MANI Research Vision

MANI: A People of Vision

“Without an updated assessment of the least-reached and the unfinished task over the next five years, we would have made no progress as far as the very reason for MANI’s existence is concerned. The focus of the Movement for African National Initiatives is to mobilize the church for the least-reached.” So says, Reuben Ezemadu, the MANI Continental Coordinator.

At its very core, the Movement for African National Initiatives labors to see Africans mobilized to reach and disciple the least-reached of Africa…and beyond! Without accurate field assessment it is difficult to know where there may be significant populations of those with little or no access to the Gospel. The least-reached may be living unnoticed in a remote part of the country or could be hidden within a metropolitan area considered to be mostly evangelized.

26% of the ethnic people/country groups on the continent of Africa still meet the Least-Reached Peoples criteria of the Joshua Project list. (less than 2% evangelical and less than 5% Christian adherents). That is almost 1,000 people groups in Africa with so few believers they likely cannot evangelize themselves. Their total population is almost 138 million people.

But the need is greater even than that. The unfinished task is more than the Joshua Project list. Many have never been discipled. Some name the name of Jesus while engaging in false religions. There are additional geographic and social dynamics which create barriers to personal and community transformation.

African leaders cannot depend only on international data sources. Though those are useful and provide a valuable overview, field assessment is needed to correct mistakes and gather pertinent information which will allow more strategic decision-making at the grassroots level. MANI is calling for African church and mission leaders to be aggressively engaged in the assessment of the unfinished task in their countries and to use the new information to motivate and mobilize the church.

Information Mobilizes the Church!


A country survey conducted fifteen years ago revealed people groups and locations in need of church planting. A survey begun in 2007 already is revealing that reports from that survey mobilized dozens of ministries which have been planting churches solely because they were challenged by the needs which had been revealed through research documents. There are now thousands of new churches among predominantly least-reached peoples.

GCOWE South Africa 1997

Kenyan church and mission leaders were embarrassed to learn that there were ethnic people groups in their highly evangelized country who still did not have missionaries or churches planted among them. Knowledge of the situation caused them to form a network of churches and organizations focused on the unreached. Together they have planted churches or launched mission efforts to all of those people groups.

Asian Country

One passionate missions leader called for a meeting of church leaders and intercessors in his city. With few comments, he used a screen on which to project a scrolling list of least-reached people groups. Only the people group names and populations were listed. After a few minutes, people in the room began to began to weep in prayer for the unreached. From that initial stirring, was formed a country network for focus on the least-reached. Partners from across the world have helped assess, resource and send workers.

Other Rationale for National Research Process

Though the primary purpose for African research is mobilization of the African church toward the least-reached, there are other valuable reasons for development of a research/review process on a country by country basis.

  • African ownership of statistical data. In most countries there are noted errors on lists of data prepared by outside sources. People on the field are in the best position to track and make corrections. Some of the international information bases are very keen to use updated, verified data from African field sources.
  • Avoid duplication. Proper assessment and networking will allow churches and organizations to cover all areas of need instead of saturating one place and leaving another untouched. It is critical to be intentional and make careful use of limited missions resources.
  • Build unity and cooperative efforts. Knowing who else is willing to partner in a least-reached area, provides the opportunity to complement each others’ strengths and work with efficiency.
  • Our unfinished mandate. Assessment is needed in order to find and fill the gaps.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations (ethne/people group), baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20.

The MANI Challenge: African Data Updates by 2011

The next MANI Continental Consultation will be held in 2011. One of the goals for that conference is to present an updated assessment of the unfinished task for Africa by region and by country. The need for data review, assessment or research varies by country. What does not vary is the critical and immediate need for involvement of key leaders to drive a process by which data will be verified and updated.

At a minimum, and as a first phase to country research, the call goes out to form country level review teams to make corrections to the current Joshua Project list for each country in order to answer questions such as: Are people group names known to be in error? Do some people groups no longer exist in the country? Have many new people groups immigrated into the country? Are population figures in need of update? Are there people groups with no known believers?

Many countries however will have a need and desire for full country-wide research projects, beyond people group updates. Through research, mission leaders can also assess needs for saturation church planting and evangelism needs among various social groupings. Churches, organizations and researches can join hands to implement a process for gathering and analysis of information which will then be boldly used by mobilizers to stir new and highly strategic ministry efforts. Research can shed light and provide clarity to the task. It can highlight the need and reveal available resources and workers.

MANI Database Tool

MANI has encouraged the development of a database called Ethne Information System (EIS), which will allow African regions to maintain, edit, and manage three primary types of information: Harvest Force (churches and organizations); Harvest Field (statistical information primarily about countries and people groups); and Ministry Activity (the type of evangelistic involvement among specific least-reached people groups or least-reached locations).

Due to the likelihood of sensitive ministry activity information, only the Harvest Field portion will be open to the public. Ministry reports may be shared within security guidelines to those networking for the same people group or location.

This database is not intended to be a comprehensive listing of all churches or mission organizations in a country. The focus is on strategic information and the contacts directly related to evangelization of the least-reached (peoples and locations). If populated with country information, the database will highlight the least-reached people groups of a country and show who is interested in partnering for ministry among people groups and countries.

Data Flow:

Using EIS database, MANI will be able to manage data at various levels.

  • Continental Hub – all information for Africa, allowing querying and reporting for the entire continent.
  • Regional Center – broken into MANI regions. Each region will hold and report the information for multiple countries in their region. Regions will import data from their countries and export it to the Continental Hub
  • Country Centers – where a country has resources to maintain a database, data will flow from there to the Regional Center.

Regional / Country Center:

Country or regional locations from which the database is managed must be a neutral organization or individual. The Center will house, operate and maintain the database. Responsibilities will include: maintaining security, editing, data entry, merging data to or from the continental HUB, and providing safe distribution of data to others in the country/region.

Country Research Task Force:

The process may vary from one region to the next. National or Regional Coordinators may be best poised to offer initial facilitation for development of a Research Task Force or review team. A team, not only one person, should review and validate proposed edits to Joshua Project data. Combining the perspectives of various researchers as well as knowledgeable church planters and mobilizers will allow a neutral and respected result. Team selection should include someone with in-depth understanding of people group and language data. It is hoped that each country would have its own review team to assure that accurate data is entered into the database.

Initial Data Focus:

The MANI vision is to provide basic information which will be used as a mobilization tool for the African church. Though scientific and ongoing research is highly encouraged from regions capable of producing it, the first phase is for best estimates and timely correction of blatant errors currently on the Joshua Project list. Edits and corrections to the Joshua Project list are needed by mid-2010.

Ongoing Research:

As countries develop a working relationship with research, the breadth and type of research and data analysis may become more extensive and therefore more valuable. This will vary greatly by country need and resources. MANI encourages ongoing research efforts to include tracking three areas of least-reached: people groups, geographic areas (including saturation church planting), and social groups; with the ministry activity relating to each.

Proposed Timeline for Countries and Regions:

Tasks for 2008

  1. Country/Regional Coordinators initiate Research Task Force for development of a process to update the Joshua Project list and plan additional research deemed important to the country.
  2. Gather field data and edits on spreadsheets available from the link at right, or on the MANI Resource DVD. Return results to:

Tasks for 2009

  1. Country Research Task Forces or Review Team together with National Initiatives engage in review of JP and/or new research projects.
  2. Regional establishment of EIS Center for managing database, and receive training in usage of database.

Task for 2010.

  1. June 2010 completion of all research and field edits and corrections submitted to the Continental Hub so there is time for data analysis and reports to plenary speakers prior to preparations for MANI 2011.


Let us prayerfully unite to assess and highlight the unfinished task. Partnering and networking is hard. It is not easy to come to common vision. It is not easy to extend grace for another’s weakness. It is not easy to humbly yield to another’s leadership. Yet it is the way of the Cross.

Eph 4:16: from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Working independently may prevent us from seeing the full picture, and certainly could discourage us from attempting an enormous task. But what is too big for one, may be God’s directive to the whole; and the very means by which the full harvest is reaped.

Eccl 4:9,12: Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him–a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Luke 10:2: And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

January 2008

Research Links

Global Research, International Mission Board, SBC
International Bulletin of Missionary Research