When I speak about “people groups” or more formally, “ethno-linguistic people groups”, many a person responds with a cautious or even skeptical look. The idea takes many of us a few moments to comprehend.
Here’s another way to get a more intuitive feel for the language barriers that exist among citizens of the same country. Remember that all Americans speaking English supposedly speak the same language!
The maps in the websites show how specific words change from place to place within the United States. In Pittsburgh, the manner in which to address a group of people, is to address them as “yins”, not you, you all, or y’all. One that I have come across which is not in these maps is what do you call the container in which you carry water? Is it a bucket or a pail?
Now, these linguistic differences are all in one language. We could also add in multiple languages. Baltimore claims 20, Miami reports 80, and Los Angeles boasts 91 different languages spoken by the students enrolled in their school districts.
These are simple pictures to illustrate why the Church needs to identify people groups, in which the individuals share the same language and culture, and not just nations, in which there may be a vast variety of languages and cultures. In Matthew 28, Jesus commissioned the Church to go to all peoples (e.g. ethne in the Greek).
So now when you hear and notice someone’s regional accent, let that be a reminder to you to pray for the hidden and unevangelized people groups of the world.