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!” (Psalm 97:1). “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!” (Psalm 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” (Psalm 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 honored. I am not pleading for a diminishing of missions but for a magnifying of God. When the flame of worship burns with the heat of God’s true worth, the light of missions will shine to the darkest peoples on earth. And I long for that day to come!
Where passion for God is weak, zeal for missions will be weak. Churches that are not centered on the exaltation of the majesty and beauty of God will scarcely kindle a fervent desire to “declare his glory among the nations” (Psalm 96:3). Even outsiders feel the disparity between the boldness of our claim upon the nations and the blandness of our engagement with God.
The Second Greatest Activity in the World
The most crucial issue in missions is the centrality of God in the life of the Church. How can people who are not stunned by the greatness of God be sent with the ringing message, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods”? (Psalm 96:4). Missions is not first and ultimate; God is. And these are not just words. This truth is the lifeblood of missionary inspiration and endurance. William Carey, the father of modern missions, who set sail for India from England in 1793, expressed the connection:
“When I left England, my hope of India’s conversion was very strong; but amongst so many obstacles, it would die, unless upheld by God. Well, I have God, and His Word is true. [Even if] the superstitions of the heathen were a thousand times stronger than they are, and the example of the Europeans a thousand times worse; [even if] I were deserted by all and persecuted by all, yet my faith, fixed on the sure Word, would rise above all obstructions and overcome every trial. God’s cause will triumph.”
Carey and thousands like him have been moved and carried by the vision of a great and triumphant God. That vision must come first. Savoring it in worship precedes spreading it in missions. All of history is moving toward one great goal, the white-hot worship of God and His Son among all the peoples of the earth. Missions is not that goal. It is the means. And for that reason it is the second greatest human activity in the world.
God’s Passion for God
One of the things God uses to make this truth take hold of a person and a church is the stunning realization that it is also true for God Himself. Missions is not God’s ultimate goal, worship is. And when this sinks into a person’s heart everything changes. The world is often turned on its head, and everything looks different–including the missionary enterprise.
The ultimate foundation for our passion to see God glorified is His own passion to be glorified. God is central and supreme in His own affections. There are no rivals for the supremacy of God’s glory in His own heart. God is not an idolater. He does not disobey the first and great commandment. With all His heart and soul and strength and mind He delights in the glory of His manifold perfections. The most passionate heart for God in all the universe is God’s heart.
This truth, more than any other I know, seals the conviction that worship is the fuel and goal of missions. The deepest reason why our passion for God should fuel missions is that God’s passion for God fuels missions. Missions is the overflow of our delight in God because missions is the overflow of God’s delight in being God. And the deepest reason why worship is the goal in missions is that worship is God’s goal. We are confirmed in this goal by the biblical record of God’s relentless pursuit of praise among the nations. “Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!” (Psalm 117:1). If it is God’s goal, it must be our goal.
The Call of God
God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. He has an inexhaustible enthusiasm for the supremacy of His Name among the nations. Therefore, let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His Name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose.