In light of our upcoming Mission Conference, February 25-27, I asked Matthew to write an article centered around our theme verse. Read it and make plans to join us for this exciting conference!
“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.” ~ Psalm 96:3-4
The Purpose of Missions
The ultimate focus of missions is not the people but the glory of God. Our desire to exalt the worth of God is the purpose of missions because God’s desire is to exalt the worth of God. The ultimate goal of God is not missions; it is worship. It is the glad-hearted praises of God’s people in response to the all-satisfying experience of God’s glory. “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised.”
Nothing is more ultimate in the mind of God than the glory of God because nothing is more valuable in the heart of God than the glory of God. All throughout the Bible, when the ultimate purpose is given for why God does what He does, the answer God always gives is: “For my glory.” Missions is no different.
Since the glory of God is the goal of God, and we glorify God most fully when we worship Him, worship therefore is the goal of God in missions. Worship is ultimate, not man, because God is ultimate, not man. God’s purpose in missions is for His glory and marvelous works to be proclaimed. That is His goal—to exalt the worth of His own name.
And amazingly, the glorification and exaltation of God and our enjoyment of God are unified goals. The reasoning goes like this:
- Our life’s purpose is to pursue what is best.
- It is evil for us not to pursue what is best.
- God’s purpose is to pursue what is best.
- It is evil for God not to pursue what is best.
- What is best is God in all His glory.
- Therefore, God does everything for the glory of God.
- Therefore, our purpose in life is to do everything for the glory of God.
This is good news. When we stand before God one day and see Him in the fullness of His glory, it is then that our joy will be complete. The Psalmist nailed it right on the head: “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). God’s glory and our fullness of joy are twin truths.
This is why the gospel message is so shareable: we are calling people to joy! “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 people praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!” (Ps. 67:3-4). “May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, ‘God is great!’ ” (Ps. 70:4). The goal of missions is for all peoples to gladly say with worshipful tongues, “God is great!” This is the purpose of missions.
The Pattern of Missions
This purpose, however, isn’t carried out just any way. God has a specific pattern by which He will bring Himself glory. When the Bible says to declare God’s glory among the nations—or peoples, or tribes, or tongues—it has something very specific in mind. It does not mean individual people. Nor does it mean political nations or geographic regions. It means types of people. It means Anglo-Saxons and Puerto Ricans and Cherokees and Shirazi Swahilis and Tutsi South Africans and the Dinka of Sudan. There are clans, tribes, and families—otherwise known as people groups.
A people group is basically an ethnolinguistic group with a common self-identity that is shared by the various members. Or, to say it in plain English, they are their own people, and they have their own language. There are about 16,000 such known people groups in the world, and in about 6,000 of those the local church or churches are either totally absent or exist so weakly that there isn’t a self-sustaining base from which evangelism can take place.
That is why the task of missions is so necessary. Missions is the effort to cross into those cultures, learn those languages, meet those peoples, and reach them with the gospel of Jesus Christ. God is interested in saving all kinds of people, not just the people we like. All kinds of people. Therefore, the missionary focus is not on individual people but on kinds of people. This is the heart of God, and it should be ours as well.
The Promise of Missions
The purpose and pattern of missions is to “declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Ps. 96:3). This is a command from God Himself to us. Participating in missions is not optional. It is our duty. That is reason enough to join this holy endeavor of reaching all peoples with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
But perhaps the most compelling and motivating truth to participate in missions is this unshakable promise: we cannot lose. The mission cannot fail. The blood of Christ guarantees it. Revelation 5:9 says it like this, “And they [the heavenly host] sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you [Jesus] to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.’”
There are blood-bought people in every people group throughout the world. They will not be lost. Jesus never loses on His purchases. These ransomed people scattered around this globe must be gathered into one. Jesus said it Himself: “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16). Christ will bring all His sheep into the fold. It will happen folks. Mark it down.
One of the fundamental differences between evangelism and missions is that evangelism can never be finished. There will always be unsaved people to whom we can speak the gospel. But missions can be finished—and it will. Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
The end of all things will not come until all the peoples of the world are reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ—not all people, but all kinds of people. It will happen; the gospel will be proclaimed to all peoples. Jesus insures it. “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20). The question for us is simply this: are we on board with Him? Are we passionate to see the gospel win and to declare God’s glory among the nations? Do we want others to taste and see that the Lord is good? (Ps. 34:8).
The Greatest Movement in History
The greatest truth we can ever know, love, and share is the good news of Jesus Christ. Our greatest privilege as the church of Christ is to engage with the King of glory in His great missionary cause. The ingathering of God’s people from every corner of the globe into one holy congregation is the greatest movement in history.
When it is all over the entire company of the redeemed will gather as one around the throne of God and sing praises forever to the Lamb who was slain on our behalf: “Worthy are you, Lamb of God. To you be all glory and blessing” (cf. Rev. 5:9-14). And then the purposes of God will be complete, as will our everlasting joy. Truly, our Lord is great and greatly to be praised!