating their young families.

Since then we have had a few singles share the vision with the thought of joining the two couples.  The vision is simple…  teach English (much desired) in the schools already set up…  develop loving relationships as they learn about the people…  craft Bible stories into the local language with the help of a national…  enable the people to tell these stories to one another as is normal in an oral tradition culture…  develop inductive questions for each story which the people would discuss…  form the people into groups to worship the Lord and build each other up in the faith…  PRAY.  We have an expectation that the work the Lord is sending us to do can be completed after two years.

To help this vision we have developed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) which enables us to all be on the same page. (I am a firm believer in putting things in writing).  Mentorship is underway and the team will soon be going through various training, including Elijah Company missions training (www.elijahcompany.org).  We are also helping by drilling wells and constructing an agricultural system which could be used to grow food in the desert.

There are risks involved in everything and there is a risk involved in this also.  But when I take into account that big agencies are seeing returns of 50-60% of the people they send, I am thinking there is something wrong.  On the other hand, there are strengths in the sending of people from an organic relational church.

Firstly, those going have been discipled and know how to disciple in the crucible of close relationships.  They know how to do ‘church’ as in magnifying the Head, the Lord Jesus, in the midst of each other.

Secondly, they know how to enter the homes of simple people who may never have the opportunity to attend seminary or have a church building.  Their clusters will be in huts and tents experiencing the anointing of the Holy Spirit as each member does his work.

Thirdly, the resources that normally go to pay salaries, do programs and maintain buildings will now be directly available to reach the unreached people.

Fourthly, they will not be easily forgotten by their sending fellowship because each will have heard the Holy Spirit speak saying, “set apart for me…  for the work I have.” (Acts 13:1-2).  Ownership of the team by the church will be great because they are close family.

For the S. people the story has just begun!  We expect the team to be in the camps within the year.  I am in the process of selecting twelve more unengaged unreached people groups and securing the resources to send teams to them.

The adoption of the S. people by the simple church network illustrates the possibility of replicating the same with others of the 639 unreached people groups.  The House2Harvest network has resources for training and mentorship in culture, strategy, prayer, personal preparation, business and more.  It is composed of people who have been on the field and are now called by God to be part of the sending process for others.

If you would like to know more about the 639 unreached people groups and how your simple church can be involved in sending or going, contact us at the House2Harvest Network or contact me personally as well as Steve or Don.

For the Lord of the harvest,

Norman J. P.

*Names have been changed for security reasons.

A Shift in Definition of Unreached People Groups?

Do we need a new definition for the people groups that are unreached? Has this term been so misused that it must be redefined? Should the shift in our understanding of church, ecclesiology and mission reflect in this definition, not to mention our actual practice when reaching the unreached?

Here is the classic definition that many as well as I have been using: “An unreached people group is a people group or ethnic group, within which there is no viable indigenous church or churches with sufficient strength, resources, and commitment to sustain and ensure the continuous multiplication of churches.”

Here is my proposed new definition –

“An unreached people group (nation/ethnos) is any people group where there are no followers of Jesus who are making disciples within their own people group.”

I think it is time to change this definition. My reasons for this is that this new definition:

  • Kingdom of God Focused. It will deter those who are doing missions in order to promote Christianity or their brand of Christianity rather than relationship and submission to Jesus Christ as king. There are several attempts of large denominational missions organizational to define the unreached as being those who are not aligned with them theologically, organizationally or historically (see the example discussed here – http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/when-the-reached-are-unreached). In reference to my own experience, I was serving with a large church in an Asian nation several years ago which was made up of a major ethnic group within that nation. At the time this ethnic group was listed as unreached by a large missions organization. After corresponding with them, it was concluded that this ethnic group was on the list because there were no churches of their “brand” among them. This was arrogant and sectarian at least. As this error continues, it justifiably brings the unreached people group strategy to question. Possibly an adjustment to the definition of unreached will deter this self-gratifying strategy of building one’s own kingdom within a people group will be exposed and possibly thwarted.
  • Acknowledging all followers of Jesus. Many are ignoring the huge numbers of followers of Jesus that have chosen not to align themselves with historic or organized Christianity, evangelicalism or denominational organizations. This definition will include them in the body of Christ, though separate from organized Christendom.
  • Focuses on making disciples. This new definition emphasizes the mandate from our Lord to make disciples rather than plant churches. Nowhere in scripture are we commanded to plant churches, but to make disciples. Jesus builds his church – and he can do it without the help of human organizations. Simply, when disciples of Jesus are being made, church happens! The beauty is when it does happen, Jesus is the head, and the community of believers continue on the context of their culture rather than becoming an oddity or foreign.
  • A simple, organic definition. This new definition is based upon the organic and simple multiplication of disciples through the means of relationships. This will focus reaching the unreached on knowing Jesus rather than militaristic strategies, marketing schemes, or tactics to convert from one religion to another (rather than relationship with Jesus). There will be little chance of misunderstanding the intention of the gospel messenger that many times sees them as a foreign threat that may bring colonialism, foreign religion, cultural destruction or worse, but plainly introducing the simple gospel of the Kingdom of Christ by lifestyle and dialogue.

After walking through a huge paradigm shift in my own life and way of thinking I have grown more and more uncomfortable with the definition (see above) for the unreached peoples and other similar versions.

Now I am not naive to the point that I think the “big guns” will immediately change their definition of the unreached. This would mean that their strategies will be reexamined, their methodologies will be in question and the “main thing” will be changed from planting churches to making disciples.  But I do hope that as I change my vocabulary to match what I strongly feel the Lord is saying to his people in these times, it will bring greater clarity and mission in my own life.

What do you think?