Churches that Go the Distance in Counting for Zero


Regardless of your size, finances, or experience, God can use your church to see a people reached —if you are willing to learn, partner, and trust Him.

“We have never signed on to anything as big as reaching a whole people with the gospel,” church leaders often admit. “Sure we’ve done projects, gone on missions trips, and supported missionaries. But committing to see an unengaged people transformed for Christ seems way out of our league. Can we do it?

Yes you can, with God’s enabling! Regardless of your size, finances, or experience, God can use your church to see a people reached—if you are willing to learn, partner, and trust Him. However, Counting for Zero will probably be the hardest thing your church has ever done. The “easy” peoples have already been reached. The tough ones are left.

Here are six characteristics that define churches God is using to move a people group from “unreached” to “reached”:

  • Pastor and leaders passionate about the goal. In “Building the Ownership of Church Leaders for Partnership” Matthew Ellison unpacks this starting point. Pastors’ mere “approval” of Count for Zero can doom it, but their ownership will ignite an unstoppable fire.

  • Dedication to world-changing prayer. Supernatural powers have for centuries or millennia held your people group in spiritual darkness. One essential element breaks those chains—intense intercession over the long haul. To Count for Zero, your church needs to develop powerful prayer muscles.

  • A leadership team and strategy. For long-term success, you need a team working together to get and keep your church engaged. In “Building Your Church’s Capacity,” Ellen Livingood describes how this team and a clear strategy will sustain your church’s involvement over the long haul.

  • The resolve to say “no” to distractions. Committing to a UPG doesn’t mean your church won’t do anything else—in fact, it will likely increase your church’s missions potential so you can do more. However, overcommitting diverts attention and resources. To see your people group reached, your church may need to say “no” to other good opportunities.

  • Eagerness to be the junior partner. Western churches need to stay in background roles while on-the-ground partners lead the way. Missions specialists like Werner Mischke can help you understand the dynamics of how this works. Churches that Count for Zero are servants and learners. As Karin Primuth describes, joining a network can help you find great partners and helpful role models.

  • Battle-ready mindset. Western believers often find it hard to imagine that God would take them to an unsafe place or ask them to sacrifice. But most unreached peoples live in uncomfortable, unsafe situations; obedience may come at a price. Churches must count the cost.

Does your church have some growing to do in these areas? We all do! 

Written by Ellen Livingood

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