Think with me, back to the beginning, way back in the beginning. God told Noah and his family after they set foot on what was a new earth following the flood, to “be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” From that point, the world began to be populated again. Without simplifying too much, the peoples of the earth came to be, following that point. Genesis 9:19 essentially tells us that from Noah’s sons came the people groups of the world. And at that new beginning, we get the idea that God desired for the world’s people to spread out over the earth.
So, there’s where the world’s people groups came from. It’s a simplification of course but it helps us understand the next part.
Fast forward many generations following that moment and what we have is fruitful multiplication. But God’s word tells us that people stayed tightly clustered together in some way. And it tells us that they had become so confident of their collective power and resources that there was seemingly nothing they couldn’t do. Even build a tower higher than anything seemingly to prove to the world that they had arrived.
Scattered and separated
That wasn’t what God desired; not in the slightest. So He gave them the gift if we can call it that. He caused them, somehow, to begin to speak in various mutually un-understandable languages which caused them to finally obey His command to spread out over the face of the earth. So now, the world’s people groups were scattered and spoke different languages. That sounds a whole lot like life as we know it now.
The problem was that, from what we can see from the Bible, God’s activity when it came to direct revelation about Himself and how to be in a right relationship with Him, was focused on one people group: Israel. And it was in an era when communication traveled at the speed of a human step. And while we can see God’s heart for all people to know Him (in fact they did in the beginning, both following Creation and then again following the Flood), geographical separation, the language and culture barrier and the slowness of communication meant that the good news, the gospel of how to be in a right relationship with God, whether in the pre-Christ “Old Testament” era or even following Christ’s physical years on Earth, traveled slowly.
That meant that the people groups scattered beyond the traveling range of Israel would have missed out on the chance to hear the truth. Now, as time passed and there were quicker means of traveling the face of the Earth, the good news began to spread. And as the world developed in the era of the Roman Empire, knowledge of the Truth, however complete or incomplete, began to spread far more rapidly. But it still didn’t reach everybody, every people group speaking their unique language.
Accessible but still separated
Finally, we speed to the present and find that though communication travels at the speed of light in digital form, and as humans can physically get from one side of the globe to the opposite in 24 hours or less. This means that the good news of God has now circled the globe time and time again. So, how are there still people groups who don’t know? Who has not ever known? Surely 2000+ years since Jesus was on our planet should have been enough for everyone to hear?
It was enough time. Time’s never been the problem.
So why are there unreached people groups today? Here’s where we think the problems lie:
- Willingness to go to where they are (many live in geographically isolated places)
- Willingness to deeply understand their language and culture
- Lack of knowledge that they could even exist in our modern-day and age (and thus low numbers of people aware of let alone doing anything about it)
- A misunderstanding that somehow they’re ok in their ignorance of God
While each one of those points could be the subject of another blog post (let alone the multitude of books written about them already), suffice it to say, they’re terrible barriers.
In the end, unreached people groups aren’t just a popular term in missiological circles, they’re real people. They’re Moms and Dads, kids and grandparents, families and communities who are living and sadly, dying, without the knowledge that their Creator loves them and desires them to know Him. They’re on God’s heart and so they should be on ours too.
“Tag. You’re it.”
That’s sort of what happened to Bethany and I. Until we understood that there were people still cut off from the knowledge of God and His story, His truth, in their language with no access to a Church body to grow in, our lives were on a trajectory that might have contributed to people groups staying cut-off longer. But when this knowledge crashed into our lives, that trajectory was altered and we looked, with a sense of accountability, for a way to make it possible for some of these people, some of these families and communities, to be reconciled to their Creator. And that’s what led us to, at the time, New Tribes Mission.
Today, this knowledge is still a major driving force in why we’re doing what we’re doing. It’s why we live the way we do, raising our financial support. It’s why we’ve devoted the career phase of our lives, to serve in this commission God gave to us all. And it’s why we need your help. You’re a part of the Church, the Body of Christ. And it’s to ALL OF US, that Jesus gave the job of making disciples of all the people groups of the world, especially the unreached ones.
So, what part will you play?