As Christians look to other countries, the national churches naturally draw our attention. In many countries, hundreds of churches, thoroughly rooted in local culture and leadership, can easily give us the impression that the day of missions is over. The national church can surely finish the job.
But as Christians look again at these same countries, taking special note of who is not in the churches, we will usually see a constellation of different kinds of people grouped by different kinships, dialects, and affinities. These are people groups: significantly large ethno-linguistic or socio-cultural groupings in which the Gospel can move freely without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.
Some of these people groups have grow?ing clusters of evangelizing churches. Though not every individual within these people groups is yet reached, there is substantial promise that they eventually will be touched by the Gospel without much help from missionaries. Thus the entire people group can be considered reached because the potential sphere of influence of the church reaches to that en?tire people group.
Other people groups are without a strong church-based witness to their culture. They are beyond the reach of normal neighbor-to-neighbor evangelism. These are the Hidden Peoples or Unreached Peoples. Only cross-cultural church planting efforts will be able to make the Gospel compellingly clear and invitingly accessible. The national churches could possibly penetrate their culturally distant neighbors, but in most cases do not. But if nationals or workers from outside the country do the work, still it is missions work to establish a Gospel beachhead in peoples without the Gospel. The day of missions is far from being over.
Mission Frontiers (http://www.missionfrontiers.org/), Mar 01, 1998, Volume 20:3-4.
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