Imagine going into a room with 100 people starving of malnutrition and you had a large bowl of warm food. You put heaping spoons of nourishment on 27 of these plates before you run out of food.
When you return from the kitchen, you dish out food on those same 27 plates until they run out again. Next time, you give food to those same ones who are now stuffed, while leaving all the others starving.
What if you kept feeding the same ones over and over, and at the same time the vast majority starved while you never took the time, money or effort to give them a single morsel?
I had heard about them, read articles about them, and even mentioned them in sermons, but I had never taken unreached, unengaged people groups (UUPG) seriously until three years ago. I thought it wasn’t my problem. I had read that at least 73 percent of the people on earth were without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but I was busy feeding the other 27. That was my responsibility.
For over 30 years I had taken many mission trips, completed mission projects, and developed partnerships with missionaries.
However, I had always excused my personal involvement in engaging a UUPG because as a pastor in America, I believed they were not my responsibility. I shirked my personal responsibility by hiding underneath a much larger group responsibility.
I thought, “Our church gives to missions. We support the Cooperative Program.
We give to Lottie Moon. We fully support the International Mission Board. It is their job to reach the unreached. I am a Southern Baptist, and they are trying to reach those who are spiritually starving.”
Like the men in Luke 9, I had used so many excuses; “It is too costly. They are too far away. We are involved in other good works. This is too hard. There are lost people right here.”
In my devotion time one day I read where the four starving lepers received a miraculous provision. While they were gorging themselves as everyone around them starved, they said, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves.” (2 Kings 7:9). There it is!
If God has saved me and I know others do not know – I AM RESPONSIBLE!
Even after 2,000 years since we were commanded to make disciples among all people groups, there are still over 6,400 people groups that are “unreached,’ (UPG) with less than 2 percent Christians; and over 3,500 that are unreached, and “unengaged” (UUPG). They have no church, no missionary, and no one engaging them with the gospel.
This means while 27 out of every 100 people on earth keep getting all the food along with most of the cooks and servers, 73 are left starving. As a follower of Jesus Christ who has received the Bread of Life, I cannot excuse myself. I am responsible and so are all those I keep feeding week after week.
Those whom I am privileged to serve understand this same responsibility. We realize Acts 1:8 starts in our community, extends in our country, and embraces the continents. We are intentional about reaching the lost around us in our Jerusalem.
Last year, Englewood launched a new church plant in our Judea, Creekside Fellowship in New Bern, while sponsoring two new Hispanic church plants.
Two years ago, after months of prayer and exploring the different UUPGs in the world, Englewood Baptist Church made the unanimous public declaration in a called business session: We are committed to go wherever it takes, and do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes in order to plant indigenous, healthy, reproducing churches among the Koli Malhar people.
After taking five teams to South Asia in the past 16 months, we know of seven Koli adults who have professed faith in Jesus Christ, thrown out all their idols and been baptized. All glory goes to Jesus Christ! Our church is committed to send a couple from our congregation to work among the Koli and other UUPGs through the International Mission Board, but will be financially supported by the church.
This church is focused and filled with excitement as members in every age group are praying for the Koli. Englewood is taking personal responsibility.
I challenge other pastors to join me in embracing a UUPG, or an area, a village, or a region with several of these groups. Four pastors from eastern North Carolina are currently leading their churches to partner together to embrace, not one group, but a district in Mumbai that contains several UUPGs. What an exciting concept – cooperating together to reach the unreached!
There are enough churches in the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina that if we pastors and members took personal responsibility, we could embrace every unengaged people group that is left in our lifetime. We could take food to all those 73.
What about you? What is your excuse?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Cloer is senior pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount.)
Impact Your World Conference
When: April 30-May 2
Where: First Baptist Church, Charlotte
Deadline to register: April 25
Registration fee: $50
For more information, contact Teresa Bowman at [email protected] or (800) 999-3113, ext. 1721.
One of the speakers will be Michael Cloer.