How is it that, after all these years, we still have multiple lists of unreached peoples? I continue to maintain that we should be asking, “Can’t we all just get along?” My friend, Justin Long, recently wrote an article at his site, “The Devil is in the Details.”
I responded to him, “Thanks for the time you invested in setting this down on paper, Justin. Or — I guess I should say… on screen. :-) Your title, in my opinion, is more telling than all of us might realize, at least at first. ‘The Devil is in the definitions.’ We can smooth it over all we want, but to me, Satan has to pump his fist a la Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World Series. You *have* to see it at
Believe it or not, I happened to watch that game *live*. I remember seeing him pump his fist at 2nd base and my eyes instantly misted with emotion — and I’m not even a big baseball fan! :-) Well all that to say this: to me, like it or not, Satan *had* to pump his fist Friday morning in Cape Town. Everything had been set exactly right. Paul could have walked up on the stage and said practically *anything* and we’d all given it a standing ovation. Anything, except what he said. Which was — here’s a *new* list, with *new* data (and it didn’t help any that inconsistencies *jumped* out at us all). I confess: I looked around to the other five members of my table group, none of which was U.S. of American, and lowered my head, and gently shook it, then just apologized. The really wild thing was — they all had to think about it for a second whether or not they’d accept my apology on behalf of Lausanne, Paul, and the USA. (They eventually *did*, but it took about 15 seconds to say so.)
To me, we *can* fix this.
But I can’t figure out how this happened. Lausanne III had gotten so many things *right*. How did this sneak past them? Did Doug Birdsall sign off on it? Was it because we’ve lost some of our senior leadership on the Strategy Working Group (by senior, I mean “experienced” not “aged”)? So a “new guard” came in without regard for what had gone on before? I happened to be in the room in 1995 when Luis Bush brought together about 25 researchers from all over the globe. I remember the reaction from our Indian brothers (sub-continent of India) when Luis said, “Nope, we need a list with 2000 or fewer unreached groups.” The guy from India humbly said, “But sir, I have here a list larger than 2000 groups just within India!” Luis said, “The USA public won’t stand for it. We can’t get our arms around that many groups. Besides, I’m convinced there will be big marketability for a list of around 2000 people groups as we approach the year 2000.” The room was stunned. But in the months that followed, everybody stayed at the table, and at the “Launch” meeting later that year, the Joshua Project List of Unreached Peoples rolled out to a fairly big fanfare (with 1739 groups listed, by the way). Patrick was there. The IMB was there. Wycliffe was there. Caleb Project was there. ACMC was there. Even Brigada was there. (OK… I’m only listing Brigada with those other guys because I’m hoping some search engine will think it’s for real. :-) ) What I can’t for the life of me figure out is — didn’t anyone tell Paul that somebody had fought all this fight before? *15 Years* before?
The way to fix this whole thing is to embrace the JoshuaProject list
and add a column of data to it — or even several columns — from Paul’s list. Let’s build on what we already have. There’s no need to have a new website serving up a new list. Let’s start with the known. And Build. (It doesn’t help matters that the Finishing the Task (FTT) list didn’t provide sources, didn’t give more than just a few columns of info, and cheated so many people out of the group they were following. [Shaking my head.]) Pure and simple — this was a dropped ball. To fix it, we need unity, not what happened at Cape Town.
I understand there’s a meeting happening next month in California. I’m praying for that get-together, hoping it can not just heal this, but pole-vault it forward.
Somebody’s going to be able to use this someday as a powerful lesson in the importance of gathering the *legacy of history* prior to trying to force a future following. [end]
So what’s your response? How do you resolve this entire discussion in your own mind? (That it’s irrelevant? … unimportant? :-) ) One Brigada reader already wrote, “I vote that concern over UPG lists should be very important to us, because UPG’s seem so important to God. After all, Jesus isn’t setting up his eternal kingdom on the New Earth until individuals have been re-born from every tribe, nation, language, and people still in existence. As to whether there should 32, 236, 1, or 0 deaf groups listed, I don’t know. Socio-economic factors, literacy, and other within-human-control factors don’t seem to be the types of groups mentioned in the Bible.”
Another Brigada participant responded, “This did not sneak by everyone. Many have been trying for a long time to bring attention to the need for corrections in the FTT [“Finishing the Task”] lists, as well as to the errors and confusion in definitions and presentations. As an American, I too have been making apologies for leaders of this initiative (though very well-meaning) who have not always honored the voices of Global South and other leaders of global and regional networks focused on Unreached Peoples. For me, this issue is bigger than one initiative. If we as Westerners believe God has shown us something, could we humbly go to our fellow co-laborers around the world and submit it as a consideration, trusting that God has already (in most locations) raised up mature, spiritual leaders who may have the bigger piece of the Lord’s discernment where it affects their regions and cultures? Better yet, might we ask how we can serve the vision God has given them?” Good questions. To Paul’s credit, he’s definitely wanting to involve an international audience. Of this, there is no doubt. During that session in Cape Town, however, several seemed to have missed his point.
What’s your own take?
[Edited 13 of November: As it turns out, someone must have shown the above piece to Paul, the presenter at Cape Town. He called me just 48 hours after this Brigada went “to press” and invited me to attend the meeting in California. I made it clear — his humility, along with his commitment to ‘fix’ this, seems quite remarkable. More later.