Every complex endeavor is characterized by its own 'language of work.' It is said that the expertise within a field lives in this specialized language. The same is true with the unreached unengaged. These definitions and clarifications are designed to make our conversations easier.
Definitions: Our Language of Work
People Groups (Peoples):
People groups share a self-identity including culture, language, and values. They refer to themselves as "us."
Criteria for Engagement:
A people is unengaged until four criteria are met.
A. Presence: There is a Christ-proclaiming presence among the people.
B. Persistence: That Christian presence is over time, not simply a drop-in or fly-by.
C. Cultural Sensitivity: The gospel is communicated in the language of the people in ways that resonate and are relevant to them.
D. Sowing with Intent: Self-replicating churches and movements within the group are intentionally nurtured.
Unreached Unengaged People Groups (UUPGs):
If any of the criteria are missing (see 'Criteria for Engagement' below), a people group is said to be "unengaged." Unengaged peoples are a subgroup of 'unreached peoples.'
Frontier People Groups:
People groups in which 0.1% or fewer are Christian Adherents and there is no confirmed, sustained movement. (Joshua Project definition)
All of us want to be good stewards of what we've been entrusted. So when we receive an engagement report, we're thrilled, and we actually have hundreds we're still assessing with help from trusted global orgs and networks. This is not about a lack of trust but about being as sure as we can be concerning an eternally important thing. We're glad for all God is doing whether we can verify it or not. . . and we're still going to try with His help to verify it!
Telling the Difference...
These terms can be confusing!
Let's point out the differences between a few of the confusing terms.
All unengaged peoples are unreached, but not the other way around.
Some unreached are engaged. They have a chance to hear. But the unengaged unreached have no chance to hear.
The unengaged are a subset of the unreached.
Unreached versus Unengaged Peoples
Unengaged versus Frontier Peoples
These ideas look at the problem two different ways.
"Frontier Peoples" describes how a people have responded to the gospel, describing how many in the group are adherents to Christianity. This designation describes a people group in which very few have come to faith.
"Unengaged Peoples" describes our work among the people. It describes the situation in which there is not yet a Christ-proclaiming, churches-nurturing witness in the people group.
There could be a Frontier People with an active Christian witness but in which only a few people have yet responded.
Unengaged Peoples don't yet have a witness. We believe that makes them the most severely unreached peoples.
Making Sense of People Groups
Wycliffe Bible Translators estimates there are about 7,000 basic languages in the world--with many dialects and other sub-divisions, of course. We think about half of these are unreached, and about half of the unreached are unengaged.