And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
When we hear “nations,” we think in terms of geopolitical territories: the United States of America, India, Honduras, Nigeria, etc. The term “nations” as reflected in Matthew 28 is the root word ethne which gives us an understanding of ethnic groups or people groups. According to the IMB (International Mission Board), There is an estimate of 12,000 people groups in the world.
If we would take a look at a map of the continent of Africa that shows geopolitical boundaries of the different countries, it would look something like this:
However when we look at a map of the continent of Africa that shows the ethne (people groups of Africa, it would look something like this:
We can notice how there are many more people groups than countries and that some of the people groups expand across geopolitical borders. To help us understand further, let me define some terms.
A people group is defined as an ethnolinguistic group with a common self-identity that is shared by various members. For strategic purposes, it is the largest group within which the Gospel can spread without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance. Some of these barriers would be language, culture, and customs.
Unreached people groups are defined as a people group where there is no indigenous community of believing Christians able to engage this people group with church planting. They may have heard the gospel. A few people might have even become Christians. But they can’t reach the rest of their own people group without assistance. Technically speaking, the percentage of evangelical Christians in this people group is less than 2 percent.
Unengaged people groups are unreached groups where there is no church planting strategy, consistent with evangelical faith and practice, underway. Gathering delivers and planting church are keys to establishing an effective multiplying presence among these people groups.
Heart Language is the most effective language for communicating deeply and learning new concepts. Our heart language is the language we understand our native culture.
Revelation 7:9 says “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crayon gout with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
We are promised that there will be people from every nation, tribe, people group, and language collectively around the throne proclaiming that Salvation belongs to our God and to the Lamb. All people groups matter to God and one of the first steps we can take to bring the Gospel to them is by participating in getting God’s Word into a language they can understand at a heart level. This is why we are participating in the “Their Bibles are Blank” opportunity, because we want to see the nations come to Jesus and we want to join God in getting His Word around the world. Will you join me as we take steps to fill their Bibles?