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Thank you!

Continuing to Venture Into the Unknown

Introduction to a Step of Faith

“Where there is no vision [no revelation of God and His Word], the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). That is the state of millions of people in dozens of countries around the world. As we renew our look at complex contexts in the light of seeing a thriving church for every people, we need to remember that for those millions there is no normal, earthly chance for them to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and of His love for them. They live where there are no churches, no Bibles and very few or no Christians.

It is in those locations that Ethnos360 and its Global Partners are intent on finding the ways and means to reach into those “complex contexts” to allow the light of God’s Word to shine into those dark corners.

Larry Brown, CEO of Ethnos360, is firmly engaged in this enterprise, working with others to see the complexities dexterously handled. He shared the following with me:

“We have set up a trip in South Asia and will be meeting up with a couple of important contacts towards setting up a business that will create a legitimate entrance into unreached people groups.  This platform will be for our resident co-workers as well as for those who are also asking for help with entrance strategies.

“This is just one of a number of locations where we are now trusting the Lord to direct us to the right engagement strategy.” Any access strategy we develop will be for the purpose of gaining exposure to create relationships. As we step into this realm of complexities, we see the need to have solid, godly relationships with the believers who are already in those contexts. You may ask, “What of the language barriers? What of the differing cultural viewpoints?” And those are excellent questions that will be answered in a case-by-case manner. Larry continued in his remarks, “Just wading into this, it has been very encouraging to see the relationships that God is placing us into.  Relationships that are coming about due to simply engaging in practical things that are relevant and where life just naturally happens in these contexts.”



The Challenge

The challenge of reaching the yet unreached is difficult due to a number of factors. Access is always a factor. Most of the unreached people groups in the world today are unreached because they reside in limited access countries. Every country has its own set of access requirements, various types of visas, each with its own set of requirements. Which one will best facilitate ministry in the given context, often where Christianity is not welcome? Having access to the country is only the beginning. Research is essential to understand how best to meet the many challenges that exist in these contexts. It takes months of careful study and observation to find the best locations, the places to stay, the best way to establish relationships and to begin to understand the culture and overcome the language barrier. In some cases, more than one language is spoken. Which language should we learn? Which one will provide access to the people group/groups we will seek to reach? Where do they live? Are they rural or urban? Each presents a different set of challenges.

In limited access countries, there may be believers, but they may only meet secretly. How do we build trust with them without jeopardizing their safety? All this groundwork helps to define the composition of the team; both its preferred ethnicity or nationality and the giftings of the various team members are significant considerations. How will leaders and consultants provide help in a timely and meaningful way to offer encouragement and assistance to see the goal of a thriving church realized?

I had the privilege of talking to one of the members of a team that is ministering in one of the limited access areas. She explained several issues that the project for this year is addressing.




First of all, she mentioned that it took months of research and then weeks of travels and visits to figure out where one of the teams should be based when considering all the uncertainties of their areas of ministry. When we consider research, we have to consider all the travel needed, the accommodations and just the day-to-day expenses of living. One of the facets of research is figuring out how accessible a country is for outsiders or even a section of that country. They were able to settle in a country that has a large population of refugees and immigrants of the people group that this team had chosen for church planting.


Accessibility to Limited Access Countries

Let’s take a more in-depth look at access. For many of the countries that this mission has been sending missionaries over the last 80 years, gaining access has not been a problem. As the political climate has changed since 1942 and as cultures change, so has the “easy access” changed. Visas are increasingly unavailable for missionaries. Now we speak of limited access countries.

What do we need to pursue in order to stay there long-term?

This project is designed to aid in the research and the starting of the appropriate processes whereby we can direct workers towards options for access.


Accessibility to People Groups

Putting aside the lengthy process of getting into a limited access location, there is still the question of the accessibility to the people group. There may be easy access for the short term, but the issue is figuring out how to stay for the long-term ministry of church planting. In many places, the person moving into that location needs to be bringing something to the table, something to show as positive for the community, something that isn’t perceived as threatening. There are single women on the teams, and that raises suspicion in many places. Or something else is the question of why a “wealthy family” would move to those locations. It takes time and effort to overcome the suspicions, to show a relevant reason for being there. With research we pray that God will give us direction in how to integrate into the community.


Accessibility to Churches and Fellow Believers

One of the distinctives of Ethnos360 and the Global Partners is the desire to work with an existing body of believers to reach the unreached. This can be done even in limited access countries, although it may be more difficult than in more open countries. In some of the limited access countries, the churches are secret or underground churches. It takes time to develop that trust to come alongside them to work with them. In some places, our focus is on strengthening and equipping the local church for reaching those places where we cannot go. In parts of limited access areas, there are churches where there are believers but often with no vision for the unreached people groups.


Contrasting Urban and Rural Ministry

We’re learning that we need to start in an urban context to get as close to the people groups to build relationships that will allow us “closer in.” In places like Papua New Guinea, much of the ministry is to a specific people group with a very defined community spirit and society. So far, the work in another region is in capital cities where there really is little community, little group spirit, with few taking responsibility for the outsider going in to minister. Everyone is looking out for himself so the tight community pressure that is present in the village breaks down a little.

It's unlikely that our first entrance point would be in the heart of the community such as a village. We intentionally want to locate in the urban areas where enclaves of the people group we are wanting to engage in are living. As we have begun with this kind of strategy, it’s been exciting to see how God begins to open doors and allows us to serve and build relationships. These relationships then introduce us to other family members and at times takes us right into the context of what has been “the village.” This project will help with the research to determine the location as well as what kind of entrance strategy is best.


Which Language?

Another of the distinctives of Ethnos360 and the Global Partners is that of learning and teaching in the mother tongue, the heart language of the unreached people group. This, then, is going to be one of a number of issues that will need to be researched, discussed and decided.

In many other locations around the world, when one ministers to a people group, there may be a language of wider communication (aka, the trade language) as well as the heart language of the people group. In an urban setting, for instance in large cities, there are many different heart languages spoken in the slums. Which one will be chosen for ministering? Does that leave out so many others? Among the people group that the team has chosen, there are other groups in the same location, all of whom speak a dialect of Arabic. Do we teach in only one to the exclusion of the others?

The team member made an excellent point: “The issue goes to our value of using the mother language to evangelize and disciple. But in an urban context, although it’s not unique to urban areas probably, we may find multiple languages used even among the single people group that we are interested in. This would be the trade language, the mother tongue and possibly a second trade language for doing business with a broader community.

“If we limit our work to just one language, how could that be detrimental? It could be that some from the people group don’t speak their mother tongue very well, it could be that some from the people group don’t even know their traditional mother tongue because they were raised outside their ancestral homeland. Then there’s the challenge of only working with people in your neighborhood who speak a particular mother tongue, but yet socialize together as neighbors, using the language of wider communication. If we minister only in the mother tongue, we are by default excluding others in our neighborhood. What message does that send? None of our groups in the Middle East have had to wrestle with this scenario very deeply yet, but it’s coming as we get closer to being proficient enough in language to begin to look at how to work with the people group.”


Leadership and Consultants

Another costly aspect of reaching the unreached in limited access countries is the development of leadership teams. At the time any team is put together, there will not be an onsite leadership team available to help with decision-making and vision-casting. Usually, teams set aside a certain amount of their support funds to build a “team fund” from which money can be taken for team needs. Since the teams are very small to start with, there is very little money put into that “team fund” for the essential travel for research, for learning, for educational understanding of the culture and society or even for visiting for mutual encouragement.

That being said, funds need to be made available for the remote leadership to make trips into those locations for team meetings, for direction, for encouragement and for instruction. Once culture and language acquisition begins, there will be a definite need to bring in consultants to help guide and encourage the team members. Consultants will need to be brought in for literacy when that starts, for lesson preparation, for translation of the Bible and for church planting. Without this kind of support, we know that the team is susceptible to discouragement and losing valuable time.

This is another reason why the project exists.



The Step of Faith We Will Take Together

Thank you for reading this article in full! We have tried to describe what we believe God is leading us into so that you can better understand it. It’s God Who is leading us to this important step to reaching unreached people groups. From our research, we find that nearly two thirds of unreached people groups today are in these limited access contexts.

We began sharing this journey with you, our ministry partners, at the beginning of the year. As we approach the end of 2022, we are so grateful for the part you are playing. Thank you!

Hopefully, you are growing in your understanding of the complexities that must be accounted for to bring the gospel to those living in these contexts.

As I connected with the one team member, I was reminded again that this is indeed a new pathway to fulfill the objective we have pursued these 80 years, to reach the unreached by any means necessary.

We very much covet your prayers to see these complexities addressed so that we can see new teams set up, the leadership enabled, the security issues understood and the beginnings of the new churches set in motion.

Tags: Partner to Partner, Unreached,
POSTED ON Nov 23, 2022 by Bruce Enemark