Praying for Frontier People Groups

Pft31-cover-3rd-ed-1You have likely heard of Unreached People Groups (UPGs)—ethnic groups of peoples where the number of self-professing Christians is under 5% of the population.[1]

Unengaged UPGs (UUPGs) are those groups the church has not yet attempted to reach. They still lack any kind of witness among them, and there is not even a plan to create one. There is no way they could hear about Jesus unless someone crosses a cultural barrier to bring them the good news.

Now there’s a new term circulating among missiologists[2]: Frontier People Groups (FPGs). While the definition is still in flux, the label was added to make a distinction between UPGs where God has begun a work, and those groups yet to experience their first church.

Frontier People Groups “… still require pioneer work for the first community of believing households to experience God’s blessing. … Once established, these believing households display inside their own people group what it means to follow Christ, and a rapidly spreading gospel movement can develop.”[3]

Why is this an important concept?

Socially, frontier peoples see their religion as part of their identity, and those who leave it for another as betraying their family and friends. At the same time, the new believers, having no model of how to “do” church within their own culture, feel pressured to join the culture of the missionary who led them to Christ. Of course, then there is still no model of church in that unreached people group. For the gospel to spread, the new believers must learn how to live their faith within their own culture.

The strategic importance of FPGs cannot be overstated. Once a community of believing households is established, the church can spread within that culture. But to get to that point, pioneering mission work is required.

About one fourth of humanity lives in FPGs. Or, to state it another way, 60% of UPGs are actually FPGs, with no example of how Christianity might be expressed in their own culture. As you may guess, the majority of these are in difficult parts of the world—in India, and in the various Muslim-majority nations.

How does this apply to us? Some believers will be called to be those pioneering missionaries. Like Paul, they desire to preach the Gospel where it is not known. Others of us will be called to lay the groundwork through prayer. Overcoming strongholds through intercessory prayer releases the Holy Spirit to build His church.

The exciting news is that God is already at work. “Among other people groups, Acts-like gospel movements have been doubling in number and size every five years since the late 1990s. [In addition,] Global networks are now focusing prayer on the 31 largest Frontier People Groups, each with influence over many other people groups.”[4] Half the population of all FPGs lives in these 31 largest groups.

The-31-Largest-chart

If you would like to join this prayer movement, the Pray for the 31 –  Prayer Guide will help strategically focus your prayers. The guide has a page for each FPG, with color maps, photos, background information, and prayer points. In the back, you’ll find definitions of key terms, charts showing the breakdown of all FPGs by region and religion, and a map of the 400 lartest and most influential FPGs.

Visit the website at Go31.org to:

  • download a free digital copy of the prayer guide
  • request a free (printed) review copy
  • order additional print copies

References:

[1] https://joshuaproject.net/help/definitions
[2] “A missiologist is a specialist who studies and is trained in the science of missions. However, this definition may oversimplify the task of a missiologist. Missiology is accomplished at the intersection of gospel, culture, and the church. It is a multi-disciplinary study that incorporates theology, anthropology/sociology, and ecclesiology.” Christianity Today, “What is a Missiologist?,” by Ed Stetzer.
[3] T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution, by Steve Smith.
[4] Mission Frontiers, “Introducing the Pray for the 31 Prayer Guide”
Chart: Ibid.

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