Frequently Asked Questions

What is Finishing the Task?

Finishing The Task (FTT) is a network of mission agencies and churches that desires to see reproducing churches planted among every people group in the world.  The focus of the FTT network is to recruit full-time workers for unengaged, unreached people groups. By engagement,* FTT means that there are full-time workers within the group and active church planting is occurring.  Therefore, the lists of groups presented by FTT on its web site or at mission conferences are always intended to highlight those groups without full-time workers.  It is not a listing of all unreached people groups.

*Engagement is a relatively new term in the lexicon of missions.  It is an attempt to focus more attention on the groups to whom no one has gone.  It does not mean that the groups already engaged do not need more workers or that one group is more important than another.  It does not necessarily mean that there are no Christians in that ethno-linguistic group.  In fact, some of them may currently be hearing the gospel through a trade language.  However, we consider the group unengaged until it is confirmed there is a ministry team in residence doing both evangelism and church planting within this group of people.  Visiting teams, summer outreaches, or adoptions would not qualify as engagements.  The engagement of a people group is a commitment to ongoing involvement.  It is a commitment to minister in the local language and culture.  Furthermore, it means day-by-day personal encounters with long-term intent.

What exactly is the FTT list?

The FTT list is intended to be a global compilation of unengaged, unreached people groups which are currently not reported as engaged by any full-time Christian worker(s).  As with the three major databases – The Joshua Project, the World Christian Database, and the CPPI Index from the International Mission Board (IMB) – the FTT list has its roots in the enormous work done initially by Dr. David Barrett and Todd Johnson, as well as the foundational research work of Patrick Johnstone.  Despite some differences, there has been a significant increase in the communication between the agencies maintaining the lists.

The genesis of the FTT database is in the IMB/CPPI list, thus, FTT maintains the less than 2% Evangelical criteria for determining an unengaged, unreached people group. Two uniqueness’s of the list are:

a.   FTT tracks the number of workers engaged in serving these newly engaged groups.
b.   FTT is providing some of its lists in seven additional languages.

Questions about the list can be submitted to i...@finishingthetask.com.

How do you define your terms?

FTT subscribes to the very complete definitions of terms outlined by The Joshua Project in its site http://www.joshuaproject.net/definitions.php. Given virtually the same definitions, the FTT list is a segment of the same data which seeks to bring focus to the unengaged, unreached people groups that, as yet, are not reported as engaged by any ministry.  Some of the more common definitions are given in the questions that follow.

What is a "people group?"

Since 1992, missiologists have defined people groups as "… the largest possible group within which the gospel can spread as a viable church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance." To date, FTT has concentrated on ethno-linguistic groups because language understanding has been the main barrier to the spread of the gospel. It may be time for mission leaders to rethink the issue of "acceptance". There are always people who don't accept the message of Jesus. That, we can do nothing about. However, others may reject the message because of cultural issues, how the message is delivered or who is communicating the message. As we understand these objections, we can adjust our tactics. At this point, FTT is not including groups that only differ by their religious beliefs, i.e., Sunni or Shiite Muslims.

What do you mean by an "unreached people group?"

This is a group where a church planting movement, as described above, does not exist because there is no indigenous church capable of reaching the group without cross-cultural missionary assistance.

What is an "UNENGAGED," UNREACHED PEOPLE GROUP?

These are groups where, as far as is known to researchers at present, there are no full-time Christian workers attempting to do evangelism and church planting. FTT is eager to update its data as new efforts are made to engage these groups.  FTT seeks five types of information for each group reported to be engaged:

a.   Number of full-time workers
b.   Number of part-time/bi-vocational workers
c.   Number of churches
d.   Estimated number of believers
e.   Contact information of the person providing the first-hand information

Updates on people groups can be submitted to i...@finishingthetask.com.

How do you decide if a group is effectively "engaged?"

The number one criteria for listing a group as "engaged" is a report by a person or organization working in the area who has first-hand contact with those working among the group or can provide contact information of people in the country.

The second criterion is that there are full-time workers engaged in the task of evangelization and church planting.  FTT follows the IMB in their four essential elements that constitute effective engagement:

a.   Apostolic effort in residence
b.   Commitment to work in the local language and culture
c.   Commitment to long-term ministry
d.   Sowing in a manner consistent with the goal of seeing a church planting movement (CPM) emerge

Why do other lists show more unreached people groups than the FTT list?

FTT only tracks UNENGAGED, Unreached People Groups.  At every vision presentation conducted by FTT partners, we encourage the distribution of a list of groups that are not yet known to be engaged.  This is never a listing of all of the unreached groups.

Who is maintaining the list of engagements?

At this point, both FTT and IMB (International Mission Board) are keeping track of the engagements.  The information is forwarded to The Joshua Project for inclusion in their database.

How many workers are needed in a people group to consider it truly "engaged?"

The one thing Jesus told us to pray for in relation to world evangelization is more workers. Therefore, to be adequately engaged, FTT believes there should be a minimum of one full-time worker for every 50,000 people. In other words, for a group like the Middle Pashtun, in Afghanistan, with a population of 2.9 million people, there is a need for 58 workers in order to engage them adequately.  By this standard, many unreached people groups are currently "under-engaged" in terms of the number of workers needed. To effectively engage all of the current unengaged, unreached peoples of our globe will necessitate the mobilization of at least 20,000 more workers.  Engaging a group is just the first step.  Most of the world’s unevangelized or unreached, individuals are not within groups that are unengaged, but rather within groups that are not yet "reached."

What happens when a group becomes "unengaged?"

When a group becomes unengaged for any variety of reasons, they are placed back on the list as being "unengaged."

Are there dangers of stating that some groups are "engaged?"

In some cases, it would be immediately obvious who a people group is engaged by if the FTT list shows that particular people group as "engaged."  FTT will remove these groups from its published lists if the engaging organization makes that request.

In terms of security, FTT will forward requests for people group information to its contact(s) within the people group. This allows people to respond to those with whom they want to have further contact.  However, FTT will not give out information about who is working in which groups.

How is the list being corrected?

Periodically, FTT sends out lists of people groups to networks, denominations, and organizations that have reported engagements asking them to confirm that the groups are still engaged.  Corrections from anyone can be submitted to i...@finishingthetask.com.  If the correction is accepted, the list will change within the next month.  If more information is needed in order to make a change, a letter will be sent to the person submitting the information asking for additional clarification.  FTT attempts to deal with all submissions within 60 days.

Why doesn't FTT include some of the Christian background groups found on other lists?

Within the multiple traditions of Christianity, it is recognized that there is a need for continual renewal and re-evangelization.  However, FTT moves these groups to a lower priority for engagement and does not currently put them on the mobilization lists it distributes.  It does maintain them on its database in order to coordinate information with the CPPI Index.

Why does FTT include the deaf as an ethno-linguistic people group?

IMB lists three reasons that deaf communities meet the criteria for being classified as people groups:

a.   First, deaf people groups share a language.  Researchers estimate that 160-200 sign languages are in use around the world.  The deaf consider sign language to be their "heart" language regardless of how proficient they may be in reading and writing the majority (spoken) language. Sign languages may include a few influences from the majority language in their country, but the sign language is not derived from that majority language.  Sign languages have their own vocabulary, grammar, and syntax.  This use of distinct languages distinguishes the deaf from other groups with physical challenges, such as blindness or mobility impairment.  People who are blind or mobility-challenged do not have a separate language, so they do not meet this criterion for recognition as a people group.
b.   Second, the deaf share a common culture.  The deaf cultural identity includes factors such as shared educational experiences at deaf schools, marrying a deaf spouse, a socio-political network centered on the deaf community (locally and internationally), and widespread discrimination against them.  The resulting suspicion of hearing people typically expresses itself in an "us versus them" attitude.  Deaf people identify more strongly with deaf people from other countries than with hearing people from their own country. The deaf receive the gospel much more readily from deaf Christians.
c.   Third, the deaf perceive themselves as a people group. They perceive themselves as being deaf, first and foremost. This transcends their national identity, such as Mexican, German, or Kenyan. Many books, articles, and postings have been written about the deaf, their culture, their identity, their language, and their uniqueness as a people. Although their ethnicity is defined through a disability rather than a blood lineage, they see their community as regenerative through their common characteristics.

Why aren't deaf groups listed for every country?

There are deaf groups in every country.  If they are not listed on a particular FTT presentation, it is because the group is engaged already.

What is the purpose of "engaging" unengaged groups?

There is only one reason to go to every people group and that is because Jesus "commanded us to go and make disciples of ALL nations."  It is at the heart of God to care about one lost sheep, one lost coin, and one lost son. Some worry that FTT is in danger of triumphalistic "engage-them-all-and-Jesus-comes-back" thinking.  That is not the thinking of the 1,538 denominations and organizations involved in the FTT network. The burden of the network is the danger that yet another generation will live and die and these groups of men and women will still be unengaged and unreached.  One way to bring about change is to get at least a few people committed to reaching out to each group in this generation.