This blog has been adapted from original post at


Imagine you are the Chief Operations Officer at a charitable foundation. Your CEO assigns the important task of feeding the “Hungry” in Indonesia. But as he provides the details of the operation, you become increasingly confused. “Pencils, books and computers are all essential for the Hungry,” your CEO explains. For clarification, you ask him to define “Hungry”.

“Why, those who crave knowledge and education, of course!” he tells you with surprise.

Broadened Assumptions

This hyperbole illustrates the importance of a definition, and applying that definition to your strategy. We don’t always define words in the same way in Evangelical Christian circles: Unreached and Unengaged are two primary examples.

Everyday, Christians encourage their friends with testimonies, scriptures and messages to spur us on toward the mission field (especially in social media and blogs). In doing so, many define unreached as unbelievers:

  • In their backyard (my neighbor)
  • At their school (my friend)
  • “X” Religious group (Muslim, Hindu, etc.)

Unknowingly, Christians mislabel unbelievers and assume all are unreached. To add to their blunder, they think of the unreached as those that they share a connection with. Unreached aren’t the weekend partiers who go to church on Sunday. They’re not even the atheist professor with a Bible on his shelf for historical reference. Let’s look at how they’re defined.

Definitions of Unreached and Unengaged

Unreached People Group (UPG): A people among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers of resources to evangelize the rest of its members without outside (cross-cultural) assistance.

That’s the official definition In simpler terms, a UPG lacks native Christians with resources to evangelize all group members without outside help.

Another term takes it a step further:

Unengaged Unreached People Group (UUPG): UPG’s lacking a church planting strategy consistent with Evangelical faith and practice under way.

Important Difference

All Unengaged are also Unreached, but not the other way around. The primary characteristic that distinguishes these two groups is that no one is even attempting to actively work among the Unengaged, thus leaving any chance of gospel access obsolete.

As Christians, we all have a part in evangelizing the world. Most of us live in our native culture, but we partner with others who share Christ in cross-cultural settings (like Within Reach Global missionaries). When we use unclear definitions of UPG’s and UUPG’s, we falsely declare that gospel access is universal.

Many places in the world are saturated with Christian churches, Bibles and other gospel outlets. Though all unbelievers are equally lost, not all have equal access.

Now that we’ve clarified the definitions between unbeliever and unreached, let’s finish the work together. Let’s #countforzero by going to where the zeros are. Let’s partner together to reach the true unreached!


YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:  State Of The World And Finishing The Task: 33% Christians, 38% Access, 29% Unreached

This blog has been adapted from original post at

David Joannes
Founder/President at Within Reach Global
David Joannes is the co-founder and president of Within Reach Global, Inc, which serves the advance of the Gospel in some of Southeast Asia’s most difficult places. He is the author of The Space Between Memories: Recollections from a 21st Century Missionary. David has a love for language, culture, and creative writing, and for the last 20 years, he has witnessed God’s Kingdom established in forgotten parts of the globe. David lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with his wife, Lorna, and their daughter, Cara.
  • spreadtheflame

    The unreached are not necessarily the neediest peoples. They are the remaining peoples. Thanks for posting David.

    • Very good point. I have actually never really thought about it like that. I often think of the unreached as the most needy, but you’re right, they are the remaining, and that’s why this task of reaching them is so important. In one sense, the fact that they are the remaining people who have yet to hear the gospel makes them the most needy. I do not feel the need to apologize for my passion to the western Church who may take this blog out of context. Needs are everywhere, and most ministries are valid means of sharing Christ. But yes you’re right, the remaining peoples need to have one chance, and I’m glad you’re passionate about bringing that message to them as well. Thanks for the comment!

  • Hey David! Just wanted to send you a shoutout and huge thanks for posting this. I’m the content producer for Eurasia Northwest, and we appreciate you and others getting the word out. Also, we’d love to have you write a guest post for us sometime if you’d like!

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