At 9:05 PM, May 20, 2009 Ralph Winter, the founder of the U. S. Center for World Missions went home to be with the Lord. I never met this man of God, but I have been deeply touched by his ministry. In many ways it directly impacts what i do on a daily basis. You see it was Dr. Winter that first talked about the term “unreached peoples” at the Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization in 1974. The shattering truth that was revealed at this conference was that in spite of the fact that every country in the world had been penetrated by the gospel, four out of five non-Christians were still cut off from the gospel because the barriers are CULTURAL and LINGUISTIC, not geographic. He called not recognizing this fact as “people blindness”, blindness to the existence of separate peoples within countries. In 1982 the term “people group” was then translated as
” a significantly large grouping of individuals who perceive themselves to have a common affinity for one another because of their shared language, religion, ethnicity, residence, occupation, class, or caste, situation etc. or combining of these. It is the largest group within which the gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance”.
Thank the Lord that since then, many, many churches and ministries have been focused on reaching the unreached that was defined back in 1982. Dr. Winter and his team at the U.S. Center for World Missions have written out the stages of reaching these people groups in the following summary.
Stages in Reaching an Unreached People Group
Stage 1-“Reported” The people group is brought to the attention of a Christian research group which strives to verify them as unreached and lists them as such.
Stage 2-“Selected” A denomination or mission agency, capable of reaching the group, accepts responsibility to reach them and mobilize churches and Christians to adopt this people group so that a church may be started in their midst. They are actively recruiting churches and fellowship groups to adopt this group and partner together to reach them.
Stage 3-“Adopted” One, or several, churches or fellowship groups (could be a mission fellowship, student group, Sunday School class, etc.) has made the establishment of a strong church among the unreached people group their personal goal. They agree to support the work with prayers and finances. This is done with their denomination or in partnership with one or more mission agencies.
Stage 4″Engaged” The work has begun and cross-cultural workers are “on site” with the goal of establishing a “viable, indigenous church-planting movement.”
A people group may already have been engaged when a church or fellowship group chooses to adopt. The church then commits itself to partner with the “on site” workers.
Stage 5-“Reached” A strong, indigenous church-planting movement has been established that is of sufficient size and strength to evangelize the rest of the group with no (or very little) outside help.
“Reached” does not mean the work is done, but the missionary thrust is closing and the evangelistic phase has begun which is now the responsibility of the indigenous church. They have moved from unreached to unevangelized.
This is something that C.C. Philadelphia believes in, and is currently supporting with our work among the Tarahumara in Northern Mexico, as well as the Tabwa people in the Katanga province of the DRC. Please join with me in praising the Lord for all the ways that He has used Dr. Winter, and to also pray that more and more churches, believers, and ministries would join hand in hand with these efforts to see Christ treasured among those who have never heard.
To know more about the U.S. Center for World Missions check out their website HERE.