April 2024

Have a comment on one of these posts? Email me.


Unreached vs. Nominal

There are several different ways of measuring what are effectively the “extremes” of a % Christian bell-curve.

I use a six level “Stage of Christianity” measure for countries, provinces, districts, and languages. The stages are:

  • 0: <0.1% Christian - the very frontiers of no access.
  • 1: 0.1% to 2% Christian - some believers, but significantly “unreached”
  • 2: 2% to 8% - has crossed or is crossing the “unreached” line but still very little
  • 3: 8% to 32% - significant Christian presence though still in the minority, often evangelistic
  • 4: 32% to 90% - most “Christian” countries or districts would fall into this area
  • 5: over 90% - highly Christianized regions.

The measures of “unreached” and “nominal” tend to represent situations found at either extremes of this “bell curve.” People with little access to the Gospel are found largely clustered in stages 0 to 2, with some in the lower end of stage 3. People who are “nominal” are found within “culturally Christian” regions, which are found at the upper bounds of stage 4 and throughout stage 5.

These represent two different sets of problems that people can become very passionate about. “Why are we going to the unreached when there are so many bad disciples at home” is the cry of a person who is being drawn up the scale, not down it. “Why should anyone hear the Gospel twice when there are so many who haven’t heard it once” is the cry of a person who is being drawn down the scale, not up it.

What we should not do is equate the two problems. Every individual is equally on the heart of God, but the problem of unevangelized/unreached is not the same as the problem of nominalism. They require two different approaches, and two different callings. (I think this is why God calls apostles, as well as prophets and pastors).

At the risk of being misunderstood, I also do not think we should prioritize one over the other. People who are called to disciple nominals are not being called to the unreached, nor vice-versa. Instead, I think we need to challenge the church to go to all three - “Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the Earth.” I don’t believe we have to pick one - we just need to build one another up and release one another into the callings God has for us. He has more than enough resources and people for both the unreached and the nominals - and everyone in between.


Language Loss

“Of the world’s 7,000-odd languages, almost half are expected to disappear by the end of the 21st century,” writes the Economist.

If we measure the completion of the Great Commission by the number of ethnolinguistic groups left on the list - which is largely defined by language - then striking 3,500 groups from the list is one easy way to “jump” toward the finish line.

But it also brings to mind a striking question: is every language to be represented before the throne? What does that verse mean?

For example, if a language “dies” without any believers in it - has the Great Commission failed?

Obviously not - but then, what precisely does the verse mean, and what are we measuring?


Money Transfers

Fluctuations in challenges to money transfers between countries can significantly affect both access (getting in to, and sustaining access) to certain parts of the world, and evangelistic/disciple-making strategy selection.

Some of these challenges can include:

  • fluctuations in exchange rates that can reduce the value of money transferred in
  • transfer fees from banks and other services for international transfers, that eat away at what is sent
  • Compliance and regulation, for example with anti-money laundering laws and local regulations
  • the lack of local banking systems to transfer to or to store money in
  • some of these regions may have frozen assets or be under banking sanctions
  • some may not have sufficient local currency even available
  • fraud, corruption, monetary theft, fund misappropriation, etc
  • delays in processing transfers or gaining access to money on deposit in local areas.
  • when electronic transfers cannot be made, in-person transfers have to be effected, can be difficult
  • natural disasters and conflicts can introduce abrupt changes to what was moderately stable

One area that I have been particularly watching is increasing levels of anti-money laundering laws, for example between the US and certain countries in Western Asia. These sorts of things make it difficult to get money into the area, which means it’s likewise difficult to support workers in the area. If you see examples of this happening, especially with public articles about it, I’d love to see links - email justinlong@gmail.com.