Veteran overseas worker Nik Ripken has recently published an article on "Why are the unreached unreached?" You can access the full article online at nikripken.com Here are some of the obstacles that he outlines fuller in his article:
With the modern missionary movement shifting into high gear, attempting to access unreached peoples, it is advisable to pause and ask, "What are the obstacles to giving a viable Christian witness to those who have never heard?" Looking at the obstacles to reaching the unreached will move mission personnel beyond sticking pins in maps, gaining institutional satisfaction from the initial command to "Go."
What are some of those obstacles, not necessarily in the order of importance?
1. A Harvest Mentality
The New Testament word for evangelism is to "tell" or "proclaim." Somewhere along the line the missionary task added the seemingly mandatory element of harvest. Reviewing the relationship between what ministers of the Gospel are primarily responsible for through obedience and what God, Himself manges is obligatory. The missionary task is to clearly share the gospel until all peoples have had an opportunity to hear; baptizing and discipling those whom God has quickened into faith.
2. We Know One Way to "Do Church"
80% of the unreached do not read or write a word. Many of the unreached dwell in enemy held territory where there are few, if any, churches, pastors, Bible studies, etc. Remove church buildings, corporate worship, pews and hymn books from believers environments and where does one meet God?
Institutions grow and perpetuate themselves by generating funds through the promotion of their programs and personnel. How then do sending boards, seminaries, and mission publications handle ministries they cannot talk about? The need for the institution to promote themselves at times exceeds the needs of the ministry. How does one publish the baptism of a former Muslim businessman when doing so may cause his death?
The real issue here is biblical. Is Jesus worth it? To you as the witness bearer? To the one believing Jesus' claims? Is Jesus worth, not only dying for, but causing the death of one who embraces Christianity? I often, in orientation, challenge the new overseas workers with, "If you do not believe that Jesus is who he claims to be; the way; the truth; and the life - the very son of God and the only way to heaven; then please keep your mouth shut. Don't get someone killed for something that you are not sure about."
5. Ignorance and Prejudice Toward Christianity
Christianity, many unreached believe as represented by the West, is a faith of abortion, high crime rate and drug abuse. Therefore, a true follower of Christ does not often begin on level ground among the unreached. We start at minus three of four.
Many of the unreached are in environmentally unfriendly regions of the world. Reaching the unreached will require consciously moving from one's comfort zone. What a challenge environmentally to incarnate Christ in the climates!
7. It's Expensive
Must we live more modestly? Yes. But oftentimes the only way to access the unreached people is through projects and human needs response. Must nationals be utilized for carrying the gospel to their own people? Yes. But where the church is scattered or non-existant, efforts will be expatriate driven for quite some time.
8. High Personnel Maintenance
Many agencies do a credible job in calling out the called, equipping, and sending out personnel. They they forget them. Consistently I've witnessed godly persons among the unreached lasting six months to a year of service. Quickly the isolation, persecution, danger, and lack of pastoral support system causes stress and burnout. Reaching the unreached will require intentional care on a regular basis, intervention care when special crisis arise and referral care when the normal is just not enough.