Joshua Project is a research initiative seeking to highlight the ethnic people groups of the world with the fewest followers of Christ. Accurate, regularly updated ethnic people group information is critical for understanding and completing the Great Commission. Jesus said in Matthew 24:14 "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come." Jesus directly links His return to the fulfillment of the Great Commission. While no one knows the date or time of His return, we do know that this Gospel of the kingdom must be preached to all the nations first. Revelation 5:9 and 7:9-10 show that there will be some from every tribe, tongue, nation and people before the Throne.
Joshua Project seeks to answer the questions that result from the Great Commission's call to make disciples among every nation or people group:
Joshua Project gathers, integrates and shares people group information to encourage pioneer church-planting movements among every ethnic group and to facilitate effective coordination of mission agency efforts. Joshua Project compiles the work of numerous missions researchers to develop a list of all ethnic peoples that is as complete as possible. Many errors, duplicates, and overlaps exist and the data is continually being updated. We welcome feedback of all kinds!
From this overall ethnic people group list, a subset of unreached / least-reached peoples has been identified based on the criteria of less than 2% Evangelical and less than 5% Professing Christian. This subset helps focus attention on the unfinished task of the Great Commission. We desire that this list be used by mission agencies, denominations, churches and missionaries to accelerate the Gospel's advance into each of the least-reached people groups. Joshua Project has also developed a Progress Scale indicating a spectrum of reachedness rather than a simple on / off indicator.
Joshua Project was originally birthed in 1995 within the former AD2000 and Beyond Movement. From 2001 through 2005 Joshua Project was at different times informally connected with Caleb Project, ICTA and World Help. In 2006 Joshua Project officially became a ministry of the U.S. Center for World Mission now known as Frontier Ventures.
The original Joshua Project list was a cooperative and globally used list of the largest unreached ethno-linguistic people groups and related ministry activity data. The Joshua Project list attempted to provide a clear goal of pioneer church-planting among the largest unreached peoples. Joshua Project has since expanded this list to all unreached / least-reached peoples regardless of size and moved from a purely ethno-linguistic to an ethnic people focus.
We serve missions agencies, denominations, churches, and individuals around the world that have a heart for pioneer church-planting among the world's least-reached people groups. Data is gathered from a worldwide constituency of field workers and their agencies, brought together into a database, and within security guidelines, provided free of charge to the global Church.
Regular users and providers of Joshua Project data include: international researchers and church-planters, local churches and individuals, denominations and mission agencies. Field workers utilize the information for building prayer and vision for their ministries and discovering what ministry tools may be available. Local churches see value for missions mobilization, and for finding agencies with whom they can partner to see pioneer churches established among unreached / least-reached people groups. Mission agencies use the data to strategically determine where to send new church-planting teams and for partnership development to avoid duplication and waste of Kingdom resources.
"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" (Source: 1982 Lausanne Committee Chicago meeting.) To read more, click here.
Some say 27,000. Others say 16,000. Some suggest 13,000. Still others say 10,500. Which numbers are correct? Could they all be correct? The many different answers to this question often cause confusion.
Different sources quote significantly different numbers. If we are commanded to make disciples of all people groups, just how many are there? But before trying to answer that, an example might help illustrate why the confusion exists. Suppose someone innocently asked, "What is the largest country?" What is the answer? It all depends on what is meant by "largest." The answer is Russia if largest refers to geographic land area. The answer is China if largest refers to population. The answer is the United States if largest means financially.
All are different, yet are correct answers to the same simple question. The underlying issue is definitions ... what is meant by "largest?" So the core question is what is meant by the term "people group?" For a full explanation, click here.
The 10/40 Window is the rectangular area of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia approximately between 10 degrees north and 40 degrees north latitude. The 10/40 Window is often called "The Resistant Belt" and includes the majority of the world's Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. The original 10/40 Window included only countries with at least 50% of their land mass within 10 and 40 degrees north latitude. The revised 10/40 Window includes several additional countries, such as Indonesia, that are close to 10 or 40 degrees north latitude and have high concentrations of unreached peoples. Nearly five billion individuals reside in over 8,500 distinct people groups in the revised 10/40 Window. To read more, click here.
Joshua Project uses the terms "unreached" and "least-reached" to mean the same thing. The terms are used interchangeably on this website. An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize that people group.
The original Joshua Project editorial committee selected the criteria less than 2% Evangelical Christian and less than 5% Professing Christians. While these percentage figures are somewhat arbitrary, "we should not underestimate the significance of the small group of people who have a vision of a just and gentle world. The quality of a whole culture may be changed when two percent of its people have a new vision." - Robert Bellah, Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, originally quoted in Psychology Today in the 1970s, currently quoted in Christianity Today Oct 2011: 42.
Source: 1982 Lausanne Committee Chicago meeting, AD2000 & Beyond and Joshua Project.
A common question is "How many people groups have been reached since 1974 [or in the last 20 years or since 2000 or some other date]?"
That is a difficult question to answer for a number of reasons:
For example, for many years there were two unreached Zhuang people groups speaking two different Zhuang languages in China on the Joshua Project list. When the 17th Edition of the Ethnologue came out, SIL had determined that there were actually sixteen very distinct Zhuang languages. Since Joshua Project list is basically ethno-linguistic outside South Asia, we create a new people group when a new language is identified. Therefore several years ago, Joshua Project split up the original two Zhuang unreached people groups into sixteen Zhuang groups based on the language speaker populations.
Now instead of two unreached groups there were sixteen. Did fourteen groups suddenly become unreached? Did we move backwards? No, not really. We simply had a better picture of reality. The same number of individuals were involved, now just classified in sixteen unreached groups rather than two unreached groups. There are hundreds of cases like this which prevent a meaningful answer to “how many groups have been reached since ... ?”
It is reasonable to say that hundreds of people groups have been reached in the last 20-25 years and that is cause for celebration. Yet many more remain unreached!
Joshua Project staff are not primary researchers. Rather Joshua Project is an effort to compile and integrate ethnic peoples research from various global, regional and national sources into a global whole. We are deeply grateful to the sources who have provided data to Joshua Project.
We invite you to submit any information you have related to particular people groups. Please find the appropriate People-by-Country record and then click the "Submit Changes" button or click here.
The viewable data on the Joshua Project website is updated from the database approximately every two weeks. The database itself is updated frequently but in very small volumes. Comprehensive, high volume updates to the database occur infrequently.
Joshua Project people group data is used by a wide variety of people. A partial list includes on-site workers, mission researchers, national church leadership, mission mobilizers, denominational and agency leaders, pastors and laypeople.
The data is available via Excel download for any listing or as specific sets. Data can also be downloaded or integratedd into other websites via API. Specialized queries and datasets are also avaiable, please contact us.
How many people groups are there in the world? How many are unreached? Which numbers are correct and which list of people groups is "right"? The varying answers to these questions can cause confusion in the missions community. The Lord has graciously provided the global missions community with several sets of people group information. Each has great value and none is entirely right or entirely wrong. Each list has unique perspective, definitions, criteria and sources which cause variation between the lists. These variations cause a degree of disagreement between the lists which encourages healthy dialog. For more information on some basic definitions, a brief history, and an overview of the comprehensive global people group lists click here.
For various pre-made listings and user defined listings, click here
The Unreached People of the Day is a free, daily rotating unreached people photo and statistics that is available for your website or blog. It is also available by e-mail, as a mobile app, RSS feed or customizable widget. Use the Unreached People of the Day as a daily prayer reminder, bulletin insert or calendar. You can also follow unreached peoples on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. Start using it now.
Joshua Project is a faith-based initiative solely dependent on charitable contributions. We invite you to prayerfully consider making a donation to help bring the Gospel to the unreached people groups of the world. For ways to donate, click here.
Is people group thinking just a passing fad or a trendy way to look at the Great Commission? Actually, people group thinking is at the core of what Jesus commanded. For more information, click here.
Different people group lists use different criteria to define "unreached." Joshua Project includes % Christian Adherents in the definiton of unreached. To learn why, click here.
Various people group lists define the peoples of South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan) differently. Joshua Project uses caste / community and religion to define peoples in South Asia. These seem to be the primary barriers to the spread of people group church planting movments. Language is certainly a barrier, but given that it is very common for South Asians to speak multiple languages, language is seemingly not the highest barrier. For more details, click here.
Joshua Project depends on input from global and national mission researchers, on-site workers and organizations and national censuses to maintain and upgrade the populations presented here.
Joshua Project has spent many hours substantially revising people group population figures. At the mid-point of each calendar year, Joshua Project obtains the latest UN population figures for all countries. The percentage change in country population from the previous year is calculated and then applied to all people groups within the country. Thus people group populations are kept current and sum to the present overall population of the country. This scaling assumes that all people groups within a given country grow at the national rate. This uniform growth rate may or may not always be true, but it is a current best approximation.
Currently there is no centralized people group adoption system. Various organizations facilitate people group adoption in different ways:
While it was produced in the 1990s, the Adoption Guidance Program still has helpful information.
The Joshua Project Progress Scale provides an estimate of the progress of church planting among a people group, people cluster or country. For more information, click here.
These are codes for peoples, geographic places and languages that allow key missions information to flow between various sources. Each kind of information is classified in a "registry" and then there are several hierarchical levels with each registry.
Registry of Peoples (ROP) - Click for a interactive Ethnic Peoples tree
Note: Joshua Project now uses the following for people coding and web linking:
Registry of Geographic Places (ROG) - Click for a interactive Geographic Places tree
Registry of Languages (ROL)
Visit the Harvest Information Standards for standardized versions of certain codes.
Joshua Project welcomes photos of specific people groups. To send a photo, click here.
The Joshua Project team desires to "demonstrate and spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ." (from Bethlehem Baptist Church) To that end, we want to serve the Christian missions community and unreached peoples in any way possible.
We long for the King's return and know that "this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations and then the end shall come." (Matt 24:14.) We want to see the Lord's name and fame lifted up among all peoples of the earth for He is worthy of the worship from every tribe, tongue and nation...Soli Deo Gloria.
There are certainly errors and omissions in this people group data. Joshua Project welcomes your feedback and updates.
You might have landed on this website and find you disagree with what is presented here. Joshua Project encourages you to consider some of the questions below:
Investigating the Claims of Christ
Comparing World Religions