Panta ta ethne—sounds like Greek to me! Well, it is Greek. These are words taken from the Great Commission. Jesus commanded that we go and make disciples of “all nations” or “all people groups.” The goal obviously is that, one day, we will stand around the throne of God, and people from every tribe and tongue will bow in praise and adoration of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Often, we think of these words of the Great Commission as referring to people in some far off country who speak a foreign language. While that is a very accurate vision, it is not big enough. Actually, the panta ta ethne may live next door, down the street, or across town. It would not do violence to the translation to see this verse as referring to people groups of every kind who exist near you.
Now is the time for churches and pastors to take a fresh look at their communities. There are pockets of people in even the smallest of towns who are unreached. These unreached people may be single parents, people of a different race, wealthy or poor people, oil field workers, basketball dads, soccer moms, farmers and on and on I could go. For too long, we have taken for granted that we know everybody. But have you looked at your community with the eye of a missionary? Look for groups of people who have similarities and affinities, but are largely unreached and unaffiliated with a church.
When you discover the varied and many panta ta ethne in your town, it is time to strategically and intentionally start something new that will serve as a base of operation in your seeking to reach them for Jesus, baptism and church membership. There are a variety of ways you can begin to bring some of the people groups together for interaction, Bible study, witness and ministry.
E. V. Hill, the great African-American pastor from Watts, told how his church sought these people groups out in his community. As a young preacher, I remember sitting in an evangelism conference and hearing Brother Hill share how his church started outreach committees. He said they had a prostitute committee and a pimp committee; they had a drug committee and an alcoholics committee. His point was that they intentionally started groups to reach the unreached people groups in the church’s neighborhood.
Some of our churches need some of those same committees. Better yet, I would suggest you start a Sunday School class (or whatever you call your small group ministry) designed to reach out to those in a specific people group. People who have like needs, similar situations and comparable status in life find it easier to connect.
How sad that so many of our churches are declining, when there are unreached people groups all around them. Unfortunately, we have become blinded to the people surrounding us. We pass by them every day and fail to see them for who they are—an unreached people group who needs Jesus. Who are they in your town or neighborhood?
Be assured that reaching these unreached people takes real effort—yes, even work. Reaching these people requires a work of prayer. God can remove barriers that we cannot. The Holy Spirit can draw people to the Lord when our efforts fail. Prayer targeted at a people group works! Creativity and, above all, tenacity are necessary in finding ways to connect. Seeking to reach the unreached is not a cake walk. Many times, these people are unreached because no one will pay the price to enter their world, walk in their shoes, listen to their cries and love them when they are messy.
The panta ta ethne are all around you. Open your eyes and see the fields white with harvest, and then, get up and enter the field. The harvest is not in your church—the harvest is in the field.