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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

Key Definitions

People Group (PG):

A people group is "a significantly large grouping of individuals who perceive themselves to have a common affinity for one another because of shared culture, language, religion, ethnicity, or caste, situation or combinations of these." 

"For evangelistic purposes it is the largest group within which the gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of language, race, caste, etc. which hinder understanding or acceptance." 

        from the Lausanne Strategy Working Group

Unreached People Groups (UPG):

People groups in which less than or equal to 5% are Christian Adherents AND less than or equal to 2% are Evangelical. (Joshua Project definition)

Frontier People Groups (FPG):

Frontier People Groups (FPG) are UPGs with virtually no followers of Jesus, no known movements to Jesus, and still needing pioneer cross-cultural workers. Joshua Project approximates FPG as 0.1% or fewer Christian Adherents and no confirmed, sustained movement.

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 (UUPG):

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.'

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.  




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!

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.

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