7) What’s Your Take on This Article Criticizing Unreached Peoples?

What do we say to this guy who feels that the concept of finishing the task by reaching unreached peoples is biblically inconsistent, “practically impossible,” and, in a sense, missionally important — but distracting. He finally asks — “What’s the point?” Could someone please write a response to this article? We’ll publish it.

 

www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/misleading-words-missions-strategy-unreached-people-groups/

 

To respond, just click comment following the web verson of this item. Thanks in advance for sharing from your heart!

 

12 Responses to 7) What’s Your Take on This Article Criticizing Unreached Peoples?
  1. Jeremy Bugh Reply

    Hey Brigada family, I wrote the following short response on my Facebook page. Happy to share!

    I hesitated to share this article, but I’m guessing some of you may have already read it anyway. I know I’m late to the game on this, but here are a few of my quick thoughts related to his main points. I appreciate his criticisms, but also think it’s important to have a conversation about this extremely crucial topic. Let me know who you agree with! (If you don’t want to read all of this, skip to point 3 :) )

    1. The claim that “All Nations” when used in Scripture refers to every ethnolinguistic group is biblically inconsistent.
    1A. (Response) Revelation 7:9 states that before the throne will be a multitude from “every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and the lamb.” Sure, that might not lend itself to the modern-day understanding of “people group,” but it definitely makes clear that it’s more than just reaching nations or even as many individuals as we can.
    1B. (Response) If “All Nations” in the Great Commission does not imply “every nation, tribe, people, and language,” but simply “as many people as possible,” wouldn’t we just want to go to the easiest places where we see the most fruit. Yet that didn’t seem to be the model Paul followed. He made it his ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that he would not be building on someone else’s foundation. (Romans 15:20)

    2. Reaching every ethnolinguistic group is practically impossible
    2A. (Response) I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, but I’ll simply say that I am thankful the disciples did not let the “practical impossibility” of the resurrection deter them from believing and preaching it.

    3. “Material and personnel resources have been redirected out of areas no longer deemed strategic.”
    3A. I see zero statistics/facts/data points backing up the claim that reaching the unreached has led to a lack of resources being sent to the “reached world.” For every $100,000 that Christians spend, $1 goes to the unreached… 30 times more missionaries go to the reached world to work with Christians than to the places that have no access to the Gospel. http://www.thetravelingteam.org/stats/
    3B. This is really what got me fired up to share my thoughts. I often hear people claim that by focusing on the unreached, we neglect the reached world… First of all, that is statistically not true. Secondly, is it “unloving” or “neglectful” to focus more on those who need more than those who need less? We don’t set up food banks for the upper middle class. We don’t create wheelchair ramps for college athletes. We focus our attention on true needs because we love the needy as Christ did.

    Imagine a father has two sons. He spends his summer teaching the older one how to swim. The next summer, the older son is gliding through the pool with ease, while the younger still has not learned to stay afloat. Now which would be neglectful? For the father to spend 99% of his time helping his older son hone his skills while letting his second son drown? Or for this dad to focus most of his attention on teaching his younger son the basics, so that both boys can be self-sustaining in the pool?
    Do you really think we’ve gone so far as to focus “too much” on the unreached? Based on the statisitics, and on God’s heart for “every tribe, language, and people,” I would say we still haven’t done enough.

  2. Dennis Miller Reply

    My first response is identical to Jeremy’s point 3 A&B above. Years ago I served with the old ACMC ministry and our stats clearly demonstrated that most of the resources were directed to the already reached and I’m sure that hasn’t changed.

  3. Randy Rhoades Reply

    Back in 1997 I prepared a list of paradigm shifts in missions which I had noticed between 1959 and 1997 that lead to greater missions involvement or shifted missions strategies. The panta ta ethne as presented by Dr. Winter in 1974 was one of eleven key shifts in thinking that changed the face of missions from the early concepts which were good but more simplistic.

  4. Andrew DIPROSEA Reply

    any more reponses? What about ethnic groups which are now extinct?

  5. Andrew DIPROSE Reply

    any more reponses? What about ethnic groups which are now extinct? Seriously I think not all the objections in the article are useless.

  6. Penny Reply

    After I read The Lost History of Christianity by Philip Jenkins, it seems to me that the gospel had reached and churches existed in China, India, Africa, and many other far away places from Jerusalem by the early Middle Ages. They fell or disappeared except for small representations or cultural remnants in modern times. These areas with their people groups have ‘heard’ the gospel but in centuries past and then lost it. Would that count as having been ‘reached’? Of course, missionaries now should still continue to reach them, but we also have radio, TV, and satellite broadcasts in many languages, as well as international students coming to USA and other nations where they can meet Christians and hear the gospel, too.

  7. Nelson Malwitz, Founder MissionNext Reply

    With all due respect, the disciples were not very effective cross-cultural missionaries, except perhaps for Thomas to India. Then, the Apostle Paul comes along and speaks crazy things like, “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the LORD Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24 Will we do anything for Jesus? That level of passion is not an often shared value in our, or any, culture. But it is the sort of passion needed to bring good news to those that have not heard.

    But without going to the unreached or underserved, Romans 10:14-15 has no meaning. “How are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach if they are not sent? As it is written, Blessed are the feet of those that bring good news.” This thought is was not original with Paul. It is a citation of Isaiah 52:7 “How beautiful are the feet who … brings good news … who publishes salvation.” It is hard? Yes. Is it convenient? No. It is cost effective? No. But this is how blessing comes and Heaven is populated!

  8. Randall Smelser Reply

    The article was well presented and raised questions that need to be raised, both biblically and practically.
    As a church worker in Germany, also working with Syrian Refugees, I am constantly confused by the fact that Syrian Muslims who believe in some sort of God, have a Bible in their own language and have had a Christian witness since Paul’s time are considered “Unreached” while German atheists in an area of Germany that is well below 1% evangelical are considered “Reached” because they have a Bible in their language and have had some sort of Christian witness since 800 AD.
    Sometimes I think we are so busy with one specific goal that we have forgotten the big picture – that God does not want anyone to perish. While the concept of “Unreached People Groups” has its place, it should not become a “Holy Grail” that is chased after yet always remains illusive.

  9. Mike Reply

    We’ve got to be careful about going to one extreme or the other. In my opinion, it’s a “both and” in this situation. Yes, we should be seeking to take the gospel to every single people group on the planet, but we should also keep an emphasis on developing healthy churches. However, whose role is that? Is it the local church or is the mission sending agencies? In my opinion, it’s the local church. The mission agencies should be focused on the taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. While we do want to handle Scripture with great care, I do hope that we don’t limit the scope of our work by trying to assess what is practically possible or how far our dollars go.

    Another interesting point to take into account is that the authors of the article work for Training Leaders International. Therefore, the scope of their work is in areas that presumably have established churches. It’s in their vested interest to define missions as working in areas that have an established church and church leadership.

    Again, this isn’t a criticism of the authors. As I said, it’s a “both and,” and we have to be careful about neglecting either end of the spectrum.

  10. Orvel Griffith Reply

    establishing churches, and training leaders) but instead on finishing the task (i.e., getting the gospel to every last people group). Matthew 28 has been usurped by Matthew 24.”
    Have we been guilty of only preaching the Word to every…nation. And moving on the next .. nation. “So we can as he states, “finish the task”? We send missionaries and they proclaim the Word and move on, and say we reached another nation. But did them make disciple?

  11. Orvel Griffith Reply

    Sorry about the first reply

    What about his statement;
    “With all the emphasis on people groups over the last 50 years, however, we’ve made a course correction at the expense of our mission. Specifically, the focus hasn’t been on making disciples of all nations (evangelizing, baptizing, teaching, establishing churches, and training leaders) but instead on finishing the task (i.e., getting the gospel to every last people group). Matthew 28 has been usurped by Matthew 24.”
    Have we been guilty of only preaching the Word to every…nation. And moving on the next .. nation. “So we can as he states, “finish the task”? We send missionaries and they proclaim the Word and move on, and say we reached another nation. But did them make disciple?

  12. Neal Pirolo Reply

    I “love” the simplicity (not simplistic) of Christ and His Word. My ministry experience has brought me to this concluding statement: Where there are people, there is need; where there is need, there is opportunity to minister in Jesus’ Name. Paul wanted to go to Spain, where he thought the Gospel had never been preached. But he left Timothy in Ephesus to “find faithful men, entrust to them all that you have seen and heard of me (today, the Word of God!), SO THAT they can go out and teach others.” Today (to God be all glory), there are “Pauls” and “Timothys”. Yes, I would “throw in my hat” with those who believe we have swung the pendulum a bit too far to the Matthew 24 passage, and all the ramifications to the extreme of “bringing back the kingdom” (intentionally left uncapitalized). Let us have a “firm grasp on His will for our life” (Eph 5:17) and “once having put our hand to the plow, not looking back.” (Luke 9:62) What a privilege it is to be about our Father’s business!

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