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 workers within the group where active church planting is expected. Therefore, the lists of groups presented by FTT on its website or at mission conferences are always intended to highlight those groups without 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 where no one is bringing the Good News. 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 have been exposed to Jesus through previous evangelical efforts or by hearing the Gospel through a trade language. However, we consider the group unengaged until there is ministry in residence undertaking both evangelism and church planting within this group of people. Visiting teams, summer outreaches, or adoptions alone 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. 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 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 significant increase in the communication between the agencies maintaining these data sets as we work together for the Body of Christ.

The genesis of the FTT database is drawn from the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptists Convention (IMB)’s work as made available through the CPPI (Church Planting Progress Indicator) index. It is believed that FTT and IMB are the only globally-focused ministries attempting to record missional workers presence by people group. We gratefully acknowledge the IMB’s work, found at www.peoplegroups.org and maintained by © Global Research, International Mission Board, SBC 2018, licensed under CC BY 2.0, as the originating source of this list.

We also heartily thank the Joshua Project who provides extensive support, related profiles and data, and resources also publicly available at www.joshuaproject.net.

To best represent FTT’s specific missional focus, we have adjusted that originating information as follows:

  • FTT promotes those unengaged people groups found on the CPPI index with a GSEC (Global Status of Evangelical Christianity) scale of 0-1.
  • FTT has not included Christian Adherents though some of these people may well need revival and even re-evangelization. People groups from cultural and nominal Christian backgrounds are included on the (CPPI) index found at www.peoplegroups.org.
  • FTT understands the unengaged, unreached Deaf peoples to generally be non-religious rather than identified by the majority religion of their country and therefore not subject to being reclassified due to an association with a nation’s religious majority.
  • FTT focuses on those unengaged people groups still dwelling in their ancestral homeland so unengaged Diaspora people groups are not promoted on this list. However, diasporic people often dwell in community as long-term expatriates and can exist in significant numbers outside of their historic countries or regions. Presently, several unengaged, Diaspora peoples are being tracked internally and their engagement status is updated as information is obtained.
  • FTT attempts to not include groups that differ only by their religious beliefs, i.e. Sunni or Shiite Muslims.
  • Researchers understand that accurate data on unengaged, unreached people groups under 500 in population is hugely challenging and likely requires targeted investigation. Therefore, FTT is reclassifying such groups while they are under research and will reprioritize them upon verification.

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 missiological data which seeks to bring focus to the unengaged, unreached people groups that, as yet, are not reported as engaged by any ministry.

What is a "people group?"

In 1982, missiologists determined that, "for evangelization purposes, a people group is the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a 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 strategies.

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

This is a group where a church planting movement 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 known 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 and seeks five types of information for each group reported to be engaged:

  • Number of full-time workers
  • Number of part-time/bi-vocational workers
  • Number of churches, if applicable
  • Estimated number of believers, if applicable
  • 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 criterion 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 those working with the people within the country.

The second is that there are focused workers engaged in the task of evangelization and church planting. FTT agrees with the IMB that "a people group is engaged when a church planting strategy, consistent with evangelical faith and practice, is under implementation. In this respect, a people group is not engaged when it has been merely adopted, is the object of focused prayer, or is part of an advocacy strategy."

FTT also agrees with the Joshua Project in that at least four essential elements constitute effective engagement:

  • apostolic effort in residence
  • Commitment to work in the local language and culture
  • Commitment to long-term ministry
  • 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 promotes 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. Unreached peoples are a much larger conversation — this is not a listing of all unreached groups.

Who is maintaining the list of engagements?

At this point, both FTT and the IMB (International Mission Board) track and share specific components of people group engagements, with variations based on each of our unique missional focuses. The FTT dataset is also offered to The Joshua Project for application as they see fit.

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 considered engaged, FTT believes there should be a minimum of one worker for every 50,000 people. In other words, for a group like the Sanusi Bedouin of Libya, with a population of 619,000 people, there is a need for at least 12 workers to engage them adequately. By this standard, many unreached people groups are clearly "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 many 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". However, FTT can have multiple partners reporting engagement within a people group. So, should a ministry have to withdraw, the work is often still being reported by others.

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

In some cases, it would be clearly hazardous to disclose when a people group is engaged. Additionally, the current FTT lists exclude those people groups reported as engaged along with unrelated criteria as detailed in “What exactly is the FTT list?” Additionally, FTT will omit any engaged groups from any sources or published lists when the engaging organization makes that risk request known.

For security purposes, FTT does not disclose any details or contact information regarding our partners, or who is working in which groups, unless expressly authorized to do so in writing. FTT forwards requests to contact our partners directly to the partner(s), including those serving within a people group. This encourages dialogue to take place directly between the parties and at the partners’ discretion.

How is the list being corrected?

Periodically, FTT requests updates from networks, denominations, and organizations that have reported engagements to confirm the groups status and obtain revised information. Updates and revisions on existing adoption and engagement reports are submitted to c...@finishingthetask.com.

We ask that any questions, concerns and suggested corrections be submitted to i...@finishingthetask.com.

If the proposed correction involves specific people group information, such as a people group name, population, primary language, or similar information being provided on our lists or website please feel free to notify usbut direct your revision requests to Connect at Peoplegroups.org and Contact JoshuaProject.net.

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 is committed to the unengaged, unreached people groups of the world first and foremost and would reclassify these groups as a different priority. FTT does not currently spotlight them on the mobilization lists distributed.

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

Key missional leaders in the Deaf world list many compelling reasons how Deaf communities meet the criteria for being classified as people groups, with three being:

a.   First, Deaf people groups share a language. Researchers estimate that over 350 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 people groups in every country. If they are not listed on a particular FTT presentation, it is because the group is reported to be already engaged.

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 over 1,600 ministries, 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.

FTT believes the first step to being obedient to His command is to encourage workers to go to every unengaged people group — To finish the task of beginning.