An Annual Day of Prayer for the Unreached


Engage Today has launched a new initiative of coordinating an annual Day of Prayer for the Unreached, which began in 2021. The goal is to mobilize churches in Canada to pray that God would bring about awakenings among the Unreached.

Who are the Unreached?

The term Unreached is commonly understood to be an abbreviation of Unreached People Groups (also known as UPGs). Ralph Winter first introduced the concept of Unreached People Groups at the 1974 Lausanne International Congress on World Evangelization. Since that historical event, this missiological category (UPGs) has had significant influence in shaping how Evangelicals around the world think about engaging in Jesus’ call to make disciples among all the ethnē (Ethnic groups) of the world (see Matthew 28:18-20).

A people group is identified by shared ethnicity, language, culture, and religion, and is classified as unreached when the population of Evangelicals numbers less than 2 percent. This threshold, however, is not without dispute. It is not based on a Biblical measurement, but is the conclusion of missiologists using sociological data to analyze what population percentage would be necessary to spread its ideas to the broader population without outside assistance (Platt, Rethinking Unreached Peoples, Basically, identifying 2 percent – as the threshold to distinguish between reached and unreached – is an attempt to quantify the mission need among each people group. Just because we don’t get this number from the Scriptures directly, does not mean that it cannot be helpful though.

The mission strategy of Engage Today is not exclusively based on unreached people group data. We do, however, find it a helpful reference to ensure that our work is focused on peoples among whom Christ is still largely unknown. Like the Apostle Paul, our ambition is to see Christ proclaimed where he is not named (Romans 15:20). Our partners, likewise, don’t use statistical data to focus their work but are seeking to preach Christ where he is not known and to plant churches where there are none. For many of our partner indigenous missions, they work with multiple people groups which are found in the locations where God has placed them. As David Platt argues in his article “Rethinking Unreached Peoples”, place still matters in global missions, and not just going by statistical unreached people group data.

Why pray for the unreached?

It’s common knowledge in the missions community that worldwide there are approximately 2 billion people who still have not heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a concerning reality for all who know Christ and desire to see him glorified among all peoples in all places. We desire this reality to change and so we need to pray.

A helpful comment from Pastor Burk Parsons serves us well at this point in thinking about prayer for the unreached. “We don’t believe in the power of prayer. We believe in the power of God. That’s why we pray.” Our great confidence is in who God is and what he is capable of doing.

We want to encourage you with a tremendous example of how the Lord has worked in one unreached people group. In the early 1970s there were fewer than 10 believers among the Buran (pseudonym) people in South Asia. Our partner, Kirit, was one of the very earliest believers of this people. The Lord burdened his heart to pray for his people early in his Christian life and he has been crying out to God that he would not be taken home until at least 50 percent of his people are believers. In the early 1970s this people would have been one of those groups quintessentially unreached. Today, there are over 10 percent of the Buran who name Christ as Lord and Saviour. In 50 years we have witnessed a movement taking place by the work of the Holy Spirit among a group where there was virtually no Christian witness whatsoever beforehand.

One of the most encouraging parts of preparing for the Day of Prayer for the Unreached has been to identify with our partners all of the unreached people groups that they are actively engaged in seeking to reach. Most of partners are actively ministering to a number of unreached people groups. In fact, several of our partners are ministering to more than 20 unreached people groups. We are excited that our partners represent the messengers by which significant populations are gaining access to the message of the gospel.

We pray because it is only God who can transform peoples and nations.