North America Has Hundreds of Unreached People Groups

The United States and Canada make the top-six list of countries in the world with the largest numbers of unreached people groups.

North America Has Hundreds of Unreached People Groups

It was wonderful to be at the Reaching the Nations Summit this past weekend. It was a blessing to meet some new people and reconnect with old friends. If you were not there, I hope you took advantage of the livestream link I shared on social media.

As promised to those of you in the chapel (or watching), you may find my slides HERE. I hope they will be of assistance to you in making disciples of all nations.

Yes, the slide showing the updated numbers of unreached peoples and unengaged-unreached peoples is included.

Dr. Bryan Galloway, Senior Research Analyst with the International Mission Board’s Global Research, shared them with me. Keep in mind the research is still being conducted for the U.S. and Canada (and posted at, and these present numbers are likely to be off by one to five people groups. If you compare them to last year (and when I published Strangers Next Door), you will see the differences provided by better research.

The United States and Canada make the top-six list of countries in the world with the largest numbers of unreached people groups (defining an unreached people as less than 2 percent evangelical).

An examination of the 282 and 167 unreached people groups in these two countries reveals a more troubling set of numbers—the unengaged-unreached people groups.

An unengaged-unreached people is a group that is less than 2 percent evangelical AND there is no evangelical church planting strategy being executed to reach that group. The present UUPG count is 207 for the U.S. and 141 for Canada.

These are our present North American realities. Some of us have been sharing these number for a few years, calling the church to give priority to church planting activities among the unengaged and unreached peoples of North America. However, the reality remains: In North America, the expectation is that church planting is to take place among reached people groups.

If you are a church or denominational leader, I want to ask you to question your present reality. If you are not familiar with your denomination’s (or network’s) church planting activities, then I would encourage you to contact your leaders and inquire about the work among unreached peoples in North America. Then ask why the highest priority is not with the unengaged and unreached.

Our priority in North America is to shuffle the sheep around in the Kingdom in order to add another local church to the country. Our theology and missiology expects churches to be planted instantly with long-term Kingdom citizens, rather than from the harvest with 100 percent conversion growth (i.e., Acts 13-14). Our ambition is to preach the gospel where Christ has already been named and build upon someone else’s foundation.

And yet an ancient model calls to us across the ages:

“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, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand’” (Romans 15:20-21, ESV).

This article originally appeared here.

JD Payne
J. D. serves as the pastor of church multiplication with The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. He has pastored churches in Kentucky and Indiana, and served for a decade with the North American Mission Board and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books on the topics of evangelism and missions.