The stages for identifying the type of ministry and priority it should be given in this process range from unengaged, unreached, unevangelized and undiscipled.
The unengaged means that there is no concerted significant effort being targeted toward this specific people group.
The unreached refer to a people group where there has been significant evangelistic work (which may include linguistic work, translation and careful gospel explanations) and discipling into a community of believers until they can support and teach themselves while capable of continuing to evangelize the rest of their people. When a critical mass of 2 percent of a people group has thus been reached it is considered “reached.”
The unevangelized refer to the masses within a given people group that have never heard the gospel, though their people group have the Bible and multitudes of churches. Until every person within a people group has had the opportunity to heard the gospel they are still “unreached.” This task focuses on training and mobilizing the believers to reach their neighbors, communities, city and country for Christ.
The undiscipled people refer to the believers who need to be taught to be accountable to each other to obey the NT commands for living in community (church), to worship, share, minister to others and unashamedly to tell everyone about the gospel of Christ, especially those in the “regions beyond” them.
The question arises: what is more important: a greater Number of converts or every People Groups? The answer is … both! Neither can be neglected.
Three of the five Great Commissions define the task of the Church is to take the gospel to every “ethnic people group.” Jesus stated that this mission was to be accomplished before He would return to earth (Matt 24:14).
Jesus not only wants a lot of people to be saved, He wants every people group, language, and tribe to know the gospel and have a community of disciples committed to each other in a church that worships Him.
However, 97.2 percent of all missionaries work among the already reached, that is, among nominal Christians. Just 2 percent attempt to reach the unengaged and unreached peoples of the world.
Why emphasize the tribes or unengaged people groups? Because Jesus said it was to be done for Him. It makes sense to reach one group, then go on to the next group. Until every people group has had a viable, clear chance to hear the gospel by their own people, then a major focus on massive evangelism continues, while at the same time making every effort that another people group gets to hear the gospel as well.
Even with the horribly lopsided emphasis of the global efforts of the Church trying to reach ever person within their people group or community, before making sure all people groups have a group of disciples, yet today we within a stone’s throw of completing the task.
Ironically, the one part of the Great Commission that must be accomplished is given less than 3% of the personnel and resources. We are never told to win everyone to Christ, but we are told to plant the gospel in every people group on earth.
My pastor friend told me that he had never heard of the double focus of the Great Commission, but if this were the case then he would begin to make a difference. Since that conversation four years ago, his church has planted two daughter-churches in the US, partnered with three national teams to plant churches overseas and has adopted an unreached people group, with whom they are committed to building groups of committed disciples into local churches able to reproduce themselves among their people.