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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Missions is Not God's Ultimate Goal, Worship Is

I know it's been awhile since I blogged, but I was inspired to put my thoughts in writing because we just returned to the U.S. after spending 10 days on a church planting trip on Margarita Island in Venezuela. Our team (comprised of many from Grace Church and others around the country) saw the Lord do amazing things, however, He's put a lot on my mind over the past few days.

This was my fifth international mission trip, and I don't mention that to boast at all, I mention it because my emotions after returning home after a "mountaintop experience" such as a mission trip have run the gamut.

I remember that after my first trip in 2002, which was to Venezuela, there were so many stories I wanted to share with anyone who would listen. I was incredibly emotional and excited about the work of God and when other people weren't equally excited, I was offended and took it personally. I wanted to immediately go back to where my emotional high took place because "no one here in America could possibly understand."

Three years after that first experience, I went on my third trip, this time to Romania to teach English for two weeks. I came back to the United States with a renewed vision for the future, believing that at some point God would call me to live overseas and teach English. (For the record, Matt and I are still completely open to that possibility.)

This brings me to my current state. Bear with me by first reading a quote from John Piper's book, Let the Nations be Glad:

Missions is not first and ultimate: God is.

This truth is the life blood 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. Though the superstitions of the heathen were a thousand times stronger than they are, and the example of the Europeans a thousand times worse; though 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.

It's so easy to get caught up in pointing others toward Christ that our passion becomes "winning souls for Christ" and "going into all the world to share the gospel." Please don't get me wrong. We were commanded to do so in Matthew 28:19-20, but let's not forget that the Lord Himself should be our number one priority. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). And in remembering this, let's also keep in mind that Jesus Christ made an impact in his own community by living among the people and serving them in love. We're all given an opportunity right where we're at to love people and serve them, just like Jesus did. When did it become less important to minister to those right around us that we feel like the only way to serve the Lord is to go to a foreign country? There are countless people that I come into contact with every single day, and I simply overlook the opportunity to be "salt and light."

I'm getting a little rambly, but I just wanted to share my conviction to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" and to "love your neighbor as yourself" no matter where that may be.

**If you're interested in reading more from Let the Nations be Glad, there's an excerpt at http://www.reallifeboston.com/getinvolved/LetTheNationsBeGlad.pdf