How Serving an Unreached People Group Changed My Perspective

Serving the unreached requires a different ministry paradigm and unwavering hope that God will make himself known.

What’s it like to live for years among an unreached people group (UPG) resistant to the gospel?

What’s it like to interact with unreached people daily, to pray for them, to show mercy and compassion and meet their needs, to make deep relationships? And then, to finally earn the spiritual respect to be able to share Christ with these neighbors? I have found that serving UPGs is hard ground, but worth the years of effort.

When my family and I went to our first UPG over 30 years ago, we were told to be happy if we saw one conversion from Islam to Christianity. Within four years of arrival in Africa, an influential book was released on the topic of starting churches with Muslim Background Believers, and soon the global body of Christ was tracking numerous conversions and churches planted worldwide. We saw conversions in our ministry and the start of a church. God has been working in the Muslim world in amazing ways over the last three decades.

Over the years, my wife and I have had the privilege to live and minister among UPGs on four continents. It’s amazing to be among people who have never heard of Jesus, who don’t have a Bible, and who don’t know Christians.

UPGs don’t have access to the gospel. Ministry to UPGs requires a different paradigm because they are not just unsaved; they have no way to hear the gospel. And that’s why we go—to invite them to consider Jesus.

The process of living and serving among UPGs shifted my perspective on several important facets of ministry to the unreached. Among the many lessons I have learned, the major thing that God has taught me is to have hope. He will make a way to make himself known among people who have never heard.

God Is Already Working

It was amazing to me to find that in the darkest places—places with no believers for miles—God was already making himself known. In one case, a woman had become interested in spiritual matters after reading a tract she had collected 20 years before she finally met us while on a trip to the capital city. God has raised eternity in people’s hearts, and we need to look for it.

We found other missionaries already present in every new place we lived and ministered. It was as if God was saying, “I’m already here, and working—let’s go!”

Be on Display as His Witness

Our daily work was to be on display as believers. We looked for ways to build relationships, to exercise compassion, and to be spiritual people among our friends and neighbors. Why should they trust Christians when they had been taught that Christians are mistaken? The fact that we knew spiritual truth did not translate to our neighbors understanding that we could be trusted experts in spiritual matters. They had to see us living it out every day, in our work and in our family. Living truth generates interest. And as we lived it, people slowly noticed and became open to discussions and questions about spiritual issues.

Consider Heaven

Revelation 7:9 describes a scene from heaven. There are people from every tribe, language, people, and tongue worshipping around the throne. But how did they get there?

Romans 10:14 asks the questions that hold the answer: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” People from UPGs will call on Jesus, they will hear of Jesus, and they will be preached to because someone went and told them.

Every people group will be represented in heaven. That gives me unmeasurable hope! God is capturing hearts among those who have no access because the church is sending laborers, and willing witnesses are going. And God is opening people’s hearts to respond to the gospel.

Yes, it’s a miracle when anyone believes—and God is playing that miracle out around the world among UPGs.

Someone must go to them. All must hear the good news of the gospel.

You Can Help Reach the Unreached With the Gospel

We at ABWE believe that God is raising up a new generation to go to some of the farthest frontiers of missions. Recognizing that time is short, and eternity matters, we’ve launched the Open Initiative to send 7 teams to unreached people groups in the next 7 years. Explore how you can join us through prayer, sending, supporting, or going.