Most of the people who call themselves “missionaries” will tell you about their passion for the unreached people group they’re working with. Algerian Berbers. The Dong people of Nigeria. The Bondo Poroja¬†of India. People you’ve never heard of. Dark-skinned people in funny hats, living in places you couldn’t find on a map. The missionaries have grown to love their adopted people groups- indeed many have been adopted by their people groups. But unless you’ve met people, spent time with them, eaten with them- shared life with them- it’s hard to relate. How can we connect with people whose paths will never naturally cross our own?

To most of us, they’re people groups, but not people.

Our strategic approach to missions has led us begin missions with taxonomy; we conduct extensive research to find, categorize, and then engage those people groups we deem “unreached.” The unintended result of such an approach is that we’re left with a long list of facts and statistics rather than a connection with people.

If you know you’re called to mission- not just in your neighborhood, but across cultures and around the world- don’t be intimidated by a long list of unpronounceable names and places. I’d encourage you to fast and pray about where God might use you. The truth is, he may not want an Westerner to show up on the scene. Your role may be indirect. The mission of the worldwide church is a domino effect- with people going out to where the Holy Spirit leads them and sharing life with those whom He has prepared.

The beauty of God’s global activity among the nations is that it doesn’t depend on you. You can miss out, but you can’t mess it up. So throw a dart at a map, draw a name out of a hat, spin the Google Earth globe. Just be sure that God is the one leading you. Because then, and only then, will people become more to you than an unreached people group. They’ll be friends. Family. Individuals whose lives are forever supernaturally entwined with yours. People, like you, who will love, hurt, teach, and know you.

I think that’s what missions is supposed to be.


About E. Goodman

Ernest Goodman is a missiologist, writer, teacher, and communications strategist.