Still resonating in my mind years after reading them are the words of John Piper, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” This simple construction gives biblical explanation to the goal and the fuel for missions in such a way that we can readily see that one who is serious about having surrendered to worship Christ as Lord will be led to speak of, share about, and witness for Him.
While I understand the distinction that Piper makes between missions and evangelism, it cannot avoid notice that as many churches pervert the genuine worship of Christ as revealed in the Scriptures, few are led to such fervor as is required of a witness for Christ on the mission field or in the local community.
Many churches who forfeit the Great Commission replace the encouragement to “Live in the world but not of it for Christ’s sake” with the message that says “Live in the church but relevant to the world for Christ’s sake.” These churches may have large crowds on Sunday and great activities, but do they unintentionally forsake Christ in an attempt to reach the world? With their great bands and trendy activities these churches have become far less than worshippers of Christ but rather are led by the culture they emulate.
Other churches who forfeit the Great Commission do not seek relevance but convenience for those inside the walls. These churches suffer from just as vile a disease as those who pursue relevance because they are so dedicated to those meeting inside the church that they rarely if ever seek to win anyone else into the worship of the true and living God. These churches are just as anemic worshippers of Christ since they worship not Christ but those whom they are led to placate week by week.
So how does understanding that true worship of Christ fuels and is the goal of missions and perhaps evangelism help us to correct this? Let me suggest a few thoughts based upon the great missionary Psalm of the Old Testament, Psalm 67.
- The opening phrase of this psalm begins with a plea that God be gracious and bless, particularly by shining his face upon us. For God to shine His face upon someone was for him to intimately know God. Old Testament saints rarely knew God in this way, but when God did show himself it was unmistakable and men of God recorded what he said and did. The greatest revelation of God, Jesus Christ came so that the apostles recorded that in him the very fullness of God was pleased to dwell. John says that he is the Word of God made flesh to dwell among us. Since it is true that Jesus is the very embodiment of God’s Word, then as Christians gather and as we live day by day, when we read, hear, sing, preach, and obey the Word we see God’s gracious blessing upon us and know that his face is shining upon us. With such a continuing worship and devotion to God’s Word the world will witness how Christ leads our speech and lives.
- Verses 67:2-3 confirms that God’s way is to be known on earth as well as his saving power is to be made clear to all the nations. This evangelistic mission effort leads the nations to worship God! Therefore, any church that meets for the convenience of its members but neglects the evangelistic mission to proclaim God’s way and saving power is a church that does not worship God! Further verses 67:4-5 indicate that the nations worship God due to his justice and equity even as he is the one who guides them. Similarly, the Lord is the only one who will guide the nations to right worship. Thus a church that meets but neglects to worship Christ as the one who embodies what the Word says about God’s justice and his grace cannot be considered a church that is evangelizing or on mission. A church that has a heart to worship God all the time by proclaiming evangelistically his saving power to the nations through the Word’s teaching about God’s justice and his grace is a church that is on mission for Christ!
- Finally, we find in 67:6-7 we are reminded that it is God who blesses us and brings increase on the earth. Even if not a single convert is made, and the nations never praise his name, God still is our Provider and Creator. This alone is enough for the entire earth to fear, respect or surrender to him. Our spiritual life and success as the church is not then dependent on winning the lost evangelistically, but upon our right worship of God by surrendering to his leadership. We should never sacrifice right worship in order to achieve greater evangelistic numbers.
The question then for those who struggle to evangelize the lost is not whether we know how to do it or if we love the lost. No it is much more a question about whether our affections for him have been expressed fully and freely in our public everyday proclamation of Christ as the fulfillment of all the promises of God’s Word!