Building a church among the unreached that is self-sufficient and growing usually takes about two decades. Why does it take so long?
These people groups are the hardest to reach. They usually live in remote areas, are ruled by governments that are suspicious of outsiders, and speak languages that are difficult to learn. These challenges mean that missionaries to the unreached usually spend five to ten years learning the language and culture before they ever share the gospel. After sharing the gospel, they remain for years to translate the Scriptures and ensure that new converts can lead the church well.
Do missionaries really need to master foreign languages, given how long this endeavor takes? Yes! Missionaries not only speak into the deepest parts of people’s hearts, but they also teach and guard the truth. This means they need to clearly contrast the gospel with existing cultural beliefs. If they do their job poorly, missionaries may simply add Jesus to a pantheon of existing gods instead of proclaiming salvation through Christ alone. If their message is not understood, there is no salvation. Doing the job well is not just important, it is necessary.