The dust and heat of Southeast Asia in March and April is unbearable. It’s Easter Weekend and I’m on my third pair of sweat soaked underwear for the day. But if that’s what it takes to hide Easter eggs in the front yard for my kids to find then I’ll get sweaty. I love bringing joy to my kids. They love eating candy.
At least my kids know that Easter is about Jesus. They know that God came from heaven and became a man. They know that Jesus loved much, to the point where he died and was placed in a tomb. And they know that Jesus came back from the dead after three days. They know that Jesus offers forgiveness, hope and life over death for those who choose to follow him. But I can’t help but think about the billions of people in my part of the world who have no idea who Jesus is.
If the resurrection is such an important event then why is it that nearly half the world’s population has no idea Jesus rose from the dead?
At least 42% percent of the world’s population are considered unreached people groups (UPG). What is a UPG? When Jesus told his followers, “Go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt. 28:19-20), the Greek equivalent of the words he used were, ta ethne, meaning, all ethnic groups or people groups. A people group is basically a group of individuals who have a common sense of history, language, beliefs and identity. It’s pretty much a group of people who consider themselves as “us” and everyone else as “them”.
There has always been just one human race. Today we are spread throughout 196 countries and made up of over 16,000 distinct people groups or ethnicities. Of those 16,000 people groups around 7,000 are considered UPG’s. A group is considered unreached if less than 2% of their population are actively following Jesus, which means that there are not enough Christians to reach and disciple the rest of the people group.
Of the 7,000 UPG’s more than 3,000 of them are considered unengaged unreached people groups (UUPG). These people groups have no churches, no believers, no cross-cultural workers and no one actively engaging them. In our world today almost 3 billion people are considered UPG’s and have no idea who Jesus is, let alone a holiday celebrated with chocolate rabbits.
Over 95% of all UPG’s are located in the part of the world between 10 degrees latitude and 40 degrees latitude stretching from North Africa to Southeast Asia – my part of the world. Cross-cultural workers call this the 10/40 Window. It’s in this window that most of the major non-Christian religions are centered. Easily memorized by the acronym, THUMB.
Despite the billions of lost people located in the 10/40 window, less than 3% of the entire cross-cultural missionary force are laboring among UPG’s here. Most are either in places where people groups are already reached or working in the states where marshmallow bunnies are consumed by the millions.
Jesus said that the “Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached as a testimony to ta ethne (all people groups) and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14)
Jesus didn’t say anything about hunting for eggs, printing colorful brochures, making cookies or inviting lost people to watch a special program on Sunday morning. He didn’t say to take the most important part of the Good News of his resurrection and only proclaim it from behind a pulpit. He didn’t say to stay and reflect on the most urgent message in the universe. He said to go and make his death and resurrection meaningful to all peoples and ethnic groups. How are you making Easter meaningful to the unreached?