I was reminded of a fascinating book by John Piper called, Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions. He begins this intriguing book discussing the relationship between missions and worship, two topics very dear to my heart.
Piper says, “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 in missions.”
He goes on to say that it’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the enjoyment of God’s glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God. (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. (Psalm 104:34; 9:2). Missions begins and ends in worship.”
Piper concludes his chapter one introduction with, “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.”
I understand his point, but I suppose it is also possible to have little zeal for God in worship and still be a congregation focused on missions, perhaps as a substitute for a dynamic relationship with Jesus. This type of missions may be more helping the less-fortunate than it is bringing the nations and our neighbors to Christ.
In corporate worship, how do we encounter God (how do we even encounter God on a personal level)? Can it be that the modern church in America has settled for a worship service over an authentic worship experience, whereby the congregation is connected with God at the deepest level? When was the last time that you saw God’s people gathered for worship where they were passionate about experiencing God (as opposed to being excited about fellowship with others, love for the music, praise for the preacher, etc.)? If God is truly the audience of our worship, what sort of performance did we put on last Sunday? Was He pleased?