A SIMPLE GUIDE TO PEOPLE GROUP
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 are right or 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. The following provides some basic definitions, a brief history, and an overview of the comprehensive global people group lists, several subsets and other important collections of missions data.
People Group: A significantly large sociological grouping of individuals who perceive themselves to have a common affinity with one another. 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.
Christian Adherent: Any one who claims to be a follower of the Christian religion in any form. This definition is based on the individual’s self-confession, not his or her ecclesiology, theology or religious commitment and experience. The term embraces all traditions and confessions of Christianity and includes: Protestant, Roman Catholic, Other Catholic, Orthodox, Foreign marginal and Indigenous marginal.
Evangelical: All who generally emphasize the following: 1) The Lord Jesus Christ as the sole source of salvation through faith in Him. 2) Personal faith and conversion with regeneration by the Holy Spirit. 3) A recognition of the inspired Word of God as the only basis for faith and Christian living. 4) Commitment to biblical witness, evangelism and mission that brings others to faith in Christ.
Ethno-linguistic – An ethnic or racial group defined primarily by language. Groupings of individuals based on language spoken, but with the possibility of sub-divisions based upon dialect or cultural distinctives. Using this method, one language group equals one or more ethnic groups. This assumes that the “understandability barrier” to the gospel message is higher than the “acceptance barrier.”