patrick johnstone

Reaching For The Last Of The Unreached:

A Strategy for the Final Push



Few of the many remarkable experts of mission strategies present at GCOWE '95 are more respected worldwide than Patrick Johnstone, the British expert whose updated edition of Operation World was published in 1993 in a remarkable initial combined print run of 300,000.

Johnstone spoke at the first day plenary. Here is his address, slightly edited for space reasons:

In the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord Jesus Christ gave two very clear statements. In Matthew 24:14 is an amazing assurance about the biblical "Nations," or better, the peoples of the world: "And this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to ALL NATIONS and then the end will come." Then again, in Matthew 28:18-20 he gave a stirring challenge, which we often call the Great Commission: "Go therefore and make disciples of ALL NATIONS, baptizing them... teaching them..."

At the heart of our movement, and the core purpose of our gathering together here in Seoul, is our motto: "A Church for Every People and the Gospel for Every Person by AD2000."

I have two aims in speaking today: to show that we are much nearer to our minimum goal of witnessing churches among unreached peoples than many have realized, and to suggest a broad strategy to actually launch a church planting movement for every significant people in the world by the end of the year 2000. For this we need the active participation of every AD2000 track and every national and regional initiative represented here. I plead (emphasis) for you all to take my recommendations seriously in the coming days.

As I prepared Operation World, one thing amazed me -- the astonishing growth and expansion of the Gospel over the past two centuries. When William Carey left for India 200 years ago, evangelical Christianity had only penetrated a handful of the then possibly 8-9,000 peoples outside Europe and Eastern North America. Of 12,000 peoples in 237 countries, I reckon more than 9,000 now have the resources to reach out to their own peoples. What a change! We can rejoice at just a few of the many things that have happened in the past few years alone. The collapse of the USSR has given access to the peoples of Central Asia, Siberia and the Caucasus. The Gulf War has increased outreach to the various Kurdish peoples of the Middle East. We rejoice in the dramatic spread of the Gospel among the peoples of Nepal over the past 20 years, and the efforts to plant churches among most of the peoples of West Africa.

In round figures, 3,000 non-Christian peoples still need cross- cultural pioneer church planting ministry. Many already have this, but the breakthroughs for which we pray are yet to come among the Fula of West Africa, the Turks of the Middle East, the Hindi speakers of North India, and others. There are already many working among these peoples, however, with increasing cooperation of effort.

How many peoples are unreached? The estimated number of unreached peoples differ with standards of measurement and definition. But in the process of developing a Peoples Database with Dr. David Barrett, I was amazed to discover that of the world's 71 ethno- linguistic groupings, 26 contain significant numbers of unreached peoples. They have grouped these into 12 Affinity Blocs linked by culture, religion, geography and/or politics. Eleven of these are located in the 10/40 window. I am suggesting these should be the Arab World, Sahel Africans, Cushitic peoples of East Africa, Iranians, Turkics, Tibeto-Burmese, Indians, Malays, East Asians, South East Asians and the Eurasians (former Soviet-dominated world). The 12th Affinity Bloc is the globally dispersed Jews.

These Affinity Blocs can be a key for us to plan globally for their evangelization. They encompass 800 peoples of more than 100,000, and of these 130 are so strategic that a Gospel breakthrough within that people could rapidly impact other peoples on the long list. Let me propose broad strokes of strategy to achieve this:

  1. Convene Affinity Bloc Conferences immediately, representing indigenous and expatriate agencies, national bodies and prayer networks, to develop Strategic Partnerships for each Gateway People, and to ensure that a church-planting initiative be developed among every people group within that Affinity Bloc by AD2000.
  2. Conduct National and Regional Conferences this year to assess and address the remaining task within a geographic region, through national and international initiatives.
  3. Strengthen or launch Gateway People Strategic Partnerships to ensure that every possible ministry and agency make a coordinated contribution and that every related smaller people is adequately targeted.
We have gathered at GCOWE '95 the information, the will, the gifting and dynamic leadership to achieve these objectives, and by 1999 we could have a system for reporting that will enable us to determine whether we are on target to achieve the first part of our AD2000 & Beyond motto.

I have great hopes for the initial achievement of this goal, a church-planting initiative launched for every significant people of the world. I have been much encouraged by the numerous answers to prayer and by the sacrificial pioneer missionary efforts that have taken place. Few peoples over 100,000 lack both a church and someone committed to making disciples among them.

Our greatest problem is not locating the peoples nor overcoming the barriers, but lack of co-operation. We must work under the power of the Holy Spirit with others who are also seeking to reach them. Look at the problems that have often arisen through lack of co-operation when the former Soviet Union, Mongolia and Albania opened up for the entry of expatriate workers. But let us also be sensitive to the fact that more may be happening among the unreached than many realize.

We have a measurable and a finishable task. What a privilege that God has called us to the Kingdom for such a time as this. Let us be single-minded, committed, and full of faith in our great God to see this fully achieved in our generation. This conference is a vital catalyst for its attainment.


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