Reaching the Reached: How to Move Christians Toward Those Without Christ

Reaching the unreached must begin with motivating, equipping, and sending the reached.

Missions has seen a dramatic increase in discussions about the unreached in recent years.

Focusing on the unreached is a positive trend as it encourages the church look beyond its normal circle of ministry. But who is ultimately responsible to reach the unreached? The answer is easy. The reached will reached the unreached.

This simple fact prompts us to ask two more questions. (1) How can we effectively communicate the need and urgency of sharing Christ with the unreached to other Christians—or in other words, how do we “reach the reached”? And (2) how can we help move the reached toward the unreached?

1. How to ‘Reach the Reached’

We must first define what it means to “reach the reached.” This simply means that we must challenge the minds and hearts of believers caught in their daily routines. It is easy for Christians living in reached areas of the world to take for granted the easy access they have to the gospel. Some do not realize how many unreached people groups remain without gospel witness in their community. We need to refocus the thought patterns and habits of these believers towards the goal of missions.

We do this, in part, through theological education. Dr. Michael Ortiz of Dallas Theological Seminary defines theological education as “a communal process towards knowledge of and centeredness on the God of the Scriptures to bring about a faithful personal life practice engaged in the mission of the church.” Theological education is not, thus, a separate entity divorced from the mission of the church. Instead, it feeds and drives the church forward. It is the very launching point for ministry.

And theological education is not to spark in our minds the idea of lecture and classroom. That is not what is intended by such a definition. Rather, this idea of theological education is that of robust disciple making that engages both mind and heart. It provides knowledge content but also engages the person through conversation and relationship to build a matrix of understanding that connects the physical world with the spiritual realities in which God works through his Spirit and his Word.

In Luke 24, the two disciples walking the road to Emmaus are dejected and discouraged following Jesus’ crucifixion. The risen Jesus then joins their company, unbeknownst to them, and unfolds the prophetic, messianic meaning of the Old Testament Scriptures. As they listened, their “hearts burned” with Jesus’ teaching (v. 32). Only later did they learn who it was that was teaching them.

The Emmaus Road encounter is a model for moving the church to action. We must not only teach the Bible but dynamically, conversationally expound on it in such a way as to instill passion—a passion for God, his Word, and his mission. This passion develops through the work of the Holy Spirit. Education, thus, does not create change itself, but focuses on content, activity, and prayer that will provide opportunity for the Spirit to work in the hearts of believers in new ways to develop them into mature followers of Christ.

2. How to ‘Move the Reached’

Once a church has engaged the reached through the discipleship process of theological education, we must ask a follow-up question: How does an engaged church move towards those who have never heard the gospel? It is here that a robust look at the opening of Acts 13 provides insight.

The beginning of Acts 13 takes place at the church in Antioch. This gathering had been founded by some of the believers mentioned in Acts 11 who had dispersed throughout the region due to persecution, and who were notable for sharing the gospel not just with other Jews but with Greeks as well. This passion for Christ and his mission created such a healthy church that it was here the disciples were first called Christians. Thus, the willingness to witness to other groups was built into the DNA of the church in Antioch. And this attitude was demonstrated by the leadership of the church in an essential pattern: they listened for the Lord’s direction as they prayed and fasted.

It is no surprise, then, that God worked through his Spirit in Acts 13 to instigate a missions movement as the church obeyed and sent Paul and Barnabas. This wasn’t a new concept, but the early church recognized that it was essential to spread the gospel, and the leadership kept their hearts open and prepared to send their members into unreached areas.

What then does this mean for us? It means that, yes, pastoral (or missionary) leadership should be focused on equipping the body to do the work of ministry. Part of this involves infusing into the church a focus on initiating redemptive relationships with people who are normally overlooked. As the congregation demonstrates a heart for the unreached and focuses their attention on Christ, he can move in the church to send out laborers into his harvest.

One effective method of equipping the church is for pastors or missionaries to model engaging unreached people who live in the vicinity of the church. As part of my work as a missionary in Jamaica, I have begun a specific endeavor to build relationships with some unreached men from India. I visit their store each week and have long conversations about family, life, and religion. As I do so, I pray that God will use this example to encourage the Jamaican believers I disciple to engage beyond their normal cultural boundaries, and that it will create fertile soil for the Jamaican church to grow, mature, and send like the church in Antioch.

May God use a renewal of theological education and simple actions of discipleship to move a generation of reached believers toward the unreached so that his message of salvation will go forth into all the world.