What is International Day for the Unreached?

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May 28 is International Day for the Unreached, but let’s remember: Missions isn’t an add-on

May 26, 2023 -

A cross lays atop a world map, a reminder of International Day for the Unreached © By BillionPhotos.com/stock.adobe.com

A cross lays atop a world map, a reminder of International Day for the Unreached © By BillionPhotos.com/stock.adobe.com

A cross lays atop a world map, a reminder of International Day for the Unreached © By BillionPhotos.com/stock.adobe.com

Zarmina leaned forward, her white head covering slipping off her gray hair. She looked at the faces of her Western guests. Perhaps these women would know why she kept having the same dream for years. A man in shining, white clothing beckoned her to come.

She tugged the scarf back over her head. Her brown eyes darted between the two ladies seated on her floor cushions. No woman in the Central Asian community could make sense of her recurring dream. She took a deep breath and shared this odd dream with these first-time tea visitors from another country.

And to her surprise, these foreigners knew exactly what this vision meant.

Around the globe, 42.5 percent of the world is considered unreached with the gospel. This means from the time one is born until the day that person dies, one doesn’t have a chance to hear who Jesus truly is—or know a Christian to ask questions.

And to complicate the matter, the church only gives 0.01 percent to ensure the good news reaches those who don’t have access.

Prioritizing worship

Theologian John Piper reminds us that “missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Zarmina can’t worship Jesus because she doesn’t know who he is—yet.

God’s global plan is for all nations to know and worship him forever because he is so great (Isaiah 49:6; Revelation 7:9). His worldwide plan wasn’t a footnote to the bigger storyline of the Bible, but a key aspect of what he is doing.

In John 10:16, Jesus draws attention to this when he says, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

If bringing in more of his flock across the earth is important to Jesus, then we as believers must be actively involved in this task. Missions isn’t secondary or an add-on in the Christian life, but central to God’s glory being displayed to all. We can’t pass this duty off to someone else. Or say it isn’t our thing. If we are made to worship, then we are made to participate in the gospel reaching to the ends of the earth. Everyone’s role in this task will look different, but we can’t sidestep it.

Not more important, but urgent

People around the world need to hear the gospel—that’s certain. But not everyone has the same access to learning about Jesus.

While some cultures live in a post-Christian environment (where the gospel once flourished, but no longer does) or a distorted gospel has prevailed, these places still have access to meeting a believer or reading the Bible in their own language.

But for unreached people like Zarmina, this doesn’t exist. She must wait years for a chance to encounter a Christian.

While unreached people aren’t more important than someone residing in Europe or Latin America, an urgency exists because the light of the gospel isn’t reaching these dark lands with the good news. More money, missionaries, and resources are directed to places with more gospel presence than unreached countries in Central Asia or the Middle East.

In Luke 15:3–7, Jesus tells the parable of the shepherd who leaves his ninety-nine sheep in search of the one lost sheep. The ninety-nine left behind aren’t less important than the one lost sheep.

But Jesus prioritizes seeking that missing lamb.

An isolated sheep can’t protect itself against a predator. And it certainly can’t find its way back to the flock. So the shepherd leaves his herd behind to retrieve this one.

And so it is with the unreached. As the church, we must prioritize getting missionaries and resources where the gospel isn’t. It doesn’t mean ministries in other geographic locations matter less.

But pursuing the unreached emulates the heart of Christ in going after the one lost sheep.

Joining God’s global plan

May 28 is International Day for the Unreached.

As we pause to reflect on the unreached around the world, finding practical ways to participate in God’s vision for all peoples to know and worship him doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming.

Here are ideas to jumpstart your role in making God’s name great among the unreached.

  1. Commit to pray for an unreached people group daily or weekly. The Joshua Project posts an unreached people group every day along with ways to intercede for them.
  2. As you read the Bible this year, note when words like nations, the world, all the earth, or peoples are used. This will help you see how God’s global plan is woven throughout the pages of Scripture.
  3. Adopt a missionary from your church to track with and pray for.
  4. Read Let the Nations Be Glad or Across the Street and Around the World: Following Jesus to the Nations in Your Neighborhood with a Christian friend.
  5. Pray through Window on the World: An Operation World Prayer Resource with your family.
  6. Visit Weave, the Center for Mission Mobilization’s family website, to learn more about cultivating a heart for the world with your family. Weave provides a foundation for God’s desire for all nations to worship him, kid-focused stories about unreached people, and practical tools to engage in missions together.
  7. Read international literature to learn about other cultures and how to better pray for the gospel to reach these lands. In the Land of Blue Burqas (adults) and The Bridge Home (kids) are good starting places.
  8. Give to missions agencies involved in taking the gospel to the unreached such as Frontiers or Pioneers.
  9. Encourage your church to adopt an unreached people group.

As we seek to make much of God each day and faithfully share the gospel with those in our lives, we also have a responsibility to ensure the unreached hear the good news.

May we delight to participate in God’s global plan for all nations to glorify him—whether that’s our next-door neighbor or a remote village in the foothills of the Himalayas.

More by Jenny Marcelene

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