The church world “is often motivated by a culture of success. We recruit, fund, celebrate, propagate and evaluate based on predictable, measureable success rates.” I wrote these words in my October blog post “Out Of The Algorithm, Into The Mystery!“. Our propensity for favorable outcomes has various repercussions, one of which is an unintentional, but nevertheless real tendency to plant churches where it is easier or less challenging. The call to “go where God is moving” is too readily translated, “go for the low hanging fruit.” While it is true that low hanging fruit needs to be picked, who will opt for the more difficult task of going where the branches are so high that the fruit is less apparent and yields a less immediate harvest? These high places are filled with some of the least reached people groups in the entire world. Many are immigrants and refugees who now live in a city near you.
What does mission look like right now among these displaced, least reached peoples? First, it looks like hospitality, service and genuine Christian love. For example, there are a good number of Christian churches and organizations ministering compassionately to new Bhutanese refugees wherever they have immigrated. Second, there is church planting happening within various language groups, especially among groups where Christian enclaves already exist. An example is that good Hindi speaking churches are starting among Indian believers who migrate to Europe and North America.
Then what’s the problem? It is that neither the socially conscious ministries (run by people with the gifts of service, hospitality and mercy) nor the language based church starting projects (led by professional church planters who are employed to produce immediate, rather than long-term results) are systemically positioned to strategically plant the gospel among these groups. The Marathi of India are a large people group. Their self identify so is strongly that in the local San Francisco Bay Area, they started their own Marathi library and run local matrimonial ads “…educated Marathi man with Silicon Valley job looking for Marathi woman.” Oriya peoples, who have also migrated from India, travel an hour to participate in pujas (religious celebrations) practiced in their culture’s particular way. Unsaved Marathi, Oriya and others are best reached in the contexts of their own cultural group- not simply churches filled with newly immigrated Hindi speaking Christians.
While unreached peoples will best be reached within the context of their own groups, it will never happen when immediate measurable results (success) is mandated. There will never be enough paid church planters to reach them. It is therefore critical to mobilize lay mission teams comprised of both evangelistically and apostolically gifted individuals and those with gifts of hospitality, service and mercy. We must advocate for both the long-term approach and immediate assistance/ friendship. Lay-led APEST teams (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd Teacher) are critical to the task of evangelizing the least reached among us. Church planters, adopt a least reached group in your city. Equip and deploy teams to serve them. Think locally and globally about the task of world evangelism.