As I drive through the streets of Louisville, KY I see churches on almost every street corner; this is the Bible Belt, after all. Christian churches, Catholic churches, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists; they’re all well-represented here in the Bluegrass state. The people of Louisville most definitely have their choice when it comes to worshipping the way they want and I’m incredibly thankful for that. It’s a great feeling to know that Christ is being praised so well throughout my city. As much as I love seeing so many places to worship, my heart breaks a little at the memory of a very different environment I was in not long ago. I visited a city in North Africa where worshipping Christ the way you want is almost unheard of, not to mention illegal. No churches on every street corner, but there’s dozens of mosques. No church bells on Sunday morning, but you can hear the call to prayer 5 times a day. No Bibles in the bookstores, but there’s a Qur’an in every house.
The absence of Christ in this North African city is just one of thousands of places untouched by the
Gospel. Over 40% of our world today is totally and completely unreached by Christianity. Let me say that again, 40% of our world is unreached. They’re not just lost or confused; they haven’t heard about Christ and rejected him. These people have never been given a choice to accept or reject him because they’ve never even heard of him.
The 7.27 billion people on earth are divided into 16,315 distinct people groups; over 6,500 of those groups are unreached. These 6,564 unreached groups contain over 3 billion individuals who aren’t just lost, but are totally and completely unreached. There are 3 billion people that haven’t heard the true Gospel, 3 billion people that couldn’t go to church even if they wanted to, 3 billion people who have never had the opportunity to accept Christ’s sacrifice for them.
That’s over 9 times the population of the US. It’s double the population of China. It’s 3 times more than the population of the entire western hemisphere.
There are 3 billion people who have never heard. There are 3 billion people whose souls are destined to an eternity apart from God not because they’ve seen the evidence and refused it, but because no one has even shown them the evidence exists.
With God, All Things are Possible.
So what do we do? What’s our next step? How do we help from here?
Unleashed for the Unreached (U4theU) has teamed up with Team Expansion to create PACE, a strategy that helps local churches to spread the gospel in the least reached parts of the world. PACE stands for Pray, Activate, Commit, Enlist and it gives your church the ability to start and initiate your own church planting movement (CPM) from scratch. From beginning to end, your church would develop, raise up, and support a CPM that will reach one of the 6,564 unreached people groups still left in the world.
It seems overwhelming. It seems daunting. It seems impossible. It may feel that way at times, but as we all know, “…with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26). And U4theU has worked with over 40 churches that prove that to be true. Since the early 1990s PACE has been walking churches through the journey of selecting, praying for, and planting a church among a previously unreached people group in some of the darkest parts of the world. PACE churches have reached the unreached in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America, and even Europe.
“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'”
PACE churches go where others won’t go. PACE churches do what others won’t do. PACE churches are different not just because of their actions, but because of their DNA. A church that’s heavily involved in PACE has a new understanding of what it means to do missions, they have a new perspective on trusting the Lord, and they have the joy and vibrance of a church that knows it’s doing what God has called them to do.
What is a PACE church capable of? In the early 1990s, the very first PACE project was started with Team Expansion and Lifespring Christian Church in Cincinnati, OH. They set out to reach the Crimean Tatars of Kherson, Ukraine and bring them to Christ. And now, over 25 years later, the Kherson Church in has planted over 65 churches of its own, has an attendance of over 1,000, and is doing mission work among the Muslims in neighboring areas. A place that was completely unreached is now bursting at the seams.
In 1999 Crossroads Christian Church in Evansville, IN decided they wanted to start a PACE project in a North African country with 11 million Muslims and fewer than 200 Christians. The road has been long and hard, including terrorist attacks and uprisings, but they’ve never given up and can now say they have dozens of missionaries working in the country and baptized over 60 people last year.
In 2006 Fern Creek Christian Church in Louisville, KY felt called to start a PACE project with an unreached people group overseas. After much prayer and research they settled on the people of Syria.
One of their own elders felt so strongly about this project that he and his wife sold their business, left the church, and moved to the Middle East, settling in Jordan to learn the language before moving to Syria. The conflict in Syria broke out before they even started their work, leaving them unsure and confused about their next steps. God had a plan, however, and instead drove hundreds of thousands of Syrians across the border into Jordan, right into their back yard. This PACE project is now reaching out to Syrian refugees and sharing the gospel through humanitarian aid and relief.
Hear. Listen. Obey. It’s as Simple as That
What makes these churches different from yours? None of these churches are huge or rich or famous. None of these churches are full of scholars or professors or missional strategists. One of the only things that make these churches different from yours is that they went. They heard God’s call, they listened, and they obeyed. It’s as simple as that.
The other thing that makes these churches different is that they had a plan. Having a desire and willingness is an important start, but having a plan makes your vision a strategically successful reality. Each of these churches used PACE to begin their CPM (church planting movement) among a previously unreached group. PACE is a simple acronym (Pray, Activate, Commit, Enlist) and helps walk you through the entire process of reaching an unreached group.
We always start a PACE project with prayer. It’s important that your church develops an attitude of
prayer from top to bottom, from the eldership to the congregation. At this stage you’ll appoint a prayer coordinator for your project to help lead the prayer effort in your church.You can begin by praying for a specific unreached people group or, if you haven’t chosen one yet, pray for God to lead your church to the specific group he wants you to reach. If you need guidance, Unleashed for the Unreached (U4theU) can provide you with resources and ideas for how to choose your unreached group. Once you choose a group, you can begin to pray for them by name in your church, small groups, Sunday school classes, etc.
Once your church has set a prayerful foundation for your project, you can begin to activate your congregation to reach your specific group and start empowering your church leadership core to take ownership of the project. At this stage you’ll appoint a project coordinator to be the point person for your people group. This person will be the key liaison between your church and U4theU, your on-field team, and any other partners that come alongside you.
In this stage you’ll also take a vision trip to your unreached people group. Along with U4theU, you’ll plan a short, 1-2 week trip to visit the people group you’ve chosen. You’ll spend that time gathering information about them and their culture, learning the language, meeting locals, and discovering what the community needs.
At this point you will have a more definitive idea of where and how you’ll spread the gospel so you can start making more specific, long-term plans. You can begin preparing and training for the task ahead, which could include things like attending Kairos and Perspectives courses, attending monthly PACE webinars, talking with the U4theU liaison regularly, and connecting with and learning from other PACE churches. With help from U4theU, you’ll also begin preparing your Master Plan, a long-term strategy for planting a church among your chosen unreached people group.
Now that you have a specific goal and plan in motion, you can start enlisting the help and partnership of others who are committed to the task ahead. This may include finding or raising up your on-field team, choosing a missions sending agency for your team to train with and go through, partnering churches who are joining the project, or even your own congregation. Getting and keeping the interest and excitement of an entire church is difficult, but is an integral part of a vibrant PACE project. This stage also involves setting up regular, meaningful communication between the different partners, missionaries, and churches to ensure the project is running smoothly and effectively.
Now you know. You know there are 3 billion unreached people in the world. You know other churches have made the step to bring them the gospel. You know there’s a plan and a partner ready and waiting to help you do the same. So what’s stopping you? What’s keeping your church from hearing that call and saying “Here am I Lord, send me” (Isaiah 6:8).