Transforming Unengaged Unreached People Groups
The 1974 Lausanne Congress for World Evangelization served as a launching pad for some new strategic language that has greatly shaped the course of missions in this generation. It was there that Dr. Ralph Winter first introduced the concept of “unreached people groups” based on work he had done cooperatively with Donald McGavran. For his perspective on what happened there, go to www.youtube.com and search for “Ralph Winter - Unreached Peoples and Beyond (1974 to Now).”
An explosion of fresh missional activity emerged as mission strategists started researching the needs of the world through a new ethno-linguistic lens. Operation World, The Joshua Project, the World Christian Database, and the CPPI Index from the International Mission Board (IMB) began collecting information on the many thousands of people groups in the world where there was no indigenous self-reproducing church capable of reaching the group without cross-cultural missionary assistance. This birthed the AD 2000 and Beyond movement and myriads of other initiatives that greatly advanced the cause of Christ in the last quarter of the 20 Century.
Even though much progress was made, there were still over 6,750 unreached people groups in the world at the start of the new millennium. To address the need of the many who were still unreached, Billy Graham sponsored the Amsterdam 2000 World Conference For Evangelists. 10,287 evangelists and other participants representing 209 nations and territories gathered at this historic event. Within this event there was a group of 600 church and mission strategists that met around 75 tables. One afternoon, in a meeting chaired by Paul Eschelman (Founder, The Jesus Film Project) and Bruce Wilkenson (Founder, Walk Thru the Bible) they focused on what they called the 252 largest untargeted people groups. These were people groups each with a population over 100,000 that were not only unreached, but – worse yet! – no one was even trying to reach them. In a moving session they called for mission leaders to adopt these large groups. Excitedly many began to do so, but then the process stopped and there were still half of these untargeted people groups that no one had adopted.
What happened next was one of the most exciting moments for missions in this generation. For a full appreciation of what occurred go to www.finishingthetask.com/videos.html and click on “History of Table 71" for an inspiring history of the birth of the resulting UUPG movement . In essence, those gathered around one of those 75 tables began to dream together of what would happen if the number of unengaged unreached people groups in the world could be reduced to zero. The strategic synergy that developed led to the creation of Table 71, a group of mission leaders that have met three times a year ever since with the singular goal of doing everything possible to reach that number zero.
One of the initiatives inspired by Table 71 is Finishing the Task (FTT). It was launched at an event sponsored by Table 71 at The Cove (Billy Graham’s Training Center) in Asheville, North Carolina, in November, 2005. At that time, the original list of 252 untargeted people groups used in Amsterdam was upgraded (due to new research) to become a list of 639 UUPGs over 100,000. This then became one of the key themes of the call2all events over the last four years. As a result of this activist movement, a great majority of these UUPGs now have initial church planting initiatives occurring on the ground!
The latest step in this sequence of events that began in Lausanne, was accelerated in Amsterdam, and built steam in Asheville is the call2all World Congress in LA. At this event we are launching a new list of 1,015 UUPGs – new because it now includes all the people groups over 50,000. Of these:
84 are unengaged. No one is trying to reach them. We need to change this.
305 are adopted but not yet engaged with church planting. It’s time to reach them – now!
626 are now engaged with church planting. We need to strengthen these pioneer initiatives.
from the 777 Document, July 2012
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