Does God place a higher value on reaching UPG’s than he does on merely adding more and more children regardless of where they come from?
Is the Great Commission a command to make disciples of the nations--bringing in the harvest-- or is it a command to make sure that each people group be represented with at least a few disciples? Or both?
If both, is it right that we walk away from those nations and people groups where we are seeing the culmination of decades of faithful plowing, sowing of the Gospel seed, and watering, only to disengage at the very moment of bringing in the harvest?
No one is arguing we should not do all we can to engage the 6500+ known UPGs, but does this mean that when we are able to identify a people group as having 2% or more Christ followers, then they are "reached" and it is time to move on?
Act 5:14 And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number...
Act 6:7 The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly...
In Acts, and similar references, are we talking about UPGs or people? That seems to be the question.
To see the direction we are headed in our Southern Baptist global missions outlook, click on this link from an IMB website study that clearly espouses UPG's are God's priority. But is this so?
Here is an excerpt from the study (bold letters are my own for emphasis)...
The promise of God is that “all nations (people groups) will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:1-3). This means that God is infinitely concerned with the reaching of each and every people group that exists. In fact, He is so concerned with reaching all of them that He is keeping a meticulous record of the fulfillment of His promise. In Psalms 87:4-6, the Lord says, “I shall mention Rahab and Babylon among those who know Me… The Lord will count when He registers the peoples, ‘This one was born there.’” We see that God is recording in the Register of the Peoples all those that He is bringing to heaven. They will one day make up the multicultural worship service seen in Rev. 7:9.
So, if God has promised to reach them all and we are commanded to go to them all, we must be familiar with the task remaining and rally the church to the targeting of them all. There are currently 11,260 people groups on planet earth and there are about 6,534 that are considered unreached. The Great Commission is finishable. It is measurable and something that can be completed. The question now is; what is an unreached people group (UPG)?
Ed Dayton says, “It is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize their own people. In other words, unreached people groups lack a church that has the numbers and strength to reach their own people. Obviously, if there are no Christians within this group, there will be none who can share the gospel with them. And this is the situation in which we find over 3 billion people of the world. They are the people groups in which there is no church that is able to tell them the good news of Jesus Christ."
Trent Rowland clarifies what is not an unreached people group by saying, “Since ‘unreached group’ refers to a group of people with no viable and relevant church, a non-Christian neighbor of most Americans would not be termed ‘unreached.’ They are unsaved and need the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet they probably have a church available in their own language and culture. They could go to church if they chose. In other words, they may be termed ‘unsaved’ or unevangelized persons,’ but not ‘unreached’ because they are part of a ‘reached’ group.”
God is not just concerned with reaching more and more people as He seems to be with reaching every People Group. I would like to borrow an illustration from John Piper in which he compares the situation to two sinking ocean liners. If the promise of the Navy General was that no matter what ship in his fleet went down there would be some rescued from that ship, and if he enlisted his crew for that one purpose, what would they do if there were two ocean liners sinking at the same time? After reaching the first sinking ship you might see that there is great need and that you could justify staying to save as many as you could from the first ship, rather than going to the second. You could even argue that in the effort and time it required to get to the second ship, you could be a better steward by staying at the first. Perhaps the people at the other ship are unwilling, and this seems to be a fruitful ground for desperate swimmers. There is plenty of need here.
However, this was not the General’s command. He specifically ordered his crew to save some men from both ships, not just one. This is why it is necessary for men to take the rescue boat to each ship. There must be representatives and survivors at the General’s banquet from every ship. God has promised to reach some from every tribe, tongue and nation and people. He has enlisted us to rescue them and one day there will be a banquet, where all nations and people groups are represented before the throne.
So, what do you think? In a world with so much lostness, and so few laborers, where should our priority be? Bringing in the final great harvest? Making sure there is representation from every people group on the face of the planet? Both? And if both, how with limited resources and personnel is this to be accomplished? Which gets 'top billing'?
Have you considered the possibility that YOU might be part of the solution to this dilema? Will you go to an UPG and patiently plow, sow, water till the first fruits start to be seen? Or would you rather be one of those that helps bring in the harvest where others have gone before and worked those fields so that you and I can be the ones to reap what we did not sow?