4,141 provinces

There are 4,141 provinces in the world in my database.

Of these, I estimate 166 are less than 0.1% Christian (Stage 0), and 454 are less than 2% Christian (Stage 1). We can call these the “unreached” provinces in the world. The typical definition of ‘unreached’ is <5% Christian and <2% evangelical; Stage 1 is well under that line, so it’s closer to the ‘frontier peoples’ definition than ‘unreached,’ but it will serve. These 620 provinces will be home to about 2 billion people in 2025.

A different situation is found in the middle tier of provinces. Stage 2 provinces are those between 2% and 8% Christian, and Stage 3 are those between 8% and 32% Christian. These contain 382 and 229 provinces respectively, for a total of 611 provinces, with about 3.1 billion people. This is roughly comparable to the World Christian Database’s “World B”–heavily evangelized, minority Christian. These provinces are something of a grey zone – lots of Christians, and a fair amount of access, but many pockets of people who will never meet a Christian or hear the Gospel.

Finally, Stage 4 and Stage 5 are all the provinces over 32% Christian. These include 2,885 provinces, with about 3.0 billion people in 2025. These are the heavily engaged areas with a significant Christian presence.

The core of the core: Among these 620 ‘Stage 0 and 1’ provinces, there are 28 provinces that each have populations in excess of 10 million people. In 2025, these 28 together will total 1.2 billion people–two-thirds of the unevangelized 2.5 billion or 14% of the world’s then-8.2 billion people. Living in places that are less than 2% Christian, they have minimal access to the Gospel. Changing the % Christian situation for any single one of these provinces would have dramatic global, political, economic and religious implications. But doing so is not easy.

One notable example: the per-province population is far larger in the less-Christian areas. 2 billion people in 620 provinces is an average of about 3.2 million per province, whereas 3.0 billion people over 2,885 (Stage 4 and 5 provinces) is an average of about 1.1 million per. Each Stage 0/1 province would therefore likely need as many as 4x as many workers as the more heavily Christian ones do, just to have the same number of workers ‘per capita’ or ‘per person.’

A further complication: many of the Stage 0 & 1 provinces are relatively poor in terms of economy, infrastructure, and resources. Tools which amplify the work of Christian workers in Stage 4 and 5 provinces are not available in these places. Worse, they are often deeply impacted by wars, diseases, poverty, and religious oppression. For example, the number two province on the Top 28 list, Maharashtra, is the most Covid-infected province in India.

Is the problem really workers and resources, however? These kinds of problems are solvable–if. There is a bigger problem to be grappled with.

All of the people in each of these provinces are equally in need of the Gospel. God loves all of them equally. However, they do not all have equal access to the Gospel. Reaching people in Stage 4 and 5 is largely a matter of marshaling Gospel resources already present in the province. While it is possible (and sometimes preferable) to send resources from other provinces (e.g. cross-cultural missionaries), it’s not essential.

Reaching people in Stage 0 and 1 provinces who have not yet heard the Gospel nearly always requires some sort of Gospel worker to come from a distance–either from a neighboring district within the province, or from a neighboring province, or from around the world. These provinces are often “the ends of the earth” moreso than “Jerusalem, Judea or Samaria.”

Doing this requires effort, intentionality and resources–and most of all focus on the part of people who already have ready Gospel access.

Those of us in Stage 4 and 5 provinces sometimes—or even often—take for granted the blessing of Gospel access around us. We think people in Stage 0 and 1 provinces aren’t Christians because they choose not to be. This is not the case. Massive movements are happening in many of these places. People are open to the Gospel. The problem is, most in the provinces haven’t heard. And how can they, when so few go? And so few go, because so few send. This is the problem of ‘the unreached.’

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