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The Largest Unreached People Group

By Rolley Haggard
February 6, 2015 7:34 PM


Most evangelicals, consciously or unconsciously, gauge the spiritual health of a given church or ministry at least to some extent by its emphasis on missions, which is to say, on reaching the unreached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And rightly so. As Oswald J. Smith judiciously opined, “No one has the right to hear the gospel twice while there remains someone who has not heard it once.” Compassionate justice for all is a fundamental Christian instinct and the natural companion to evangelistic zeal.

Yet there is a people group—the largest by far on the planet—that is altogether neglected by virtually every church and mission-sending agency in the world. So large is it that in 2008 alone, almost 44 million people in this worldwide demographic slipped into eternity without hearing about Christ.

One would expect there to be a reasonable explanation to account for this anomaly: extreme geographical isolation, for example. But the sad fact is, there isn't. The vast majority of these people aren't way off in the inaccessible mountains of Himalaya or the steaming jungles of South Asia or the remote islands of the Seven Seas. They're in our own cities and neighborhoods, very often in our own churches and homes. Yet for all intents and purposes they might as well be on Neptune.

Who are these unreached people? They are the victims of abortion, pre-born children whose lives are ended violently before they have a chance to hear about Jesus.

The Pre-born: An ‘Unreached People Group’?

We don't tend to think of the pre-born as an “unreached people group.” One reason is that definitions of “unreached peoples” were formulated at a time when many evangelicals were divided over when life begins and still held to what Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, admits were “embarrassingly liberal positions on the abortion issue.”

Though consensus on when life begins has since changed thanks to better science and Bible study, missional models have not. We still don't think of the pre-born as a class of people to target with the love of Jesus Christ. We don't consider it within the scope of Christian missions to seek to save the lives of the pre-born so they can eventually hear the Gospel. We don't see abortion-mindedness as a mission field or abolishing infanticide a goal of contemporary church outreach (though the historical record indicates it was a high moral priority for the early church).

Over the years we've successfully devised ways to reach people behind the iron curtain and the bamboo curtain, but when it comes to the cultural curtain, which says a woman can kill her unborn child if she chooses, we do next to nothing. We recruit, fund, train, and mobilize teams to carry the gospel to those separated from God by natural barriers such as language and geography, but for those separated from Him by moral vacuity, flawed logic, and unjust laws we make no comparable effort.

We allow ourselves to be moved to action for those who have already been born, but if a child has not yet drawn its first breath we hold compassion at bay, as if God, the Giver of Life, expects love for our neighbor to be determined not by His gift but by the caprice of the mother.

We justify leaving the pre-born untouched by the loving concern of Jesus as if there were some unwritten rule that before people exit the womb we have no obligation to them, that they are somehow outside the realm of the church's responsibility. We betray, contrary to the spirit of the gospel, the suspicion that these little ones must have been destined by God Himself to die without chance or hope of hearing about Jesus, rationalizing that if a sovereign God really wanted otherwise He would see to it. We evince by our actions the belief that if someone is conceived but not yet born, he or she perhaps isn’t really a living person at all, though as noted, both science andScripture contradict such errors. We persist in excusing rather than repenting of our decades-long sin of failing to love “the least of these.”

And though they are literally all around us in numbers far too great to ignore, they are ignored, very deliberately. Reference to them in the media and popular culture is studiously avoided such that they are virtually out of sight and out of mind to practically everyone.

This may be somewhat understandable in society at large, where abortion has been sanctioned in law under Roe v. Wade since 1973 and where the common worldview is best described as post-Christian. But it is difficult to understand why within Christendom, there is still such widespread willingness to passively accept abortion as a given and why there is so much reluctance to band together in a meaningful way to get it abolished.

Yet it is a solemn fact that to this day, strategies to reach the unevangelized almost never include the pre-born. The “largest unreached people group” continues to be ignored by even missions-minded Christians, and therefore little effort is devoted to publicizing their plight or seeking to change it.

But are the Pre-born Truly ‘Reachable’?

Absolutely. Though unreached, they are anything but unreachable. Their “unreachability” is owing solely to an unjust law that permits parents to have them killed before they can grow up to hear and understand the Good News. If we worked together to get the law changed, the love of Jesus could reach both body and soul of these little ones.

Knowing how God feels about murder, it is remarkable there is not more effort by churches to get Roe overturned. Yet a 2013 study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that four decades after Roe, not only do the majority of Americans (63 percent) still oppose overturning Roe, even the single major group (white evangelical Protestants) in which a majority actually favors completely overturning Roe the percentage is only slightly over half (54 percent). According to the report, “Opinions are little changed from surveys conducted 10 and 20 years ago.”

This is largely the result of evangelical leaders seeing abortion as a political rather than a moral and spiritual issue and sidestepping rather than providing leadership. For that to change, pastors, parachurch organization heads, mission board directors, and other Christian principals must begin to see the pre-born as much a part of Christian missionary endeavor as any other people group and devise serious strategies to reach them and their mothers (often pressured against their consciences to abort) with compassionate, peaceful, holistic intervention.

This year saw the 42nd anniversary of the infamous Roe decision that gave legal sanction to abortion at any point during pregnancy. Those familiar with Douglas Adams' science fiction series, “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,” will recall the significance in popular culture of the number 42. Forty-two was “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything” as calculated by a mammoth supercomputer crunching data over a period of seven-and-a-half million years. But, as the story goes, when the computer finally came up with the answer no one could recall the question. So a second, planet-sized organic computer called “Earth” was built to determine what the Ultimate Question had been.

My prayer is that 2015 will be the year “Earth” decides the Ultimate Question was, “In years, how long after Roe before the church finally awakens from its slumber and cries out in unbroken unison for the outlaw of abortion?” For it is clear that when our Master said, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me,” He didn't mean “let them suffer.” He meant “let them come.”

Image courtesy of The Gospel Coalition.

This article originally appeared on Breakpoint and is reprinted here with permission from the author.

Rolley Haggard
Rolley Haggard 
is a feature writer for BreakPoint.

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