Unreached and unknown
When Jesus called his followers to make disciples of all nations, he left the how up to them, and now, 2,000 years later, it is up to us. We love how-to videos and step by step instructions, so blueprints from the Master builder would have helped so much, right? Likely not, and here's why: while blueprints help when building something static for a static environment, the church is a living entity that he knew would need to traverse and thrive in a multitude of dynamic environments. Each generation of disciples would face different challenges with different resources and plans. Mission was very different without things like the telephone, the internet and airplanes!
Travel and communication aside, there are other factors we must consider when planning for mission. Cultural and religious differences are not always geographically bound, but geography can shield and perpetuate them.
While Jesus didn't give us blueprints, he did tell the original disciples to start with their own culture (high likeness) and work progressively outward toward those unlike themselves (Acts 1:8). As the centuries passed, different cultures began sending and others began receiving mission workers.
Admittedly skipping over nearly 2,000 years of kingdom growth, modern missions has been focused on people groups found within the 10/40 window since the early 1990s and rightfully so. "The 10/40 Window is the rectangular area of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia approximately between 10 degrees north and 40 degrees north latitude. The 10/40 Window is often called "The Resistant Belt" and includes the majority of the world's Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists." (View source) Various sources state that up to 90% of the unreached people in the world live in or around the 10/40 window. Combined with other factors, the push to reach into the 10/40 window was and is greatly needed.
But as a pendulum swings, it can lead to imbalance.
As we personally sought to discern the call, we were nearly unable because of a blindspot. It was almost as though we could only "see" through the "10/40 window." We were being called to Poland, but it just didn't make sense based on the need we "knew."
But it's not just an area of emphasis that can cause us to miss something, the metrics that help us know where to focus can hinder as well.
The Poles of Poland are the 10th largest unreached people group in the world, but don't appear on any top ten lists. How can this be? Is it a problem with the data?
No, the problem stems from how the data is interpreted and thus prioritized. This is what caused the Poles to remain unknown though they are unreached.
Two highly trusted sources use the same data in different ways. The Joshua Project does not consider the Poles unreached while the International Mission Board of the SBC does.
The Joshua Project primarily considers the "christian adherent %" in its designation of reached versus unreached. This metric is helpful in understanding a field, but can provide a "false positive" for mission progress as it is a very broadly defined category (find the definition here).
The "false positive" for the Poles: The Polish "christian adherent" figure suggests that 90% of Poles follow Christ. The reality is that Catholic confession is part of the Polish national identity, and Evangelicals account for only .29% of the population. (See full profile here)
According to the 2019 Report by IMB, the GSEC Model "..describes the progress of the gospel among the peoples of the world by considering:
1. The extent to which a people group is Evangelical.
2. Accessibility to the gospel.
3. Church planting activity, whether localized or widespread, within the past 2 years.
The GSEC Model is helpful as it classifies Poland as "unreached, but not unengaged, and Joshua Project is helpful as their website allows users to create lists by specific parameters. Where all models fall short is in prioritizing within the unreached.
So, as you can see, the data is clear and yet unclear. Allow me to introduce some (hopefully) clear information on the Poles of Poland:
1. The Poles are the largest people group outside of the 10/40 window that less than 1% Evangelical (officially .29%, though Polish leaders generally hold to an estimate of .02%).
2. The Poles are the 10th largest people group that is less than 1% Evangelical (worldwide)
3. The Poles are poised for great impact as they not only have the Bible in their language, but the Polish worldview is not hostile to the Bible nor Christianity (see the christian adherence).
4. Of the ten largest <1% groups, Poland is by far the most accessible and is open to christian workers. Residency can be established even with full disclosure of missional purposes.
5. The Poles are situated in the center of Europe, alongside Slavic groups with whom they share linguistic commonalities.
6. Even though the believing community is infinitesimal, it has already had influence on and even sent workers to neighboring states.
7. Poland has diplomatic relations with states that the US does not, and thus Poles are able to reach further than we are.
8. Due to the inadvertent "blind spots" of data analysis, there has not been a call for christian workers to Poland and this great harvest field is critically under-engaged.
9. The people of Poland are still recovering after the fall of communism in 1990. This time of rebuilding and redefining is a time of searching as well.
10. There is initial groundwork for movement in Poland ready for a surge of support.
Poland has been virtually unknown as a priority field in the world of missions, but I believe that it is time to turn the tide, to call for more laborers for this forgotten harvest field. To bring the 10 Largest into light, because if we reach the largest- they will reach the world, and Poland is the clear choice for strategic impact at this time.
Speaking strategic impact, the 2019 GSEC report has a column on the far right for "SPI" (Strategic Priority Index) and the Poles happen to be SPI Level 1.
What are we doing?
Working to reach, train, equip and support tomorrow's leaders in Poland, we are committed to turn the tide. Will you join us? How will you ReachPoland? Visit "Discover Your Role" or talk with us today!
Personal confession: this staggering information was found because of a personal passion. Having served amongst the Poles for 6 years, my heart has been broken, faith challenged, and commitment multiplied by what I've seen there. The Poles are amazing, strong, beautiful, indefatigable and incredibly loyal people. I can't wait to reach more of our future brothers and sisters in Poland and to support those we already know and love. I truly believe they will change the world for our King, and am so excited to be a part of it!
Below is newly created top ten infographic that reflects our findings.