Where do you start? With 6,426 unreached people groups representing more than 2 billion people in the world, how do you get a grip on that number? And how do you begin to share the Gospel with them? Perhaps it’s a little like the question “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer—one bite at a time.
At least one Oklahoma church has picked up the knife and fork and begun to dig in. Oklahoma City, Nothwest is the pioneer church in a strategy called “The 6426 Project,” a partnership with the International Mission Board to pray for unreached people groups all over the planet.
Northwest has used all of its Life Group (Sunday School) classes to individually take on a group of unreached people and pray for the Gospel to reach them.
“We have 24 groups, from children through adults praying for a specific group of people to be evangelized,” said Pastor Ben Brammer. “We believe prayer is the first step in adopting an unreached people group, but it is not the only step. We want our people to do all they can to be missionaries across the street and across the world.”
Brammer said before the outreach ministry began, he preached a series of sermons on “Global God.”
Not only did this help ignite the prayer effort, but two people were called into full-time missions.
Northwest, itself, is a global church, with an English-speaking congregation, but also Hispanic, Korean, Mandarin, second generation Asian, Native American and an All Nations church worshipping in its facilities, as well as two church plants.
As the Life Groups at Northwest have been praying for unreached people groups, opportunities for service have emerged. The campus group is ministering to Iraquis at Westview Apartments, and two groups are already serving the Hmong and Lao. The groups are also discovering locations of Mongols of China, Han Chinese of Italy and Arabs and Lybians at the Oklahoma City University English Language School.
In addition to the church praying for the unreached people groups, each class also has adopted a home room at Taft Middle School, across the street from the church, to pray for and minister to.
“We have contacted the teachers, had backpack drives, do tutoring ministries and have an open gym,” Brammer said. “It’s our goal to change one child’s life.”
The Life Groups minister to the school in different ways. For example, one group visits its class the second Tuesday of each month to celebrate birthdays, complete with decorations, cake, punch and gifts for those with birthdays that month.
Bob Mayfield, Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma Sunday School/adult discipleship specialist, is serving as interim education director at Northwest, and has helped to guide the pilot 6,426 program there.
“Encouraging our classes to adopt a people group and pray for them for one year also helps us focus on the right priorities,” Mayfield said. ‘In my opinion, ultimately this is not about my church or your church or my group or your group. It is not about who has the cooler strategy or which pastor looks good in a faux hawk. The focus is on people who have never heard the Gospel. We are praying for people who will spend eternity in hell unless they respond positively to the Gospel. And for the people to respond, somehow the Gospel must be shared with them.”
Mayfield said in 2011, his office is challenging every Sunday School class or small group in Oklahoma to adopt a people group.
“Not only have these 2 billion people never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the IMB has told us that an extensive effort to pray for all 6,426 people groups has never been accomplished either,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield added that for many of the people at Northwest, and eventually across the state, Roman’s 10:14-15 is going to become more than a couple of verses in the Bible.
“The reality of ‘ . . . how can they hear without a preacher’ is going to have the face of their adopted people group on it,” he said. “Whether you are a pastor or a Sunday School leader, we are called to do more than just make good attenders out of our people. We are called to equip them to become missionaries and not just members, to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our world.”
Mayfield said one of the reasons he is a proponent of the missional communities strand of the Sunday School movement is because it encourages people to adjust their thinking from Bible study as something done in class to applying the Bible to the world around them.
“I believe many followers know as little of the world around them as they do their Bible,” Mayfield pointed out. “We want to help them discover and learn about the world we all belong to and which Christ has called us to love and share the Gospel with. Our prayers will be more earnest and more informed. Our souls will be better touched and led by the Spirit.”
He noted that unless we are inaccurately reading the Great Commision texts of the four gospels and Acts, we are called to spread the Gospel to every corner of the globe.
“The missional communities form of Sunday School is committed to making missionaries out of members,” he said.
Mayfield suggests there are several ways to pray for people groups including praying for:
1. people whom God is leading to become missionaries to the group.
2. leaders within the people group who can welcome missionaries of the Gospel (a person of peace).
3. witnessing opportunities to open up.
4. churches to be planted within the people group.
5. the Bible to be translated into their own language.
6. families of missionaries within your people group.
7. awareness and conviction of sin and the redemption available at the Cross.
8. the transformation of society through the spread of the Gospel.
If you, your Sunday School class or small group is intersted in adopting a people group to pray for, contact the BGCO Sunday School office at firstname.lastname@example.org.