Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance." That proves true in our global strategies for advancing God's kingdom. If the command given by Jesus is to make disciples of all nations (or ethnic groups), then we can make it our goal to find those ethnic groups that have not been discipled and taught to be followers of Christ. People desiring to fulfill the Great Commission need to know where these "unreached" groups of people are, so that our efforts in completing the task will not simply be busy, but productive.
THE HARVEST IS PLENTIFUL
The vast majority of these unreached people live in an area of the world nicknamed the "10/40 window." The 10/40 window is simply a term used to describe a region of the world within 10 and 40 degrees latitude from Western Africa to Eastern Asia. If you were to draw it on a map, the top would go from Portugal through Japan and the bottom would go from Guinea through the bottom tip of India all the way to the Philippines. This is an important region to think about as a missions-minded believer because most of the people who have not had an opportunity to hear the gospel live in this region. The revised 10/40 Window includes 65 of the least reached countries in the world.
The people who are lost in the 10/40 window are not "more lost" than your neighbor or family member who does not know Christ. But, they are "unreached" in the sense that they have not had an opportunity to hear the Gospel. The issue is their lack of access to the Gospel. People can be unevangelized without being unreached. There are people in the United States who have not heard the gospel, but they could if they wanted to. Most people living in the 10/40 window couldn't find out about Jesus even if they wanted to! These are unreached people who do not have access to the gospel.
There are over 3.6 billion unreached people in the world today. Of those 3.6 billion people, 88% live in or near the 10/40 window. Only 2.17% of these unreached people live in North and South America combined!
This area of the world is largely unreached for several reasons. First, these people do not live in a spiritual vacuum. The world's major religions began in this part of the world and are firmly entrenched there. In the 10/40 window alone there are 724 million Muslims, 787 million Hindus, and 240 million Buddhists.
TOTAL ADHERENTS TO THE MAJOR WORLD RELIGIONS
1.6 Billion – Muslims
480 Million – Buddhists
340 Million - Chinese Folk Religions
1 Billion – Hindus
660 Million - Tribal Religions
975 Million - Atheists & Non-Religious
14 Million - Jews
Along with that, many of the countries in this region are oppressive to Christianity. Regardless of these facts, Jesus declared, "the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few." This leads us to one of the other major reasons this part of the world is so unreached: There is a lack of Christians willing to go to these places.
THE LABORERS ARE FEW
It is estimated that only 3% of foreign missionaries today are working to reach these unreached people. The other 96% are working in unevangelized, but not unreached areas. Of all the money designated for "missions" in the U.S., only 5.4% is used for foreign missions, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia. Of that 5.4%, only 1% is used to take the gospel to unreached people who don't have access to it. That is about one cent out of every one-hundred dollars given to missions! The rest goes towards efforts to further evangelize reached people.
American evangelicals could provide all of the funds needed to plant a church in each of the 7,000 people groups with only 0.2% of their income. If all the missionaries needed came from America, less than 0.5% of evangelicals ages 18 to 35 could form the teams required.
TOTAL DISTRIBUTION OF LABORERS
There are 400,000 missionaries from all branches of Christendom. Only between 3 and 4% (13,315) of these missionaries work among unreached peoples. The distribution of Protestant Missionaries among religious blocks looks like this:
74% Among Nominal Christians
3% Among Buddhists
8% Among Tribal Peoples
2% Among Hindus
6% Among Muslims
2% Among Chinese Folk Religions
4% Among Atheist or Non-Religious Peoples
1% Among Jewish Peoples
We must take the time to educate ourselves on what the world looks like and evaluate our efforts in line with God's command to make disciples of all people groups. The harvest is too plentiful for us to ignore the millions of those lost apart from knowing Christ. And the laborers are too few for us to assume there is not a need for our direct involvement in reaching the world.