John Stott notes that the highest of missionary motive is neither obedience to the Great Commission (important as it is), nor love for sinners who are alienated and perishing (strong as that is, especially when we contemplate the wrath of God), but rather zeal—burning and passionate zeal—for the glory of Jesus Christ.

Mission is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Mission exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. Worship therefore is the fuel and goal of missions. Worship is the goal of missions, because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the passionate enjoyment of God’s glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God. Worship is the fuel of missions, because passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching/evangelizing. You cannot commend what you don’t cherish. Missionaries will never call out, ‘Let the nations be glad!” who 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” (Ps 104:34; 9:2). Mission 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. Where passion for God is weak, zeal for missions will be weak. Mission is not first and ultimate; God is! Mission is the overflow of our delight in God. The great sin of the world is not that the human race has failed to work for God so as to increase his glory, but that we have failed to delight in God so as to reflect his glory, for God’s glory is most reflected in us when we are most delighted in him. As we seek to find out why, with much millions of Christians, the real army of God that is fighting the hosts of darkness is so small, the only answer is—lack of heart. The enthusiasm of the kingdom is missing. And that is because there is so little enthusiasm for the King.

Putting the two—necessity of reaching the nations and centrality of God— together: A heart for the glory of God and a heart of mercy for the nations make a Christ-like missionary. The Great Commission is first to “delight yourself in the Lord” (Ps 37:4) and then to declare, “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy” (Ps 67:4). In this way, God will be glorified from beginning to end, and worship will empower the missionary enterprise until the coming of the Lord. Out of our delight in Christ and compassion for people, we go out to make disciples of all nations—to the glory of God the Father. 

* Adapted from Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper.

This week’s Bible reading schedule:

Monday: Isaiah 14 Thursday: Isaiah 17
Tuesday: Isaiah 15 Friday: Isaiah 18
Wednesday: Isaiah 16 Saturday: Isaiah 19