The 3,000 people groups who are still without access to the gospel--what greater priority is there in mission? (Romans 15:20)

Unreached and unengaged sound similar but are not synonymous. The difference between the two is one of the biggest challenges in frontier mission today.

"Unreached" is a term we use to describe the response of a people to the gospel--it indicates that few have yet come to know Jesus. "Unengaged" does not describe the response of the people at all. It describes the response of the Global Church to the people--that we have not yet engaged them. We have not yet become incarnate among them. The Word has not yet become flesh to them in a way that they might see, understand, and fall in love.

The existence of unengaged peoples represents the global missionary community's greatest blind spot. More than 30% of all unreached Hindu peoples are also unengaged. More than 40% of all Buddhist peoples are unengaged, and more than 50% of all Muslim peoples also have no resident, long term, culturally sensitive, gospel presence intent on sharing Jesus. All these peoples are unengaged. How can it be that in a day of such wonderful global harvest--unprecedented global harvest, we might say--there is such inattention given to 30+, 40+, and 50+ percent of the world's most prominent non-christian religious blocks?

Engaging a people is not the goal, to be sure. Reaching a people is the goal. We long to see all peoples coming to know and enjoy Him! We long to see worshipers fill the earth as the waters the sea! We long to see all peoples discover their reason for being, and, even more, our hearts leap to anticipate the joy of the One, who, having created them in His image, now sees His happiness reflected in their own.

But there can be no reaching until there is first engaging. An engaged unreached people has the expectation of many soon coming to know Jesus; they are engaged. But an unengaged unreached people has no such prospect; they are unengaged. No one is resident among them to begin to share Christ. A people cannot be reached until it is first engaged, and until a people is engaged, it is both unreached and unreachable.

There are a number of reasons why the unengaged unreached remain so. It's challenging for workers to go to places where no one else is yet serving. It's complicated for churches and agencies to look beyond the under-engaged to the entirely unengaged. Satan also hinders us. As a wise strategist he agrees that no people can be reached until it is first engaged. Therefore, he levels his biggest artillery at any initiative that prioritizes first presence among the unengaged.

There are numerous pastoral and evangelistic needs among the engaged unreached--many of them stark and crying for our attention, and all of them meriting loving service. Yet until churches and agencies are able to raise apostolic eyes to the "all peoples" of Scripture, the unengaged unreached will remain unengaged.

This is our challenge: let us turn our attention to first presence among the remaining unengaged unreached peoples, knowing that where there is extra difficulty and challenge, God's grace will abound more! May God give us focus, passion and joy for this task!

Mike Lasko is the Director of Strategic Partnerships with Frontiers.

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