Reaching Unreached People Groups


The Challenge

The Lord has given me a burden for unreached people groups (UPG), especially in Africa, who are yet to receive an adequate witness of the gospel. I was introduced to the people group focus of the Great Commission 38 years ago. Since then I have tested the concept while working 7 years among the Yao of Malawi and doing field research among 38 other people groups across Africa.

The biblical base for the people group concept has continued to unfold, fueling my passion to introduce UPG to the Savior, Jesus Christ. Field research, primarily among Islamic groups, caused me to realize how daunting the task would be. Most of the groups have had multiple presentations of the gospel to at least a segment of their society. They have resisted and rejected the good news of the gospel. Just a few individuals have responded, and in most settings, have had to remain covert in the expression of their faith in Jesus.

The task of advancing the Kingdom of God among the UPG, making disciples and planting churches, is overwhelming! What will it take to reach them? It is apparent that God's messengers are totally dependent on Him, that apart from the work of the Holy Spirit the people group will remain unreached: "Apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

The Method

How does one penetrate the wall of resistance built up by the UPG? I have come to rely on the following:

1. Culturally relevant introduction of Jesus, the Savior. The apostle Paul clearly demonstrates this approach in Acts 17 in his presentation of biblical truth to the Athenians.

2. Signs, wonders and miracles coupled with proclamation. After Jesus' ascension, Mark 16:20 records, "Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it."

3. Convincing individuals that Jesus is alive. We read in Romans 1:4, "Who (Jesus) through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord."

The merging of these three dynamics through a rich anointing of the Holy Spirit will move an unbeliever toward a spiritual transformation, a born-again experience.

The Message

The basics of the gospel message are the incarnation, the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

What motivates people in an UPG to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior? Certainly for Muslims, the guarantee that they will not spend eternity in hell is a primary reason. Others may see the need to give glory to God, their Creator. Often it can be freedom from bondage or other personal spiritual benefits that draw many to faith in Christ. However, I would like to suggest a higher purpose that may be more attractive to people within an UPG.


The Almighty God, God the Father, created the universe and all that is in it. He wasn't totally satisfied until He created Adam in His image - with a soul. It is a person's soul that makes them different from all the rest of God's creation.

God created the universe through Jesus (Hebrews 1:2), but when He created a human being with a soul, it was the handiwork of the Trinity (Genesis 1:26). It is the soul, one's inmost being, that is made like God. It is with the soul we reach out to God and through which we have interaction with Him.

People are created for the purpose of fellowship with God. The Lord made an intentional visit to the Garden of Eden each day for the purpose of visiting with Adam and Eve. His only purpose was for fellowship, to enjoy interacting and just to hang out with them. Their sin broke that relationship. God's heart was deeply troubled, pained at the loss of fellowship with mankind (Genesis 6:6).

Then, Jesus came and gave Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of all people, for the purpose of restoring fellowship with God. Yes, there are many spiritual benefits in Christ Jesus' provision on the Cross, but the primary purpose is restoration of fellowship between God and people created in His image.

Therefore, the message to unbelievers among the unreached groups is, "JESUS WANTS YOU!  You are of great value to Him; you were created for the purpose of fellowship with God."

The Object of His Love

Individuals, people, are the object of His love: "God so loved...that WHOEVER believes…has eternal life" (John 3:16). "Christ died for US...through our Lord Jesus Christ ...WE have now received reconciliation" (Romans 5:8, 11).

Jesus provides a way for everyone to be reconciled with their Creator and to enjoy fellowship with Him. Notice the progression of that renewed, healthy relationship with God through Jesus Christ:
1 John 3:1, "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called CHILDREN OF GOD!"
John 15:15, "I no longer call you servants...Instead, I have called you FRIENDS...."
Hebrews 2:11, "So Jesus is not ashamed to call them BROTHERS AND SISTERS."

Love is one's full surrender to another person. When two individuals are fully surrendered to one another, love flows in both directions. God so loved (surrendered) His Son (Himself) to us, and as we surrender our heart, soul, mind and strength to God, a loving relationship is established.

Shortly before the American evangelist Dwight L. Moody died, he was asked, "How would you summarize the gospel?" He replied, "Jesus loves me."


I suggest that the message "Jesus Wants You" is primary, having the greatest appeal for accepting Jesus as one's personal Savior. Fellowship with God is of great value and makes turning away from Animism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and other religions an attractive option.