(Unreached and unengaged peoples) – The heart of God longs that all people should have access to the knowledge of God’s love and of his saving work through Jesus Christ. We recognize with grief and shame that there are thousands of people groups around the world for whom such access has not yet been made available through Christian witness. These are peoples who are unreached, in the sense that there are no known believers and no churches among them. Many of these peoples are also unengaged, in the sense that we currently know of no churches or agencies that are even trying to share the gospel with them. Indeed, only a tiny percentage of the Church’s resources (human and material) is being directed to the least-reached peoples. By definition these are peoples who will not invite us to come with the good news, since they know nothing about it. Yet their presence among us in our world 2,000 years after Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations, constitutes not only a rebuke to our disobedience, not only a form of spiritual injustice, but also a silent ‘Macedonian Call’.
Let us rise up as the Church worldwide to meet this challenge, and:
A) Repent of our blindness to the continuing presence of so many unreached peoples in our world and our lack of urgency in sharing the gospel among them.
B) Renew our commitment to go to those who have not yet heard the gospel, to engage deeply with their language and culture, to live the gospel among them with incarnational love and sacrificial service, to communicate the light and truth of the Lord Jesus Christ in word and deed, awakening them through the Holy Spirit’s power to the surprising grace of God.
C) Aim to eradicate Bible poverty in the world, for the Bible remains indispensable for evangelism. To do this we must:
Hasten the translation of the Bible into the languages of peoples who do not yet have any portion of God’s Word in their mother tongue;
Make the message of the Bible widely available by oral means. (See also Oral cultures below.)
D) Aim to eradicate Bible ignorance in the Church, for the Bible remains indispensable for discipling believers into the likeness of Christ.
We long to see a fresh conviction, gripping all God’s Church, of the central necessity of Bible teaching for the Church’s growth in ministry, unity and maturity. We rejoice in the gifting of all those whom Christ has given to the Church as pastor-teachers. We will make every effort to identify, encourage, train and support them in the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. In doing so, however, we must reject the kind of clericalism that restricts the ministry of God’s Word to a few paid professionals, or to formal preaching in church pulpits. Many men and women, who are clearly gifted in pastoring and teaching God’s people, exercise their gifting informally or without official denominational structures, but with the manifest blessing of God’s Spirit. They too need to be recognized, encouraged, and equipped to rightly handle the Word of God.
We must promote Bible literacy among the generation that now relates primarily to digital communication rather than books, by encouraging digital methods of studying the scriptures inductively with the depth of inquiry that at present requires paper, pens and pencils.
E) Let us keep evangelism at the centre of the fully-integrated scope of all our mission, inasmuch as the gospel itself is the source, content and authority of all biblically-valid mission. All we do should be both an embodiment and a declaration of the love and grace of God and his saving work through Jesus Christ.
2. Oral cultures
The majority of the world’s population are oral communicators, who cannot or do not learn through literate means, and more than half of them are among the unreached as defined above. Among these, there are an estimated 350 million people without a single verse of Scripture in their language. In addition to the ‘primary oral learners’ there are many ‘secondary oral learners’, that is those who are technically literate but prefer now to communicate in an oral manner, with the rise of visual learning and the dominance of images in communication.
As we recognize and take action on issues of orality, let us:
A) Make greater use of oral methodologies in discipling programmes, even among literate believers.
B) Make available an oral format Story Bible in the heart languages of unreached and unengaged people groups as a matter of priority.
C) Encourage mission agencies to develop oral strategies, including: the recording and distribution of oral Bible stories for evangelism, discipling and leadership training, along with appropriate orality training for pioneer evangelists and church-planters; these could use fruitful oral and visual communication methods for communicating the whole biblical story of salvation, including storytelling, dances, arts, poetry, chants and dramas.
D) Encourage local churches in the Global South to engage with unreached people groups in their area through oral methods that are specific to their worldview.
E) Encourage seminaries to provide curricula that will train pastors and missionaries in oral methodologies.