“Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” –John Piper
This week is missions conference at my newly adopted church. The featured missionary in yesterday’s morning service started by saying that the reason for missions couldn’t be as superficial as “Jesus said so in the Great Commission.”
(And at a Christian and Missionary Alliance church as missions/Commission-focused as mine have been, that’s a weighty declaration.)
Sure, he said, it was a command Jesus gave, but that couldn’t be the only basis for such a large-scale project. This missionary to Kosovo had wondered about the real reason for missions, the reason behind the mandate, even as early as his first months in college.
But—what was the answer? It begins with this: Jesus calls us to be missionaries, each in his own way, for one purpose: To bring more people into the knowledge of God, to make them his worshippers.
The purpose of all of life, reiterated the missionary, was to worship God, to give him glory in everything we do. Worship, then, is paramount; it’s the only thing that can truly fulfill us. (Shades of a Shorter Catechism there.) But for so many people around the world—as our acclimated Kosovar said, about two billion people—that everlasting, complete fulfillment in worship is elusive, not even possible without the aid of someone to teach them about it. They cannot worship. Therefore, the temporary work we call missions was established—temporary in that at some point it will cease to matter at all, once the entire world knows the Gospel and the end of the age comes. Its only aim is to bring more people into the band of worshippers.
It is a means to an end and that end is approaching. When the end arrives, the means will no longer be needed.
We don’t become missionaries for the sake of missions itself, or even for the sake of the Great Commission.… We become missionaries because there are whole nations in which the worship of God is never, ever practiced. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.
I can’t describe how deeply that concept imprinted itself onto my soul. I suppose it’s one of those things that one knows but does not realize until it’s pointed out by someone wiser—that relation of missions to worship (and the supremacy of worship in just about everything, the other thing I’ve been learning over the last few years).
It may also have been because I’ve already been meditating on certain aspects of the nature of worship for the last week or two. (And when I say meditating, I mean I couldn’t get it out of my head every spare moment. That counts, right?) It amazed me how thoroughly the morning’s message dovetailed with the main subject of my devotions lately. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise me, but it did, and it gave me a reason for praise.
At any rate. After quoting Piper’s pithy statement, the missionary followed it with a longer quote from him, a much more succinct explanation of that phrase than I could hope to write. I wish I knew what the quote was from. I do know that Piper wrote a book about missions called “Let the Nations be Glad!” that I have wanted to read. Mom lent me her copy this week; I’ll read it and report the gist of it.