By John Piper
Here are seven truths that define and ignite a passion for world missions. If the church around the world were set on fire by these things, it would, as Peter says in 2 Peter 3:12, “Hasten the coming of the day of God” and the end of history as we know it.
1. God is passionately committed to His fame.
God’s ultimate goal is that His name be known and praised and enjoyed by all the peoples of the earth (Matthew 24:14).
The gospel is about the kingdom of God. It is about the triumph of King Jesus over sin and death and judgment and Satan and guilt and fear. It is good news—not that we reign as kings but that our God reigns.
The aim of preaching this “gospel of the kingdom” is that the nations might know King Jesus and admire Him and honor Him and love Him and trust Him and follow Him and make Him shine in their affections.
This is His highest priority: that He be known and admired and trusted and enjoyed as an infinitely glorious King. This is the “good news of the kingdom.” This is the goal of missions.
2. God’s purpose to be known and praised and enjoyed among all the nations cannot fail.
Jesus said, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). This is an absolute promise. It will happen.
Nothing can stop Jesus: “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). If we as a church are disobedient, it is not ultimately the cause of God and the cause of world missions that will lose; we will lose.
God’s counsel will stand, and He will accomplish all His purpose. His triumph is never in question, only our participation in it—or our incalculable loss.
We can be drunk with private concerns and indifferent to the great enterprise of world evangelization, but God will simply pass over us and do His great work while we shrivel up in our little land of comfort.
3. The missionary task is focused on reaching unreached peoples. This means people groups, not just individuals. The task is therefore finishable.
“Nations” in the Bible are not political-geographic states like America, Argentina, China, Germany, Uganda, etc. “Nations” means ethnic groupings with cultural and language distinctions that make it hard for the gospel to spread naturally from one group to the other.
That is the task of missions: not just reaching more and more people but more and more peoples—tribes, tongues, peoples, nations. The task is not primarily to try to keep up with or gain on the population growth rate in the world—as wonderful as that would be.
The task is to make steady headway in reaching more and more “nations,” people groups. Which means that the task is finishable because while the number of individual people keeps growing and changing, the number of people groups (by and large) does not.
4. The scarcity of Paul-type missionaries has been obscured by the quantity of Timothy-type missionaries.
We call Timothy a missionary because he left home, joined a traveling team of missionaries, crossed cultures, and ended up overseeing the younger church in Ephesus far from his homeland. Timothy stayed and ministered on the “mission field” long after there was a church planted with its own elders and its own outreach.
Paul, on the other hand, was driven by a passion to make God’s name known among all the unreached peoples of the world. He never stayed in a place long, once the church was established. That is what we call “frontier missions” or “pioneer missions.” That is a Paul-type missionary.
I came to feel that one of my callings as a pastor is to pray and preach and write for the mobilizing of more and more Paul-type missionaries, while not hindering the obedience of those, like Timothy, who are called to stay in the mission field of “Ephesus.”
5. Domestic ministries are the goal of frontier missions, and frontier missions is the establishment of domestic ministries.
By domestic ministries I mean the call to live out the love and justice of Jesus in our own culture—being salt and light at all levels of society.
Frontier missions is the effort of the church to penetrate an unreached people with the “gospel of the kingdom” and establish there an ongoing indigenous church which will apply the love and justice of Christ to that culture.
This means that the aim of frontier missions is to build a new base of operations for domestic ministries. The goal of a missionary is to help start an indigenous church that will do in its own culture all the soul-saving, life-changing, suffering-alleviating, need-meeting, culture-transforming domestic ministries that the American church ought to be doing here.
Frontier missions is the exporting servant of domestic ministries.
6. God ordains suffering as the price and the means of finishing the Great Commission.
Suffering is not only a result of trying to penetrate unreached peoples but a means of penetrating them.
Jesus said, “They will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name” (Matthew 24:9). This is the price of missions, and it is going to be paid.
Suffering is not just the price but the means God ordains to finish the work. In Colossians 1:24, Paul says, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”
Our suffering becomes an extension and presentation of Christ’s suffering for those for whom He died. Suffering is not an accidental result of obedience. It is an ordained means of penetrating the peoples and the hearts of the lost.
7. God is most glorified in us when we are so satisfied in Him that we accept suffering and death for His sake in order to extend our joy to the unreached peoples of the earth.
Another way to say it is that worshipping God—being satisfied in God and cherishing God and admiring God—is the fuel and the goal of missions. Missions comes from being satisfied with all that God is for us in Christ and aims at helping others be satisfied with all that God is for them in Christ.
A World Missions Orientation
Don’t settle down and become a comfortable, middle-class American. Adopt a wartime lifestyle and a world missions orientation.
There are three possibilities. You can be a goer, a sender, or disobedient. But to ignore the cause is not a Christian option.
JOHN PIPER (@JohnPiper) is the founder and teacher of Desiring God and the chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary. Excerpted and adapted with permission from Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by John Piper. Copyright 2013, B&H Publishing Group.