The kingdom of God, once established in a people group through a Jesus movement, becomes like an orchard. The community of believing households demonstrates God’s kingdom in ways that bear multiplying fruit. Yet this community of faith needs tending for greater fruitfulness. And it needs guarding against the deceitfulness and temptations of the enemy.
Three fourths of humanity lives in people groups where such an orchard has been established—where reproducing communities of believing households have potential to multiply and bear greater fruit.
The more mature orchards are in Reached People Groups—resulting from Jesus movements often spanning centuries—so that the gospel is well known and has significantly transformed these groups with the blessing of God. Within these groups, even those who don’t personally trust in Christ recognize that trusting Jesus is an accepted option within the norms of their group. Such orchards have matured to the point that they don’t generally need “outside assistance” from harvest laborers beyond members of their own group.
Other orchards are in Unreached People Groups (UPGs), where believing households are firmly established amidst a sea of unbelieving households in the same people group. These younger orchards often face persecution, and generally need outside assistance from harvest laborers outside their own people.
However believing households are practically non-existent in 60% of Unreached People Groups. In Romans 15:20, Paul referred to such places as still having no “foundation” upon which other ministry can build. He mentions and clarifies the idea of a foundation in a few other passages:
It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation (Rom 15:20).
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3:11–12).
God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness” (2 Tim 2:19).
25% of humanity lives in these Frontier People Groups (FPGs), where believers are less than 1 in 1,000 and there is no known Jesus movement. And less than 1% of harvest workers currently pursue Jesus movements among these people groups.
Only God knows all the places where believing households have begun reproducing; however the researchers at Joshua Project estimate that:
- 60% of humanity lives in 10,000 Reached People Groups with mature orchards—where Christians of some sort are more than 5% (one in 20) and/or Evangelicals are more than 2% (one in 50). (Evangelicals are a measurable approximation for the Spirit-led Jesus followers whom God seeks to worship Him in spirit and truth.)
- 15% of humanity lives in 2,400 people groups with young orchards—where believing households demonstrate God’s blessing through Christ, but most of the lost may be unfamiliar with the gospel. This subset of Unreached People Groups has more than 0.1% believers (one in a thousand), and up to 2% (one in 50) Spirit-led Christ followers, but 5% (on in 20) or less Christians of some sort.
- The remaining 25% lives in 5,000 Frontier People Groups—where the first believing households are still 0.1% (one in a thousand) or less of the population. In many of these groups there may be no community of believing households yet at all. In these FPGs, the lost have little or no opportunity to see what it looks like to follow Christ among their own people. Often they are either altogether unaware of Christ, or they assume He is only for those in “Christian” groups, and that to even consider following Him would be a betrayal of their family, their people, and their generational identity.
The FINISHABLE missionary task
The responsibility for tending all orchards—to maturity, or in maturity—will continue until Christ returns.
These are the many pursuable ministries of the global Church, to be pursued in partnership with local believing households.
Within each people group, however, there is with one finishable task—establishing the first enduring and multiplying community of believing households as a Jesus movement, taught to obey everything Jesus commanded (Mt. 28:19–20).
The great imbalance
There is a great imbalance today in the allocation of prayer, ministry and giving. Most of believer’s resources go to tending our own mature orchards among the 60% of humanity living in Reached People Groups. A much smaller portion goes toward strengthening the new orchards in the 15%. And almost none of the Church’s resources go to the remaining finishable task—starting Jesus movements in every Frontier People Group.
Jesus spoke favorably of leaving the 99 who are found to rescue the one that is lost.
What would Jesus say about this 25%—where the gospel is not yet known to be bearing fruit?
God’s Word is clear. All nations will be blessed (Gen 12:3, 18:18, 22:18, 26:4, 28:14, etc.)
Some day every people group will have a gospel orchard, with both multiplying fruit (John 15:1-8, 15) and leaves of healing (Rev 22:2)—for their own people group and for all people groups.
80% of the population of all FPGs (that’s 1.6 billion) are found in just a few hundred large, influential FPGs. As Jesus movements form in these largest FPGs, it will become much easier to start Jesus movements among the many smaller FPGs.
Christ is calling His global body to complete the fulfillment of His promise to Abraham—to bless/disciple all the family-lines (peoples) on earth.
This starts in waiting on the Holy Spirit’s leading and empowering, just as the first disciples did in Acts.
Starting with reliance on the Holy Spirit, you and your family (or group) can play a key role in blessing any one of these strategically large, neglected Frontier People Groups.
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- Seek the Lord to discover your people group.
- Join others in praying for and blessing your people.