The Unreached

Unreached or Least-Reached People groups are sometimes referred to as the “Hidden Peoples”.  These groups are defined by ethnic or sociological traits to be people so different from the cultural traditions of any existing church that missions (rather than evangelism) strategies are necessary for the planting of indigenous churches within their particular traditions.

How many People Groups are there in the world?
Some say 27,000. Others say 16,000. Some suggest 13,000. Still others say 10,500. Which numbers are correct? Could they all be correct?   The Joshua Project list is just a step toward a yet to be defined larger peoples list. From a church planting perspective, a complete peoples list would be a unimax peoples list. Unimax people are defined as “the maximum sized group sufficiently unified to be the target of a single people movement to Christ, where “unified” refers to the fact that there are no significant barriers of either understanding or acceptance to stop the spread of the gospel.” (“Finishing the Task," Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, Winter and Koch, 1999)

There are two barriers cited, (1) understanding, and (2) acceptance. The barrier of understanding suggests that language always is important when defining a people group. If for a particular situation the understanding barrier is more important than the acceptance barrier then defining people group by language, perhaps exclusively by language, is appropriate. And this seems to be the case in most cultures and situations. In other situations the acceptance barrier may be as high, or perhaps higher, than the understanding barrier. The reasons for lack of acceptance may include caste, religious tradition, location, common histories and traditions, and other subtle cultural distinctives. In these situations the barrier of acceptance should be considered on an equal footing with the barrier of understanding, and sometimes acceptance is a higher barrier than is the barrier of understanding.

So after all that, what is the answer to the simple question of how many people groups are there? It depends, if referring to ethno-linguistic peoples about 13,000 and if referring to unimax peoples (the church planting perspective) about 27,000, of which about 16,000 are listed here as 'ethnic' (cultural-ethno-linguistic) peoples'. Or if referring to ethnic (cultural-ethno-linguistic) peoples without reference to country boundaries about 10,100. All are right answers depending on the perspective.   

Facts about the Worlds Least-reached or Un-reached people groups:
• Over two billion people live in these unreached people groups and every day some 66,000 of them perish without having heard the Gospel. That is about 26 million a year.
• Of the world's 16,000 Major People Groups, 6880 (having 2.1 billion persons) are considered Unreached - though Christian work occurs among most of them.
• 60% of unreached people groups live in countries closed to missionaries from North America.
• There are 7,559 people groups (of the 16,000) with fewer than 10,000 individuals, in addition there are 932 for which no population has been reported (but the population is probably small). For all these small groups, the total number of individuals is less than 20,000,000 meaning that 53% of the 16,000 people groups contain only a tiny fraction of the world's population.
• 2,438 groups are primarily Hindu, totaling about 900,000,000 individuals.
• 516 groups are primarily Buddhist, totaling nearly 375,000,000 individuals.
• 830 unreached Han Chinese groups. In which live 150 million individuals.
• 2,550 unreached tribal groups. Only about 140 million individuals are in these 3,000 groups.
• The Mandarin Chinese is the largest people group, being in 98 countries with a total of about 793,000,000 individuals, and with 783,000,000 of those in China.
• India has the largest number of ethnic people groups, 2,327 in the Joshua Project database.
• Papua New Guinea is the runner-up in number of people groups, at 872. Interestingly, the largest group of these 872 is only 394,300 in population. The total population of the country is only 5,835,000, yet there are nearly 900 people groups. Indonesia (765) and Nigeria (505) follow Papua New Guinea.
• On the other end of the spectrum, South Korea only has seven people groups, with a country population of 47,841,000.

A Snapshot
1. In one Zip Code in Queens, NY there are more than 133 nations represented.
2. There are 250,000 Arabs in Detroit and 40,000 Iraqis.
3. There are more than 1 million Japanese living in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
4. In Buenos Aires, Argentina, a city of 8 million, 10% of all the churches are Korean speaking.
5. In Marseille, France, a city of 2 million, 31% are African (mostly of Arab origin).
6. Minneapolis/St. Paul have 136 languages and more than 70 ethnic groups represented.
7. The Philips neighborhood of Minneapolis alone has 100 languages spoken.
8. More than 20% of the population of the Twin Cities is first or second generation immigrants. This is more than 500,000 people.
9. There are now more Buddhists (56,000) living in the Twin Cities than Assemblies of God adherents in the state of Minnesota.
10. There are twice as many Muslims (111,000) living in the Twin Cities than Assemblies of God adherents in the state of Minnesota.
11. In 1990 there were 4 Muslim mosques in the Twin Cities. In 2005 there are more than 70.
12. The Twin Cities has the largest Hmong, Somali and Ethiopian populations in the U.S.
13. The Twin Cities has the second largest Tibetan population in the U.S.
14. The Twin Cities has the largest concentration of Native Americans in an urban area in the US.
15. Chicago has more Bulgarians than Sophia, Bulgaria (the capital).
16. Pittsburg, PA is the Serbian capital of the US.
17. Bartlett, Illinois—Hindu temple—100 idols.

World mission is no longer across oceans, deserts and mountains. The nations have moved to the neighborhood. The mission frontier is no longer geographically distant but culturally different and it is literally in our neighborhoods. What does this mean for you and the church? What is God doing and how will we respond? Contact us to get involved.



"People ask why we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives?and in the end they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for a life wasted."
- Nate Saint
RSS Twitter Facebook