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Alex Chediak interviews David Sitton, President of To Every Tribe. An excerpt:

There's an important difference between unevangelized and unreached peoples.

Unevangelized people are unconverted individuals in places where there are established churches. Unreached peoples are those that live in regions where there are no churches and no access to the evangelical gospel in their culture.

And to answer your question about the present trend; 96% of the missionary work force is still laboring in unevangelized, but not truly unreached regions. Here it is again - 9 out of 10 Christian missionaries that go cross-cultural are still going to reached places!

Here's still another way to say it - Something like 90% of all "ministers" worldwide are concentrating on only 2% of the world's population! We are massively overly evangelizing places where the gospel is already well planted! I believe that we need a substantial strategic redeployment of the missionary workforce to the areas where there is still no access to the evangelical gospel.

Read the whole thing.

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6 thoughts on “Unreached vs Unevangelized”

  1. Jake says:

    I love, love, love the heart that's behind this: the desire to reach people who have no access to the Gospel. But there's something wrong with putting places into just 2 categories: reached and unreached.

    I live in Charlotte, NC. Charlotte has about half a million people and about 700-800 evangelical churches (some of which have membership in the thousands). I'm preparing to join a church-planting team in Prague, CZ. Prague has 1.2 million people and about 20 evangelical churches, many of which are small gatherings in homes.

    Yes, technically both are "reached," but to put them both in the same category doesn't do justice to the dire need in places like Prague.

    Absolutely we need more people to go to truly unreached places. But there are places like Europe where although the cities aren't unreached, almost all of the people there are. How will they hear without a preacher?

  2. Jake says:

    Sorry, quick clarification: I know Sitton would agree with this; he's not saying all missionaries have to go to unreached places. My point is that the reached/unreached distinction is too black & white. It makes it seem like I'm wasting my time going to Prague because it's "reached," when in reality almost all the people in that city are just as lost as Muslims in the 10/40 window.

  3. Mark and Maki says:


    I agree. I prefer the Joshua Project ( definition:

    "Joshua Project uses the terms "unreached" and "least-reached" to mean the same thing. The terms are used interchangably on this website.

    An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group.

    The original Joshua Project editorial committee selected the criteria less than 2% Evangelical Christian and less than 5% Christian Adherents. While these percentage figures are somewhat arbitrary, there are some that suggest that the percentage of a population needed to be influenced to impact the whole group is 2%."

    It would be sad to leave a group like Japan (where I am) simply because there are a few tiny house churches in a town of tens of thousands or even millions. These areas are in constant pressure of dying altogether again without help from the outside.

  4. Morris Brooks says:

    I think the bigger issue is going where you are called and directed to go. Just because there are unreached people in some locale does not mean that is where God wants you to go. For some reason Paul, the greatest missionary and church planter in church history, seemed retrace his steps.

    Is an area gospel-saturated might be a good question to ask as well.

  5. vvv says:

    I agree that the distinction is too black and white. I lead a church planting ministry among the desperately poor in Brazil. By this view Brazil is considered reached, however in the area where we work the evangelical population is less than 3%. Further, because of a host of issues the very poor all over Latin America are not being reached. National churches are not lining up to church plant in areas of extreme poverty. Should we leave the poor to suffer apart from Christ because 5% or even 10% of the middle class are considered reached?

  6. C. Holland says:

    I agree that there is good intention in focusing on the unreached, but if we still believe in God’s calling on a missionary’s life, then isn’t it possible that if Christians really followed God to an area that He’ll work out the coverage and distribution to unreached and unevangelised as He sees fit?

    Otherwise, I guess I should leave my ministry here in Western Europe and tell a 19-year-old here, “Well, your country had its chance with the Gospel years ago but your people dropped the ball, quit going to church and didn’t tell you about Jesus, so I’ll ignore you to focus on those whose ancestors didn’t know.”

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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