Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)











How many unreached peoples are there if the less than 5% Professing Christian criterion is removed? Top

Joshua Project uses criteria of less than or equal to 2% Evangelical and less than or equal to 5% Professing Christian to define an unreached people group. The rational for the 5% Professing Christian criterion is that it reflects the "context" of the unreached people groups. The 5% Adherent criterion tries to compensate for the difference between an unreached people group in Saudi Arabia and an unreached people group in England, as an example. There is history, difficulty of access, availabilty of resources, and difficulty of discipleship to consider.

However, this presents a significant problem when looking at certain parts of the world where there are very high percentages of Professing Christians but very low percentages of Evangelicals. For example, in western Europe, the high percentage of Professing Christians shifts many people groups out of the unreached category. If the 5% Professing Christians criterion is removed and only the percentages of Evangelicals was used, many of these groups would be considered highly unreached.

This raises the question, how would the unreached numbers change if the less than 5% Professing Christian criterion was removed? Actually the answer is relatively easy to see using the Joshua Project Progress Scale. By combining the counts for "Stage 1" (Red) and "Stage 2" (Yellow) on the Joshua Project Scale, the result is the same as dropping the 5% Adherents criterion. Using the current data in the Joshua Project Progress Scale Summary listing and combining Stage 1 and Stage 2 (i.e. dropping the 5% Professing Christians criterion) would result in 8,544 unreached peoples. In some ways this may be a more accurate measure of the true unfinished task.

See also the Joshua Project Progress Scale Summary listing.


What other progress milestones have been established? Top

During the period that Joshua Project was part of the AD2000 & Beyond Movement (1995-2000), the below three progress milestones were used and data gathered.

1. Ministry Commitment - Answers the question "Has any ministry reported a commitment to future church planting among this people?" No ministry commitment means that there is no reported on-site church planting effort and no mission organization has reported committing itself to church planting among this people. (Note: Data from this milestone is no longer presented on the Joshua Project website.)

2. On-site Church Planting team - Answers the question "Is there an on-site church planting team among this people?" Must be a long-term committed team of at least two on-site church planters.

3. An indigenous fellowship of at least 100 believers - Answers the question "Is there a healthy, indigenous, reproducing fellowship of at least 100 believers among this people?" Does not have to be a single fellowship but can be several fellowship totaling at least 100 believers. Seperate fellowships must be aware of the other groups and recognize themselves as a distinct church.

See also the Joshua Project Progress Scale.


What do all these ROP, ROG, ROL terms mean? Top

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

    ROP1 = Affinity Blocs code [Example: A007]
    ROP2 = People Clusters code [Example: C0216]
    ROP3 = People Group code [Example: 110033]

Note: In 2010, Joshua Project began using new codes for people coding and web linking.
For more details click here.

    PeopleID1 = Affinity Blocs code [Example: 11]
    PeopleID2 = People Clusters code [Example: 137]
    PeopleID3 = People Group code [Example: 10125]

Registry of Geographic Places (ROG)
Click for a interactive Geographic Places tree

    ROG2 = Regions / Continent code [Example: 3]
    ROG3 = Country code [Example: CH]
    ROG4 = First Admin / Province code [Ex: CH14]

Registry of Languages (ROL)

    ROL3 = Language code [Example: rus]
    ROL4 = Dialect code [Example: cmn07]

Visit the Harvest Information System for standardized versions of certain codes.


What is the ethnic peoples tree? Top

A hierachical structure developed by Patrick Johnstone to classify people groups according to their culture. It is a four level tree structure starting with 16 Affinity Blocs, branching to 269 People Clusters, then to 10,329 People Groups and finally to 17,443 Peoples-by-Country.

For an interactive diagram of the ethnic peoples tree, click here.

Click here to read Patrick Johnstone's article about Affinity Blocs and People Clusters.


Where did all this data come from? Top

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 statistical changes button at the bottom or click here.


How often is the data on this website updated? Top

The viewable data on the Joshua Project website is updated approximately every two weeks.
The last update was: 31-Dec-1969


How do you keep population figures current? Top

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.

Over the last several years, Patrick Johnstone and Joshua Project have spent many hours substantially revising people group population figures. In the original Joshua Project list (prior to 2001) the last firm population for a people or language was given regardless of the date - this sometimes meant using a population figure that was valid 5-40 years ago.

The original Joshua Project list did not include all peoples so discrepancies of population over time had less meaning. With the new Joshua Project list every known people has been listed and the population issue had to be reviewed. The decision was made to move from a firm population figure to percentage of the nation figure from which the population for any given year could be derived. The present version of the Joshua Project list reflects this change. This will be of great value in updating and improving the statistics in the future.

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.


How can I suggest changes and updates? Top

Joshua Project recognizes that the data presented on this website potentially has errors, duplicates and gaps. We welcome your feedback and input on all statistical areas such as populations, languages, percent Evangelicals and Adherents, progress of the Church, etc. Please find the appropriate People-by-Country record and then click the submit statistical changes button at the bottom or click here to go directly to the Peoples Statistical Updates form.

Joshua Project also seeks feedback and additions to our photos, maps and text for unreached / least- reached people profiles. Please visit the feedback form to submit suggestions and content.


What happens to my feedback when I send it? Top

Joshua Project makes every effort to respond to questions, comments and feedback within two working days.

If changes to Joshua Project data are suggested we evaluate those against other sources, most notably the Ethnologue, the World Christian Database, Operation China and other books from Asia Harvest, research materials published in Southeast Asia, refined census data for South Asia, other census data, GSEC and data, field input and other web searches.

In addition, we will often consult our main data editors, Patrick Johnstone and Omid. If requested changes can be justified we change our in-house master files promptly. These changes are then reflected on the Joshua Project website within approximately two weeks depending on our web update cycle.

Click here to send feedback


How can I register ministry activity among a people? Top

Joshua Project seeks to track ministry activity among the least-reached ethnic peoples for the purpose of networking. Please find the appropriate People-by-Country record and then click the Register Ministry Activity button at the bottom or click here to go directly to the Ministry Activity Registration form.

We regret that at this time due to a lack of resources, we are unable to personally respond to inquiries or other requests for assistance. If your commitment was made to a least-reached people group on the Joshua Project list, you will be added to our database. Unless you direct otherwise, your information may be available to others focusing on the same people group. You might possibly be contacted by those who wish to network with you.


Where can I find interesting mission facts? Top

Please visit the Joshua Project global summary page. You will find encouraging missions facts as well as interesting people group, country and language facts. The Joshua Project Links page may also be a helpful tool to locate other people group information.


Where can I find Bibles in various languages? Top

Joshua Project does not have printed Bibles available. We suggest contacting:

Forum of Bible Agencies

World Bibles

World Bible Finder


What is the origin and history of Joshua Project? Top

Joshua Project was launched by the AD2000 & Beyond Movement in 1995 as an initiative to bring focus to the largest unreached ethno-linguistic people groups in the world. It was an intregral part of AD2000 & Beyond from 1995 to 2000. The original Joshua Project list became a catalytic benchmark of the largest people groups most needing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The original Joshua Project list was compiled in 1995 by combining people group data from International Mission Board-SBC, Operation World and the Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse and others. A lowest common denominator was used meaning a group had to be on all four lists to be considered part of the original Joshua Project list.

An Editorial Committee was established with representatives from each of the organizations that provided the initial data. The list was originally released in December 1995 and was continually updated through 2000. The editorial committee established the following unreached criteria:

1.  Country-distinct peoples - if a single people live in more than one country they are counted as many times as countries they live in. For example, the Kazakh people live in nine Central Asian countries. They appear nine times on the Joshua Project list.
2.  Population - 10,000 and above in a given country.
3.  Ethno-linguistic distinction - peoples are defined by their ethno-linguistic characteristics only. Cultural, social and religious distinctions were not included.
4.  Less than 2% Evangelical (true regenerate believers)
5.  Less than 5% Professing Christian (broadest possible definition of Christian, includes nominal, Orthodox, Catholic, anyone that would call themselves a Christian.)

In 2001, after the close of the AD2000 & Beyond Movement, Joshua Project staff continued on with the compiling and distributing of unreached peoples. The vision was expanded to include all peoples regardless of size and to sharpen the focus to ethnic peoples allowing distinctives other than language only to define a people.


Why the change from 1,600 to 7,423 unreached? Top

You might be saying "I thought that by the end of the 1990s we were about finished with unreached peoples. Didn't all the unreached people groups have ministry commitments for church planting by the end of 2000?" Or maybe it seems like the unreached people focus of missions is sort of "been there; done that." Why is Joshua Project suggesting that there are 7,423 unreached / least-reached people groups? Good question!

The original Joshua Project list of approximately 1,600 entries was limited to only the largest ethno-linguistic people groups. Three things have happened to give a clearer picture of the unfinished task and expanded the number of unreached peoples to 7,423.

1. Smaller People Groups Now Included

While the original Joshua Project list only included groups larger than 10,000 in population for any given country, the current Joshua Project list includes ALL peoples regardless of size. This added several thousand unreached peoples. Interestingly, the total population of all people groups below 10,000 in population is less than 20 million ... a large number of people groups and a small population total. Yet the Scriptures say we are to make disciples of ALL nations!

2. Shift from Ethno-linguistic to Ethnic Peoples

The original Joshua Project peoples list was strictly ethno-linguistic meaning that a people group is generally distinguished by their language i.e. a people group equals a language group. To most accurately portray the need for church planting Joshua Project has embraced an ethnic model of peoples where distinctives other than language such as religion, caste and culture are considered when distinguishing peoples.

Click here for a detailed discussion of these models.

This shift added several thousand unreached / least-reached peoples. The change from strictly ethno-linguistic to considering religion, caste and culture in what defines a people caused the count of unreached / least-reached peoples in India alone to change from about 450 to over 2,300 on the current list. The Lord has created a mosaic of peoples with different languages, religions and cultures and the Church has the blessing of bringing the Good News to all of them.

3. Assumptions Regarding Data Gaps

There is limited data regarding Christian status for many of the very small people groups. Assumptions were made for many of these small peoples based on their country of location. For example, a tiny group located in Libya without data has a much greater likelihood of being unreached than a tiny group in Canada without data. Please contact us if you would like to further understand the methodology used to fill in some of the data gaps.


At present, 7,423 represents the best estimate for the number of unreached / least-reached ethnic peoples. This number will likely change through further research, more accurate information, removal of duplicates and better knowledge of barriers of understanding and acceptance. Joshua Project welcomes your feedback!


Why gather and present all this data? Top

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 the least-reached peoples in any way possible.

Please contact us if you have updated people group information or want to register your ministry commitment to a particular people group. We would like to help connect Christians who have a particular least-reached peoples focus with others of like-mind. 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.

Aguri of India
Population:  612,000
Status: Unreached
Hmong Shua, Sinicized of China
Population:  353,000
Status: Unreached
Nuristani, Waigeli of Afghanistan
Population:  33,000
Status: Unreached
Uygur, Yutian of China
Population:  70,000
Status: Unreached
Tibetan, Boyu of China
Population:  4,300
Status: Unreached
Hu of China
Population:  1,100
Status: Unreached

Mission Question
How many people groups in Afghanistan have a complete Bible in their primary language but are unreached?  Answer ...

Missions Scripture

Unreached Peoples Fact
The unreached Parsee, found in 11 countries with over 168,000 in total, practice Zoroastrianism.  More Mission Facts ...

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