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The Final Frontiers: Are We Reaching Them?

Author: Anthony Parker
Published: Winter–Spring 2017

MD 8.1

Article Type: Peer Reviewed Article

Churches of Christ profess a great commitment to the Great Commission—Jesus’s parting instruction to make disciples of all peoples, to preach good news to all creation. To what extent have Churches of Christ prioritized reaching those with the least access to the good news of Jesus? This article presents the challenge of reaching those in extreme spiritual poverty—people groups that are unreached and Bibleless. The article gathers the limited available data to demonstrate that Churches of Christ need to make a more intentional effort to evangelize these groups. It also looks at the history and current status of two Bible translation ministries that have emerged from the Restoration Movement—the World Bible Translation Center and Pioneer Bible Translators—and explains their distinctive but complementary emphases.

A young American family returned from their first term as missionaries in Southeast Asia. During that first term, they focused on learning the national language while they worshiped with a small Church of Christ. As we visited over lunch, they explained that most of the energy of the congregation was invested in hosting a steady stream of short-term workers from the US. This left little time for the local believers to reach out to their neighbors. Any evangelism, whether by local believers or by their foreign visitors, was aimed at attracting members of other churches to their congregations.

The couple identified at least three reasons for this. First, national preachers have observed and been taught this model while attending training schools in a neighboring country. Second, the government has passed anti-coercion laws that bring any conversions under suspicion. (Switching churches does not constitute conversion in the eyes of the government.) Third, believers find that it is much easier to persuade those who already share a Christian worldview and respect for Scripture than those who do not.

Some time ago, I shared breakfast with two brothers from Churches of Christ who facilitate ministries in South Asia. They spoke of people being baptized, churches being planted, and leaders being trained. They also spoke of the increasing difficulty of transferring funds from the US into the country in order to support national preachers.

Having just attended a conference that addressed “insider movements”1 among Muslims and Hindus, I was curious as to whether there were other, less traditional means to reach these populations. I asked my tablemates about the background of those who were coming to Christ in South Asia—whether they were primarily Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, animistic, or some other background. “Some,” they said. “But mostly,” my colleagues replied unashamedly, “they come from the denominations. We focus on converting denominational pastors and their congregations.”

* * *

These situations reflect, anecdotally at least, a tendency for missions among Churches of Christ to focus on reaching people who already have access to the message of Jesus Christ. Do these stories, however, reflect the true picture? To what extent are missionaries from Churches of Christ reaching out to unreached people groups? Related to this question is the issue of providing access to Scripture to people in the language(s) they most readily understand.

To what extent are missionaries from Churches of Christ reaching out to unreached people groups?

Before looking specifically at the involvement of Churches of Christ, the article will first examine the areas of greatest need by explaining what is meant by unreached people groups, looking at progress in the larger Christian world in reaching out to these groups, and briefly examining what is being done and what remains to be done in the field of Bible translation.

Next, the article will look at the extent to which Churches of Christ are sending missionaries to unreached people groups. It will also advocate for extending our efforts to areas of more extreme spiritual need. Finally, it will look at the works of two Bible translation ministries that have their origins in the Restoration heritage and their efforts to provide access to God’s word to all people.

Areas of Greatest Need

Unreached People Groups

Missiologists commonly speak of unreached people groups. At the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland, Ralph Winter challenged the growing assumption that the epoch of world missions was over. Even though Christians could then be found in every nation on earth, this did not mean, Winter argued, that there was no longer a Great Commission mandate. He was convicted that there were myriads of “hidden peoples” who would never be reached if believers maintained such a mentality. He diagnosed the church with “people blindness,” which prevented believers “from noticing the subgroups within a country which are significant to development of effective evangelistic strategy.”2

Winter’s address spurred a conversation about what it would mean to reach all of the people groups of the world. In 1982, Edward Dayton convened a group of evangelical missiologists in an effort to arrive at a consensus definition of the terms that had newly entered the discussion. This gathering defined a “people group” as “a significantly large sociological grouping of individuals who perceive themselves to have a common affinity for one another. From the viewpoint of evangelization this is the largest possible group within which the gospel can spread without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.”3

This definition points to two factors that help distinguish between people groups, at least in terms of gospel communication: factors of understanding and of acceptance. A believer in a group must be able to communicate the gospel in a language and through forms that another in the same group can understand, and there must be no social, economic, or political barriers strong enough to prevent the unbeliever from hearing the gospel.4

The Joshua Project, a service of Frontier Ventures (formerly The US Center for World Mission), provides a helpful analysis of how the number of “people groups” varies according to whether one considers only major linguistic differences or includes dialectical, cultural, political, and subcultural differences.5 The Ethnologue identifies approximately 7,000 major linguistic groups,6 whereas the World Christian Encyclopedia counts about 27,000 groups if cultural and subcultural distinctions are considered.7 Other variations occur when one considers people groups that are divided by national borders, leading some authorities to consider them as separate groups.

Dayton’s gathering defined an unreached people group as “a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group without outside (cross-cultural) assistance.”8 While this definition is helpful, determining what constitutes “adequate numbers and resources” is difficult. Most mission agencies consider a people group to be “reached” when one or two percent of the total population are identified as followers of Jesus. The Joshua Project defines “unreached/least reached peoples” using the dual criteria of “less than 2% Evangelical and less than 5% Professing Christian.”9 Others describe unreached peoples as social groupings that have never heard the gospel, have not responded to the gospel, do not have a community of believers within their midst, or do not have a Bible in their mother tongue or readily available for people to read.10

According to the Joshua Project, 40.6 percent of the world’s people groups, representing 42.2 percent of the global population, or over three billion people, are unreached.11 An additional 16.9 percent of people groups have only a nominal Christian presence.12 Using somewhat different definitions, researchers from the International Mission Board (IMB) arrive at a higher percentage of unreached people groups, almost half of which it considers unengaged—there is no active evangelical church planting strategy in place to reach them.13

Progress in Reaching the Unreached

At the 1989 Lausanne II Conference in Manila, Luis Bush proposed that, if the goal of missions is to reach the unreached, mission finances and personnel must focus on what he called the 10/40 Window. This “window” extends from ten to forty degrees north of the equator and stretches from North Africa through the Middle East to China and Japan. Because this area is largely unreached by Christian missions, it constitutes the “core of the challenge” for world evangelization. Ninety-five percent of the four billion people living in the sixty-nine countries of the 10/40 Window are considered unreached.

Figure 1: The 10/40 Window

In addition to being mostly unreached, the 10/40 Window exhibits a number of other characteristics.14 All three major non-Christian religions—Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism—originated in the 10/40 Window. Animism, atheism, and Sikhism are also strongly rooted there. Eighty-seven percent are the poorest of the poor, living on an average annual income of only $250 per family.15 Finally, Satan has a significant stranglehold on this area of the world. Bush writes, “The people living in the 10/40 Window have suffered not only hunger and a lower quality of life compared with the rest of humanity, but have also been kept from the transforming, life-giving, community-changing power of the gospel.”16 God’s people must seek to break these strongholds of Satan. They must reflect the ministry of Christ by proclaiming “good news to the poor” and “release [to] the oppressed” (Luke 4:18).

The Bibleless: Progress and Remaining Need in Bible Translation

Although “Bibleless” and “unreached” are distinct categories of spiritual need, they often overlap. From the early days of Christianity, Bible translation has frequently been an integral element in making and maturing disciples of Jesus.17 According to 2016 statistics from the Wycliffe Global Alliance, the complete Bible is available in only 636 of the approximately 7,000 languages in the world today. The New Testament is available in an additional 1,442 languages, while Scripture portions exist in yet another 1,145 languages.18 Understanding that these statistics are constantly changing, it is still evident that there are no Scriptures available in over half of the world’s languages.

In some areas where the Scriptures have been translated, there are problems of access to Scripture because of limitations of printing, distribution, and literacy. Some translations are so literal or archaic that they are not readily understood by the common person, so that a new translation is warranted. On the other hand, beginning translation work in some Bibleless languages is not necessary because they are quickly dying. By the same token, existing languages are developing, in some cases rapidly, and different populations within a language group use the language differently. As evidenced by the availability of numerous English translations, the work of Bible translation is never truly complete.

Although well over 2,500 active Bible translation and language development programs are currently in progress, the Wycliffe Global Alliance has identified an additional 1,700–1,800 languages where there is a “likely need” for additional Bible translation programs.19

Extreme Spiritual Poverty: Unreached and Bibleless

An October 2015 search using Joshua Project’s People Group Filter identified 3,302 people groups where Bible translation is needed; that is, no translation project has been initiated. Joshua Project classifies 1,238 of these as unreached. That number grows to 1,682 when people groups with only a nominal or formative Christian presence are included.20 When one considers that these people groups, numbering somewhere between 1,200 and 1,700, have no active witness to Jesus—neither through mother-tongue Scripture nor through an active community of believers among them—one is driven to the conclusion that these groups constitute the area of most extreme spiritual poverty in the world today.

Just as it is wrong for the church to ignore areas of extreme physical poverty (the need for clean water, food security, affordable housing, and safety from violence), it is equally wrong for the church to ignore extreme spiritual poverty (the need for enduring access to the word of God). Justice cries out against those who live as physical gluttons yet make no effort to provide for those who lack access to basic resources. That same voice cries out against those who dine at an abundant spiritual table yet make no effort to provide for those who cannot yet taste a morsel.

Just as it is wrong to ignore extreme physical poverty, it is wrong to ignore extreme spiritual poverty.

Status of Church of Christ Missions to the Unreached

Harding University currently maintains the International Missionary Database, which attempts to list missionaries associated with Churches of Christ currently serving cross-culturally.21 Because of the decentralized nature of missions among Churches of Christ, maintaining an accurate database is extremely difficult, and Harding University is to be thanked for their efforts. In surveying the data for this article, the author noticed several missionaries that he knows to have left the field. There are, no doubt, others who are serving who are not listed in the database. Furthermore, any analysis of the data represents a snapshot in time, while the presence of field missionaries is more analogous to a moving picture. The statistics reported in this article, therefore, are illustrative of the situation among Church of Christ missions, but do not purport to be an authoritative or exact representation of the number of missionaries serving in each context.

In November 2015, the database listed 791 family units serving cross-culturally. Of these 791 family units, sixty-eight were listed as serving in countries classified by Joshua Project as lying inside the 10/40 Window. Ninety-five percent of the four billion people living in those sixty-nine countries are considered unreached. Even allowing for the inexact nature of the data available, it is safe to say that less than ten percent of Church of Christ missionaries are serving among this unreached population. The information in the database does not reveal whether those who are serving in these countries are evangelizing unreached populations or if they are, rather, focusing on reaching members of other Christian groups. Even when this is the case, there is a potential for these missionaries, or those they train, to extend their evangelistic impact to unreached peoples. If the anecdotes cited at the beginning of this article—both of which concern countries with large numbers of unreached people groups—are representative, however, there is reason to question how much intentional effort is being made to reach the unreached who are in close proximity to our missionary and national Christian evangelists.

Less than 10% of Church of Christ missionaries serve in the 10/40 window.

The potential to reach the unreached is not limited to the 10/40 Window. Using a wider definition of “unreached people group” (UPG), Operation World has classified the forty countries with the highest number of UPGs. The International Missionary Database indicates that a much higher number, 219 family units, or over a quarter of the Church of Christ missionary force, is serving in these countries. Again, this does not indicate that these missionaries are evangelizing among unreached peoples, but it does indicate that they are in some proximity to these groups. With intentional, strategic planning, either missionaries or nationals trained by them could be more effective in reaching the unreached.

Table 1: Known Church of Christ Missionary Personnel Serving in Countries with the Highest Number of Unreached Peoples22


Unreached Peoples

Missionary Family Units




Burkina Faso










































Sri Lanka















United Kingdom



In an effort to gain a deeper perspective on Church of Christ missions among the unreached, in December 2015 this author sent an online survey to email addresses listed in the International Missionary Database. Over a one-month period, eighty missionaries supplied usable responses to the survey. With only ten percent of the missionaries in the database responding, the results of this survey may not be representative of Church of Christ missions as a whole. As a measure of missionaries who are serving unreached populations, the results may be skewed conservatively. Those serving unreached peoples may have been hesitant to respond to the survey because of security concerns. The results of the survey, then, serve only as an indicator, and not as a definitive measure, of efforts by Church of Christ missionaries to reach unreached peoples.

Almost eighty percent of the respondents were North Americans serving outside their country of origin. The remainder were non-North Americans serving either inside (11.25%) or outside (8.75%) their countries of origin. Over ninety-three percent considered themselves “residential” missionaries—that is, their primary residence lies within their field of service.

The survey asked respondents to estimate the religious makeup of their target populations. Only three of the eighty survey respondents reported serving populations that would meet the Joshua Project’s definition of an unreached people group (less than two percent Evangelical and less that five percent Christian adherent). Even allowing for the limitations of this study, it is clear that there is not a widespread focus on sending missionaries to the least reached peoples of the world.

This does not, of course, mean that there are not deep spiritual needs in the areas where missionaries currently serve. Twelve and a half percent of survey respondents reported serving populations that are ten percent Christian or less. Forty percent of the respondents serve in areas where fifty percent or fewer of the people profess Christianity, and over eighty percent describe fifty percent or less of the people they serve as Protestant or Evangelical. Even in places where the majority of people profess Christianity, there are often needs for continual teaching, equipping, and discipleship.

Extending Our Efforts To Areas of Extreme Spiritual Poverty

There is no question that authentic ministry in Jesus’s name is currently taking place, but the fellowship of Churches of Christ should make an intentional effort to send more cross-cultural missionaries to people in extreme spiritual poverty. Gailyn Van Rheenen and I have discussed both strengths and limitations of prioritizing unreached peoples.23 Most obviously, by placing an emphasis on reaching unreached people groups, a missions movement focuses on areas where Satan has the tightest stranglehold. As the gospel is lived out and proclaimed, the kingdom of God makes inroads into the dominion of darkness.

We should make an intentional effort to send more missionaries to people in extreme spiritual poverty.

If we wish to expand our movement’s passion for world missions, we can expect that many will be motivated to address the disparity between those who have opportunities to hear the gospel and those who do not. Such an obvious need moves people to heed the call to go, and it can also inspire others to send. We, as a movement, however, may not be adequately aware of the extreme differences of access to the gospel that exist between different areas of the world. Although a desire for adventure is certainly a secondary motivation in missions, people with pioneering spirits may be drawn to such areas and can often develop new, innovative strategies to allow access to these often hard-to-reach areas.24

These considerations must be weighed against the reality that unreached populations are often the most resistant to the gospel and that Christians may face intense persecution. Some locations cannot be easily accessed by North Americans. Perhaps God intends to send other nationalities to some of these groups. One could argue that, if only unreached peoples are prioritized, then vibrant kingdom ministries in other parts of the world could unjustifiably suffer.25

We must also consider that unreached peoples are found outside of the 10/40 Window as well. In this age of global migration, many unreached ethnic groups are scattering throughout the world. Missionaries to Europe may find themselves living next door to someone who has never heard of Jesus. Will they recognize the opportunity that is before them? Believers in a Nashville suburb may have Asian neighbors whose worship takes place at an ancestral shrine in their living room. Will the followers of Jesus intentionally build relationships that will give them credibility when they share an alternative worldview?

Bible Translation in the Restoration Movement

David Burke has observed, “It is noteworthy that, over many centuries, it has remained true that the Bible has most commonly been read in translation. . . . As churches spread geographically, they indigenized the faith into the local culture, and one of the first aspects of that process was the translation of the Scriptures into the local language.”26 Bible translation has indeed been a feature of Christian mission since the earliest days of the expansion of the church. The rise of Protestant missions and the International Bible Society movement that began in 1804, however, gave rise to the rapid multiplication of translations. Paul Ellingworth calculates, “More than twice as many languages received a complete Bible for the first time in the nineteenth century as in the entire previous history of printing.”27 Bible societies connected missionary translators, who learned local vernaculars and could work in the original languages, with the printing press and provided important financial assistance.28

The work of Cameron Townsend, in particular, led to the development of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and its associated mission agency, Wycliffe Bible Translators. Wycliffe/SIL is the single most influential and productive force in Bible translation today, and it has inspired the formation of a number of smaller Bible translation agencies, each with its distinct emphasis. Two of these have emerged within the Restoration Movement: World Bible Translation Center (now part of Bible League International) and Pioneer Bible Translators.

World Bible Translation Center/Bible League International

The World Bible Translation Center began in the early 1970s as a ministry of the Hillcrest Church of Christ in Arlington, Texas. Ervin Bishop, now Senior Translation Consultant with Bible League International, recalls a presentation at Abilene Christian University’s Summer Seminar in Missions in 1973, where he first learned of the church’s plans for this new ministry. They were already supporting Stanley Morris, who was then working on a modern Persian translation.29 With a background in Biblical Languages and Classical Greek, as well as seven years of mission work in Athens, Greece, Bishop was immediately attracted to this new ministry and agreed to join it the following year. Although Bishop had not anticipated working on an English language translation, research pointed to the need for a translation for the deaf. Bishop worked with Benton Dibrell, a sign language expert, and other WBTC staff to complete the New Testament, and Baker published it as the English Version for the Deaf in 1978. The text was simultaneously published as the Easy-to-Read Version. The English Version for the Deaf proved effective in communicating God’s word to the deaf, while the Easy-to-Read Version, which has undergone periodic revisions, proved to be particularly effective for people whose reading skills in English are not fully developed. For that reason, use outside the United States has grown substantially.

The publication of the Easy-to-Read Version laid the foundation for the focus on producing easy-to-understand translations for many of the world’s most widely used languages. The first of these was Telugu, the language of eighty million people in southeast India. Initial evidence that the existing translation was unsuitable for the majority of Telugu speakers came from an interview with a non-Christian university student studying in the US and was confirmed through on-field research by Dr. Carley Dodd.30

The principle that has guided this translation work is that both believers and nonbelievers should be able to read the Bible in a language they can understand. While believers who have lived with older versions may find them adequate and even spiritually formative, in many cases the style used is incomprehensible or off-putting for many speakers of the language. Although translations may exist in those languages, those people are, for all practical purposes, without readable Bibles. Bishop writes, “Unless people have a Bible they can understand, they don’t have a Bible!”31

Around 1980, the World Bible Translation Center came under the oversight of the Richland Hills (now The Hills) Church of Christ. After twenty years, the organization’s board of directors assumed responsibility for its operations. In 2011, the World Bible Translation Center became part of Bible League International, whose February 2017 website lists twenty-two languages in which Easy-to-Read translations have been completed and an additional twelve languages for which translation is in progress.32

Bishop points out that some changes in focus have occurred through the association with Bible League International, whose primary interest is in providing translations for those areas where it is already engaged in assisting the under-resourced church. This means that translation work is mainly focused on these areas. Perhaps a more significant change is that now, as part of Bible League International, more Bibles translated by the World Bible Translation Center reach the people who need them, and this provision of Bibles is supported by training and discipleship.33

Pioneer Bible Translators

In the early 1970s, Al Hamilton began promoting Bible translation by recruiting workers from Christian Churches and Churches of Christ for this task. In 1974, Pioneer Bible Translation and Recruiting Service (PBTRS) was incorporated in Oregon.34 Hamilton did not originally set out to form a sending organization. He directed those he recruited to move to Dallas to be trained at SIL and did not offer specific direction or coordination for field service. However, some missionaries recruited by PBTRS found that SIL was not a good match, due in part to distinctive doctrines of the Restoration Movement and its emphasis on the church as the agent of God’s mission in the world.

In 1975, an ad hoc committee, led by Rondal Smith, met during the National Missionary Convention in St. Louis to discuss a suggestion from Wycliffe Bible Translators that churches from the Restoration Movement establish their own Bible translation agency. A founding board was established, with Smith serving as chairman. In 1976, Pioneer Bible Translators was founded and incorporated in Texas, with Al Hamilton as its first president.35 In 1988, Smith began eighteen years of service as PBT’s president. Greg Pruett, veteran missionary and Bible translator in West Africa, was named as president in 2006 and continues to serve in that role.

Pioneer Bible Translators’ field ministries began in 1977 when brothers John and David Pryor, along with their wives Bonita and Sharran, entered Papua New Guinea. In cooperation with SIL, the Madang province was chosen as the focus for meeting translation needs. In 1983, the first Scripture portions were published.36

Since those earliest days, the work of Pioneer Bible Translators has spread to other Asia-Pacific nations, to several areas of Africa, and to Eurasia. According to the Fall 2016 report to the Board of Directors, Pioneer Bible Translators is a team of 425 adults and 238 children, translating the Bible in 66 languages for 32 million people in 16 countries. Administration and financial operations take place both through various field offices and through the International Service Center in Dallas, Texas. Through international partnering organizations, missionaries are already being sent from Canada and Ukraine, and partnerships are emerging in the Philippines, Brazil, and Poland.

The work of Pioneer Bible Translators differs significantly from that of the World Bible Translation Center and Bible League International. In almost all language groups where Pioneer Bible works, no previous publications of Scripture are available. In some cases, linguists must work with local people to develop a system of writing the language, and literacy must be taught. Highest priority is given to churchless, Bibleless people groups. To the extent possible, Pioneer Bible missionaries live among the people for whom translation is being done. The ministry is not limited to Bible translation; rather, missionaries are often engaged, along with local people, in church planting, community development, and relief ministries. Because of these additional challenges, the pathway to published Scripture is considerably longer. As of February 2017, three complete Bibles have been published, along with New Testaments in 17 additional languages and portions of Scripture in at least 26 others.

The approaches represented by the legacy of the World Bible Translation Center, currently embodied in Bible League International, and Pioneer Bible Translators are, ultimately, complementary. The former’s emphasis on providing Easy-to-Read translations in the world’s most widely spoken languages helps enable access to Scripture to those who speak these languages, including multilingual readers without access to Scripture in their mother tongue. Pioneer Bible Translators’ emphasis on providing Scripture in the languages of unreached, Bibleless people groups addresses the need for mother-tongue Scriptures among unreached people groups, particularly those who live in areas of extreme spiritual poverty.

* * *

Although the research for this article did not investigate the reasons why Churches of Christ have not given sufficient attention the unreached, Bibleless people groups, one might safely assume that the difficulty of the task is a contributing factor. Recognizing the importance of the challenge does not diminish its difficulty. In a recent exchange between blog commenters, one reader responded to another’s claim that, by December 2016, “27,000+ people have gone to the world’s areas and have reached all known and unknown groups of people.” To this claim, his correspondent responded,

If anyone is telling you that a people group has been “reached”—you need to ask some more questions: What percentage of the UPG population has been discipled? Bible translations available? Churches established? How did the 27000+ people who went out learn the target languages so quickly (as this takes many many years to achieve fluency, particularly when dealing with faith terminology), How did this group gain access into closed nations beyond the usual tourist visas 30 days etc.37

Reaching the unreached will not be done easily or quickly. Not everyone is called to live among the least reached, who are often also hard to reach. Nor is everyone called to serve in the ministry of Bible translation. But some are. Are our churches opening our eyes to the need? Are our training institutions encouraging and equipping disciples to go to them? Are our families inspiring our children with examples of sacrificial service? While not all missions need be directed toward unreached people groups, both the anecdotal and the limited statistical evidence available suggest that these crucial populations deserve more attention from Churches of Christ.

Anthony B. Parker is the Global Partnerships Officer and a Training Coach for Pioneer Bible Translators, based in Dallas, Texas. He is also an adjunct professor of Intercultural Studies at Johnson University. Anthony served cross-culturally for over sixteen years in New Zealand, Benin, and Togo. He received his DMin in Missions and Evangelism from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and collaborated with Gailyn Van Rheenen on the second edition of Missions: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Strategies (Zondervan, 2014).

1 According to advocates, “An ‘insider movement’ is any movement to faith in Christ where a) the gospel flows through pre-existing communities and social networks and where, b) believing families, as valid expressions of the Body of Christ, remain inside their religious communities, retain their identities as members of those communities, while living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible.” Rebecca Lewis, “Promoting Movements to Christ Within Natural Communities,” International Journal of Frontier Mission 24 no. 2 (Summer 2007): 75,

2 Ralph D. Winter, “The Highest Priority: Cross-Cultural Evangelism,” in Let the Earth Hear His Voice: Official Reference Volume, Papers, and Responses, International Congress on World Evangelization, Lausanne, Switzerland, ed. J. D. Douglas (Minneapolis: World Wide, 1975), 221.

3 Edward Dayton, “Reaching Unreached Peoples: Guidelines and Definitions for Those Concerned with World Evangelization,” International Journal of Frontier Missions 2, no. 1 (January 1985): 32–33.

4 Bible translation ministries often distinguish their projects by speaking of “language groups” rather than “people groups.” While a language group may incorporate multiple people groups, a single translation project may be sufficient for all. At the same time, when this is the case, those organizing the translation project must assure that members of diverse, sometimes conflicting, groups share ownership of the translation process so that the resulting translation will find acceptance by all who can understand it.

5 Joshua Project, “How Many People Groups Are There?”

6 M. Paul Lewis, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig, eds., Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 18th ed. (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2015),

7 David B. Barrett, George T. Kurian, and Todd M. Johnson, World Christian Encyclopedia: A Comparative Study of Churches and Religions in the Modern World, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

8 Dayton, 33.

9 Joshua Project, “Joshua Project,”

10 Damian Efta, “Who Are the Unreached?” Evangelical Missions Quarterly 30, no. 1 (January 1994): 29.

11 Joshua Project, “Global Statistics,”

12 Joshua Project, “Lists: All Progress Levels,”

13 The IMB counts 11,751 people groups, 7,042 of whom it considers unreached. Of these, it considers 3,229 to be unengaged. Data gathered in April 2016 from IMB, “Global Status of Evangelical Christianity,”

14 Luis Bush, Getting to the Core of the Core: The 10/40 Window (San Jose, CA: Partners International, n.d.), 3–8.

15 Window International Network, “About the 10/40 Window,”

16 Bush, 7.

17 By the end of the fourth century, John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople, refers to a translation of the Gospels made by the Parthians “into their own tongue.” There is also evidence of the Gospels being translated into Georgian in the fifth century. Also in the fifth century, Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus mentions translations of the Hebrew writings into the Latin, Ethiopian, Persian, Indian, Armenian, Scythian, and Samaritan languages. See Manuel Jinbachian, “Introduction: The Septuagint to the Vernaculars,” in A History of Bible Translation, ed. Phillip A. Noss (Rome: Edizioni di Stroria e Letteratura, 2007), 44, 51.

18 Wycliffe Global Alliance, “Scripture & Language Statistics 2016,”

19 Wycliffe Global Alliance, “2016 Bible Translations Statistics FAQ: Going Deeper,” November, 2016, 4,

20 Joshua Project, “People Group Filter,”

22 Known Church of Christ Family Units as listed in the International Missionary Database provided by the Center for World Missions at Harding University (November 2015). Paramaters for “unreached peoples” here follow Operation World, “Unreached Peoples,” Countries in bold lie in the 10/40 Window according to the revised list at Joshua Project, “What is the 10/40 Window?” Church of Christ missionaries also serve in Albania (fifteen family units) and Japan (six family units). These countries are within the 10/40 Window but do not fall in Operation World’s list of countries with the highest numbers of unreached people. 10/40 Window countries with no Church of Christ missionary personnel listed include Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Brunei, Chad, Djibouti, East Timor, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, North Korea, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, West Bank/Gaza, Western Sahara, and Yemen. Note that active congregations of Churches of Christ, led by nationals or by missionaries not listed in the database, are present in several of these countries.

23 Gailyn Van Rheenen with Anthony Parker, Missions: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Strategies (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 460–61.

24 Ibid., 112–13, 460.

25 Ibid., 461.

26 David G. Burke, “The First Versions: The Septuagint, the Targums, and the Latin” in A History of Bible Translation, ed. Phillip A. Noss (Rome: Edizioni di Stroria e Letteratura, 2007), 60–61.

27 Paul Ellingworth, “From Martin Luther to the English Revised Version” in A History of Bible Translation, Phillip A. Noss, ed. (Rome: Edizioni di Stroria e Letteratura, 2007), 133.

28 Ibid., 136; William A. Smalley, Translation as Mission: Bible Translation in the Modern Missionary Movement, The Modern Mission Era, 1792–1992: An Appraisal (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1991), 28.

29 Ervin Bishop, Telephone interview with author, February 18, 2016.

30 Ibid.; Ervin Bishop, “Some Thoughts on the Need for Different Types of Translation,” Paper presented to the Forum of Bible Agencies (April 1999), 3.

31 Bishop, “Some Thoughts,” 1.

32 Bible League International, “Translation,”

33 Bishop, interview.

34 Eunice Herchenroeder, PBT History—A Timeline of Firsts (Dallas, TX: Pioneer Bible Translators, 2001).

35 Ibid.

36 Ibid.

37 Allen O., comment on Aaron Earls, “10 Key Trends in Global Christianity in 2017,” Facts & Trends,

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