During my time in college, I was heavily involved in a campus ministry that focused on studying Scripture, confessing sin, sharing the gospel, and getting connected with local churches. In our first year leading a small group, David, my co-leader, and I really struggled to help the young men in our group to share God’s heart for the nations and unreached people groups.
These people seemed to be too different and too far away from us. We spent time praying for them to hear the gospel, but we felt disconnected from their situation. We were surrounded by a Christian community, and it was hard to imagine what it might feel for someone to never hear the gospel.
Then, we were sent home due to the pandemic. Throughout the summer of 2020, we met on Zoom each night before bed to pray with one another. During this time, David and I begin to pray for unreached people groups each night. We prayed for groups like the Badyara in Senegal and the Abdul in Bangladesh. These people groups are dominated by Islam. They are filled with thousands of people who will be born, live, and die without ever hearing the gospel.
Show Them the Magnitude of the Problem
Students will not care about the unreached until they understand the gravity of their situation. If you want to see college students and young adults have a heart for the unreached, start by showing them the magnitude of the problem. Across the world, 3.2 billion people are unreached by the gospel. This means that they lack gospel access or Christian presence in their communities. David Platt defines unreached people groups and places as those “among whom Christ is largely unknown and the church is relatively insufficient to make Christ known to its broader population without outside help.”
If you want to see college students and young adults have a heart for the unreached, start by showing them the magnitude of the problem
This sobering reality should cause us to pause and rethink the way that we are living our lives. In Romans 15:20, Paul writes that he desires to preach the gospel where Christ is not already known. Today, the areas where Christ is not known are called unreached places. As Christians, we should follow the example of Paul and eagerly proclaim the gospel wherever the Lord may take us (Ephesians 6:19). This should lead us to teach our congregations about people like the Bengali Muslim Shaikh, an unreached people group in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh alone, there are over 100,000 Shaikhs that have yet to be reached by the gospel.
Teach Them How to Pray for Unreached People Groups On Sundays
During a pastoral prayer, consider spending a few moments praying for missionaries that your congregation supports, God’s work among the nations, and unreached people groups across the world. Teach college students in your congregation to pray for these people by modeling it from the pulpit. When you do this regularly, you show your congregation that these people matter, that they need the gospel and that God may be calling members of your own congregation to go to the nations.
Regularly Pray for Unreached People Groups in Small Groups
Praying for the unreached does not need to be restricted to the Sunday gathering. Though the regular gathering of the church is an essential aspect of healthy churches, many of your churches may have small groups where you regularly gather with a few other members of your local church.
At my own church, some of our small groups regularly pray for and support missionaries that have been sent out from our church. Consider taking an extended period of time to pray for the missionaries working among unreached people groups. Joshua Project’s Unreached of the Day is a helpful resource that will guide you through praying for a particular people group by providing you with insightful background information and specific prayer points.
Invite Them to Pray for Unreached People Groups On Their Own
While praying corporately is certainly important, encourage college students in your congregation to pray for the unreached during their personal time in the Scripture. In my own life, I try to finish my Scripture reading each morning by praying for God’s work in my own life, in my local church, in my city, and among the nations. Praying regularly for the unreached helps me to grow in hospitality toward immigrants and refugees in my own community and prepares me to be ready to make a defense for the hope within me (1 Peter 3:15).
Many of the group members of the small group that David and I led still regularly pray for the unreached. Just this last week I ate breakfast with a former member of that small group who has completed the first steps in order to be sent as a missionary from our church.
If you want members of your church to go to the unreached, invite them to pray for unreached people groups.