Unreached Peoples: The Development of the Concept
This abridged, but still lengthy, version of Winter’s full article (the full article can be found in Reaching the Unreached: The Old-New Challenge, edited by Harvie M. Conn) originally appeared in 1984 in the second issue of the International Journal of Frontier Missions. In the IJFM abridged version, The editor observes: “After pointing out that almost from the beginning of the Bible God shows his concern for peoples as sociological and cultural units (see the table of the nations in Genesis 10), Winter delves into concepts and labels. He discusses the term peoples (sociological units) versus people (individuals) and insists that clear to the end of time in the book of Revelation it is peoples that surround the throne, not merely individuals.
The article gives detailed historical background from the three eras of Protestant missions, from a series of world-level missionary conferences, and numerous groups and individuals who wrestled with the concept of unreached peoples. What are unreached peoples? What it would mean to be reached? What about sub-divisions of people groups within larger people groups? Winter concluded that the missionary target should be the “unimax” level: “the largest group within which the gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of acceptance or understanding.”
After a lengthy discussion of various definitions of "unreached people group" Winter comments, "It is gratifying to note that the ultimate unity of mind and heart in all these discussions is the attempt to hasten the completion of the task. In that we must not grow weary. In due time we shall reap if we faint not. Providentially, that “we” here includes a vast, unprecedented world family of believers whose final citizenship is in heaven, whether or not that heaven preserves the magnificent diversity of the world’s peoples—a diversity still irritating so often to our fellow Americans unless they too can come to see these cultural barriers as potential bridges."
Winter concludes, “We ought to try to do what is plain in scripture, … in terms of the blessings we have received.” He spoke prophetically to the situation we face in America today in 2018: “I don’t believe there is any hope for this country if we cannot get beyond the syndrome of accepting and trying to preserve and protect our own blessings with MX missiles and horses and chariots and not realize that our only real safety is to give the blessings that God has given to us to those for whom he intended them.”