I’m reading John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad at the moment and have really been challenged by the depth of his thinking, particularly around the topic of God’s glory.
If you ever need a clearer statement about the intersection of worship and missions, go no further than the first paragraph of Piper’s treatise, where he says this (one of the most thought-provoking and challenging book openings ever, at least on the subject of worship):
Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.
Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God. “The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice, let the many coastlands be glad!” (Ps 97:1). “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!” (Ps 67:3-4).
But worship is also the fuel of missions. Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. You can’t commend what you don’t cherish. Missionaries will never call out “let the nations be glad!” if they cannot say from the heart “I rejoice in the Lord … I will be glad and exult in you, I will sing praise to your name, O Most High ” (Pss 104:34; 9:2). Missions begins and ends in worship.
If the pursuit of God’s glory is not ordered above the pursuit of man’s good in the affections of the heart and the priorities of the church, man will not be well served, and God will not be duly honoured.
And that’s just the beginning of the book! I can’t wait to read more.
I think a lot of Christianity these days is about easy-fixes and simple solutions. I think it is important that the way we live our Christian faith should be tempered by a child-like approach to God. But it is also important that we have an intelligent faith that asks deep questions; that seeks to understand God’s ways (like Moses did).
Here, we see the importance of what I call apostolic worship. I don’t believe that we truly engage in worship until we grasp God’s desire to gather the nations, not that missions is the ultimate, but because the redemption of the nations is God’s will, and God’s will is ultimate. This is the overflow of God’s desire for His glory to be manifest amongst the nations.
As we encounter God in worship, let us, as apostolic worship leaders, seek to complete the circle: start in worship – go in missions – bring the nations, as Piper says, into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory in worship.