The great commission tells us to go into “all the world.” That phrase can literally be interpreted as “all the ethnicities” or “all the people groups.” And that’s why missionaries are always talking about unreached people groups of the world.
The Joshua Project defines a people group as “the largest group within which the gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.”
When missionaries talk about people groups, they are usually talking about ethnolinguistic groups. Essentially, they ask the question of whether a group of people could come together for a Bible study to learn and grow in faith together without cultural or language barriers. One of the simplest examples of this is none other than food! An orthodox Jew eats a strict kosher diet that includes keeping a kosher kitchen. They could not go to a Hindu’s house for Bible study. That’s a cultural boundary, even if they speak the same language.
Going Beyond Basic Definitions
These groups have tendencies of shifting in an ever-changing world. A group that was considered a people group 100 years ago may not be a people group today. There can even be new people groups forming because of urbanization, globalization, and migration.
All that is to say that this defining people groups business is complicated! Missiologists have to work hard to stay on top of an ever-changing world in light of globalization and migration.
The UPG Priority Matrix seeks to be relevant to these complications. If you give it a look, you see that we combine smaller groups into larger groups, because that is often what happens in North America among migrant communities. For example, we combine all Hindi speaking Indian Hindus into one group–the largest overall population on the matrix. These might represent a variety of “people groups” if you’re in India, but in North America, they can be considered one “people group.”
Why does all this matter?
Now that you’ve waded through all of those technicalities, are you ready for the exciting aspect of this? It means that North America could be one of the most strategic places to reach unreached people groups because the gospel could spread more broadly. If churches began growing among the 60,000 Afghans in Fremont, California, then minority ethnic groups in Afghanistan may be able to hear the gospel from a family member without a missionary ever needing a visa, travel permissions, or language skills.
The possibilities are literally endless. One thing is clear–it is the responsibility of every Christian to share their faith with people. If the dream is that everyone has a chance to hear about Jesus in a way that they understand, why not start here with the most unreached people groups in America? You can learn more here.