Why 3 Comprehensive Global People Group Lists?


How many countries are there in the world?  The answer depends on who you ask.  Should there only be one list of countries in the world?  Different perspectives on the same situation are a healthy thing.  Looking at a picture from several angles often yields greater appreciation.  Using different definitions and criteria can help clarify a task and highlight areas needing further research.  People group database compilers are confronted by questions such as:  Is language always the primary definer of a people group?  Should caste be considered when defining a people group?  Should Christian Adherents be considered when setting the criterion for unreached?  Should unreached be defined by exposure or response to the Gospel?  What are acceptable sources for input and edits?  The three global peoples lists answer these questions slightly differently and thus provide different but valuable perspectives.


In the last several years there has been a significant increase in the communication and cooperation between these three global peoples lists.  Initiatives such as Global Trends Fruitful Practices / GTFP (see below) have provided the impetus for what has emerged as a peer-group of researchers and collaborative efforts to share and adjust information as much as possible.  May the Lord continue to enhance and strengthen the developing connections between the World Christian Database, the IMB Global Research Office and Joshua Project.


World Christian Database / WCD ( – The World Christian Database provides statistical information on countries, cities, languages, world religions, Christian denominations, and people groups.  Data sources for the WCD include published and unpublished sources, field work, interviews, questionnaires and officially published reports of government-organized national censuses.  The WCD peoples list is ethno-linguistic, meaning that a people group is primarily defined by language and then by ethnicity, and then by country of residence.  Within a language group other factors such as race, tradition, history, and culture sometimes define a subsection of peoples.  The WCD classifies peoples by Worlds A, B and C.  World A peoples are groups with over 50% of the population unevangelized.  The WCD is available in print or online by annual subscription.  Suggested updates can be submitted to <>.
IMB / CPPI ( – The IMB / CPPI (Also called GSEC) peoples database is a global list of ethnic people groups from a church planting perspective.  A private, secure online system is used by regional and national IMB researchers to gather and submit people group data to the IMB central database.  Outside data sources are also considered.  The CPPI list is generally ethno-linguistic and allows for subdivisions of language based upon cultural or dialect distinctives.  In some cases other criteria such as religion are used to define a people group. “Unreached” is defined as less than 2% Evangelical; % Christian Adherents is not considered.  The CPPI uses Affinity Blocs and People Clusters for grouping peoples.  A unique feature of the CPPI is the tracking of unengaged people groups – peoples without any active church planting occurring.  A people group is considered engaged when church planting methodology is underway or being implemented.  Suggested updates for review by IMB regional and national staff can be submitted to <>.

Joshua Project / JP ( ) – The Joshua Project database is a global ethno-linguistic and ethno-cultural people group database from a church planting perspective.  Joshua Project is an open system gathering data from a variety of sources including field missionaries and researchers, national and regional initiatives, census data and published sources.  People groups on the Joshua Project list are defined by language, religion, culture and caste primarily based on on-site definitions.  “Unreached” is defined as less than 2% Evangelical and less than 5% Christian Adherent.  Joshua Project also uses Affinity Blocs and People Clusters for grouping peoples.  A distinctive of the Joshua Project list is defining people groups in South Asia primarily by caste / community rather than by language.  Suggested updates can be submitted to <>.


Etnopedia does not have complete list of people groups online. So the answer is no. Etnopedia is uploading only unreached people group profiles for translation at this time. There are plans to upload complete people group lists for 96 priority countries. This will cover the known unreached peoples. After all the known unreached peoples are uploaded then discussion can begin about the need to show (upload) reached peoples.

One argument for showing reached peoples is that many groups are recorded as reached and they are not. Another argument is that when visitors are searching the site they need to see the reached peoples as they might think that their group is unreached when actually it is reached.

Etnopedia has a comprehensive people group database in Microsoft Access that supports the online information to some degree. We use this access database to compare data with the other three world lists. However the Etnopedia Access database is not used to gather new information. All new information is entered on the cloud. See: Working on the Cloud with Unreached People Information

Most of this article is from the Ethne website. (