How do we have a heart for the unreached? How do we care for those who live thousands of miles away from us and whom we will likely never meet? Why should we sacrifice time and money for the unreached? These are questions that young Christians often ask when discussing the unreached.
How Do I Have a Heart for the Unreached?
Our heart for the unreached starts with the Scriptures. In Romans 15:20, Paul makes his burden for the unreached clear by stating, “And thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation.” Interestingly, Paul gives missional priority to those whom he has never met and have never heard the gospel. He prioritizes places that are hard to reach and have yet to be reached by the gospel.
As people, we have a natural tendency to care deeply for those we know. It’s easier for us to pray for those we interact with on a regular basis. This makes the lack of proximity one of the great challenges we face in cultivating a heart for the unreached. We want the unreached to hear the gospel, but we have a hard time orienting our hearts to genuinely care for them.
Recognize God’s Heart for the Unreached
God’s heart for the nations is clear throughout the Bible. In Genesis 12:1–3, God makes a covenant with Abraham, promising him land, offspring, and a blessing that will reach “all the families of the earth.” These promises are foundational to seeing God’s heart for the nations in Scripture.
Jesus Christ comes through the line of Abraham and is the very one through whom all nations are blessed (Galatians 3:28–29). When God promises to bless all the nations of the earth through Abraham’s family, this promise is ultimately fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus. From long ago, God was working to provide salvation for the nations. The work of Christ on the cross is effective for Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free. Christ died for the unreached. We have a heart for the unreached because Christ died for people of every nation.
Research Unreached People Groups
One of the best ways to overcome apathy towards the unreached and take up a missional mindset is to actively research unreached people groups. Doing so allows us to recognize the gravity of the Great Commission in light of the approximately 3.2 billion unreached people worldwide.
By researching statistics, learning about culture, and reading testimonies of the unreached, we better familiarize ourselves with those whom we hope to reach with the gospel. In doing so, the unreached become more real to us and our hearts are more deeply burdened by their lack of gospel access. Stratus, Joshua Project, and Voice of the Martyrs provide moving statistics and stories about unreached people groups that should spur us towards gospel action. When the church learns about the unreached, we’re motivated to live on a mission for their salvation.
Reach Internationals in Your City
Practically, God has placed each of us in a particular place for a time. While we should be praying for unreached people groups around the world, our ministry should start with those in our own city. If you want God to enlarge your heart for the unreached, start by reaching internationals in your city with the gospel. While this may not be possible in every context, many of us live in areas where universities, hospitals, and businesses attract international students and workers. Many of these internationals come from countries that are currently unreached by the gospel.
When we start by reaching internationals in our own community, we prepare ourselves to faithfully present the gospel cross-culturally. If the Lord eventually calls us to go overseas, we will be more equipped for the task.
Even more so, we provide an avenue for these internationals to bring the gospel back to their own countries with them. In Birmingham, Alabama, many international students come to our city for a few years in order to study medicine or business at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Some of these students will stay in the United States after they graduate from college, but many will not. Sharing the gospel with international students provides an opportunity for our hearts for the unreached to increase and for the gospel to be spread among the nations.