Apples to oranges to bananas? Sometimes, it seems the various people group lists, let alone separate priority people group lists, constitute just such a comparison. However, in the fruit bowl that is mission research, we are often simply comparing varieties of apples – Red Delicious to Granny Smith to Macintosh. As Justin Long has so adequately stated the issue, the referenced Mission Frontiers articles illustrate how differing goals, interests, and callings shape and distinguish priorities between organizations. The authors of all three articles acknowledged the ultimate priority or goal as commanded by Christ, to “make disciples” of all of the world’s peoples. Various organizations and individuals are called to be obedient to the command by contributing in different ways.
Some produce resources and need to know where resources are lacking, be they Scripture translations, audio or video resources, resources for oral communicators, etc. Others focus on seed-sowing or discipleship. Still others focus on church-planting. It is this last category for which the International Mission Board’s Global Status of Evangelical Christianity is most useful as it attempts to identify the peoples that are engaged by groups with a church-planting strategy and those who are not. In addition to contrasting priorities between organizations, the articles and accompanying lists can assist in distinguishing various priorities within a single organization.
The priority list as presented by my colleagues and supervisors, Scott Holste and Jim H. focused on the unengaged, unreached peoples with a population larger than 100,000. However, as their article expressed, the IMB has a primary focus of seeing all unengaged, unreached peoples engaged. For the IMB, it is a question of where to begin. We are striving to see the largest of those groups, identified as those with a population of at least 100,000, engaged by 2008. Thus, the list becomes a guide for where to deploy new church planters.
There is much left to be done, and whatever your ministry calling, we pray that God will use you in reaching all peoples. Regardless of your variety of apple, either sweet and juicy or tart and tangy, we all eventually need to reach the core. f Scott Peterson is Associate Director of the Global Research Department for the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention.
January-February 2007 Mission Frontiers