The UPG Revelation

“An unreached people group refers to an ethnic group without an indigenous, self-propagating Christian church movement. Any ethnic or ethnolinguistic nation without enough Christians to evangelize the rest of the nation is an “unreached people group”. – The Lausanne Global Conversation

My name is Jonathan and I’ve lived in the Bay Area for most of my life. I grew up going to church but it was the Bible teaching and sermons that I heard in college, particularly a series of biographical missionary sermons by John Piper, which were the most influential in shaping my theology of missions. These resources impressed upon me the importance of global missions. After my “formative college years” (cliché but true) which included a short term missions trip to Ukraine, God continued to present opportunities to learn and stay involved with missions. I signed up for a Perspectives class and got involved with an international students ministry. A friend also introduced me to WCF and told me about the World Christian Conference (WCC), so I thought I would check it out.

This reflection details where I am at in processing God’s direction for my life, and the slowly growing heart God is giving me for unreached people groups (ie. buying into the strategy of focusing in on these groups, and not in regions already saturated with Christian influence). Post-college life (I’m 25 now) has delivered all of that melodramatic soul-searching about what to do with myself in “the real world”, and I’m thankful for the chance to attend the WCC and listen for how God continues to lead me.

Attending WCC:

To be honest, I didn’t really think much about the fact that I didn’t know a single person who was going to the conference until the actual week of. Thankfully, there were a few familiar faces once I got there, and sitting down at random tables during meals and introducing myself was not too painful. Overall, I enjoyed the conference very much. The biggest highlights were interacting with individuals who are passionately involved with missions and taking their experiences to heart, trying out a ministry consultation to dialogue more about my life decisions, and also just worshiping through song with everyone else.

Conference Take Away Point

I had several points, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll develop the point I mentioned above. I think the conference helped to establish a greater desire to minister to unreached people groups. I’d heard sermons in the past which had left me feeling inspired, convicted, or whatever, to go and “save the world” by moving abroad and doing something radical. But these were momentary sensations and once the dust had settled, I usually felt like God had different things planned for me in the present to be concerned with. However, when Tim Svoboda recounted statistics like “90% of missions efforts go towards parts of the world that are considered reached, while only 10% go towards unreached areas”, this resurrected a burning sensation in my heart. In processing what these desires mean this time around, I feel like God is placing a deeper level of commitment on my heart than previously – specifically, a conviction (as opposed to a “notion”, or “vague interest”) to focus my time and resources on people groups that have little or no access to the Gospel.

I’ll be honest.. I can’t really claim to know exactly what this means going forward. I’m not saying you will definitely see me in some remote country 10 years from now, but I’m also proclaiming boldly that I have no guarantees I will still be in America 10 years from now. I think the important thing is to be faithful with the ministries I have in front of me, and the conference takeaway is to pursue ministry opportunities in a more directed way. There are many causes which are noble and worthwhile – inner-city ministry, fighting trafficking, protecting the unborn, etc. I suppose what I’m saying is that the cause that I want to turn my attention towards (my thoughts, my time, my resources) is reaching these unreached groups however possible. Given our limited time on this earth, it just seems to make the most sense! (And just as a matter of conviction, this will all develop within the context of fellowship and service in the local church – I would like very much for these two to integrate seamlessly, but I suppose that is material for a different blog post).

To sum things up, I don’t think I can put it any better than Paul in Romans 15:20-21:
“and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”

Jonathan

Photo by Megan Mark