A Tragic Story
Everyone has a story.
Haruki, a university student in Nagasaki, Japan, spends countless hours poring over pages of Chemistry notes, expending tremendous energy to earn good grades and honor his parents and ancestors. Sara sets up her family’s yurt, the tent they call home, almost weekly, as they travel throughout western Mongolia searching for vegetation to sustain their livestock through another harsh winter. When he’s not drinking tea and playing cards with his friends, Ibrahim can be found in his uncle’s small shop in the village’s market square, where he’s worked to support his younger siblings since he was only seven years old. Needless to say, Haruki, Sara, and Ibrahim don’t have very much in common. However, one key detail in their differing stories is the same: they have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.
These three individuals represent a population commonly referred to as unreached people groups. A people group is identified when individuals share a common language, history, and culture. But what does it mean that certain people groups are unreached? Unlike our non-Christian neighbors, who have immediate access to the gospel through Christians and local churches in our neighborhoods, unreached people groups have little-to-no access to the gospel. In other words, they will likely be born, live, and die without ever hearing a clear presentation of the good news about Jesus. For them, there are no church services, coworkers, Bible studies, or evangelistic meetings; the gospel isn’t just unbelievable, it is completely unknown. Sadly, despite the rapid globalization of our world, this remains a reality for almost three billion people in 2019.
The Bible’s Story
How should this tragic aspect common in Haruki, Sara, and Ibrahim’s stories—and the billions of people they represent—impact us as Christians? What difference does it make for our stories? The answer to this question lies in the pages of a greater story: the story of Scripture. The Bible is like a script for its readers, giving us the setting, roles, and plot lines of our lives. So, we must ask, where do unreached people groups fit into this narrative?
A survey of Scripture reveals that every people group has an important role to play in this unfolding drama. Abraham’s family was set apart to bless all nations (Gen 12:3). Jesus commissioned his followers to make disciples from every nation (Matt 28:19–20). John the apostle’s vision of human history’s culmination anticipates some from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation worshipping God (Rev 5). From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible clearly portrays the global scope of God’s redemptive purpose for his glory. Every nation is embraced. None are ignored or overlooked. God has always planned to restore fellowship with some from every people group.
So what does this mean for unreached people groups? Where do they fit in God’s redemptive plan for the nations? Clearly, there is a gap between current realities and the vision in Revelation 5. In John’s vision every nation is worshipping Jesus. Today, however, some nations have never even heard of Jesus. How will this inconsistency be reconciled?
Part of the answer is that God is still sending missionaries to provide access for these peoples. Some, following Paul the apostle’s example, are making it their life’s ambition to reach the unreached (Rom 15:20). How do they arrive at this passion and goal? The same way Paul did, by making the Bible their script. Quoting the prophet Isaiah, the apostle made a biblical text the reason for his main objective:
“Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand” (Rom 15:21).
Today, as missionaries follow Paul’s example, seeing their stories in light of Scripture’s, they continue to share the gospel wherever it has not yet been preached. Paul’s Leather Company exists to support such pioneers. Our company is named after the apostle, because we seek to jump into the Bible’s story by using our time and resources to stand behind those following his example, taking Christ to those who have never heard. Paul wrote the letter to the Romans because he needed to “be helped on [his] journey” (Rom 15:24) when he traveled to make Christ known in Spain. Likewise, today’s missionaries need support for their gospel endeavors. At PLCO, it is our joy, passion, and purpose to provide this assistance. We join our brothers and sisters who cross cultures and make disciples in gospel-less places, participating in the Bible’s story alongside them by supporting their Paul-like ministries.