The Best Book on Missions I Ever Read
As we begin a series on Missions here at Faith Church, I thought I would share a few thoughts about the best book I have ever read on the topic of missions - Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper. This book is now in its third edition (I have a copy of the first edition, so any quotes will be from that edition), and it really changed my perspective on the topic of global missions. The book has five chapters and I want to share some of the key insights I drew from each.
Chapter 1 - Missions Is About Worship
Piper begins with this statement that rocked my world:
“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. … When this age is over, and the countless missions 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” (1)
It is a reminder that the goal of missions is for people to worship God. Missions exist because all people should be worshipping God; however, that is not the case as there are many others to be reached. As we worship God, we see His goodness and thus want to tell others about Him.
Chapter 2 - Prayer as Vital and Urgent Communication
In the second chapter, Piper talks about prayer as it relates to missions, but I think it also changes the way we view prayer. He explains that we need to view ourselves as being in a spiritual war in this world, and therefore, prayer is the “wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief” (41). Prayer can often seem trivial, but we should view prayer as the soldiers in a war calling for aid and help to the commanding officer. This is true as it relates to praying for missionaries in the field, but it is also true of us as we are involved in an everyday, everyone sort of mission. We called to be on mission where we live, work, and play.
Chapter 3 - Being Prepared for Suffering
Piper addresses suffering in missions in the third chapter of his book. It is a reminder of Jesus’s words that if people persecuted him, they will persecute us and that a servant is not greater than his master. We so often want to have lives of comfort, but we believe in and proclaim a Savior who is the Suffering Servant. We must be prepared to suffer, knowing that God can appoint suffering for His servants as they are on mission. Not only can we proclaim God’s truth in the midst of suffering, but we can do so through our suffering as it shows where our true treasure is. God has often used the suffering of His people to bring others to worship His name (as the old saying goes, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church).
Chapter 4 - People Need to Believe in Jesus
The fourth chapter deals with the question of whether people must hear the gospel to be saved - and it answers this in the affirmative. This chapter is also a reminder of the reality of hell, that there are great and grave consequences for disbelief in Jesus. God sent Jesus so that the nations would turn to him, calling for people to believe the gospel (Acts 17:30) as there is no other name in heaven by which people are saved (Acts 4:12). Missions must involve the proclamation of the name of Jesus; our works and deeds should support our beliefs and not stand in place of our beliefs.
Chapter 5 - All the Nations
We are commanded to make disciples of all nations -- not just the most responsive or closest nations. We should reach out to the people around us, but also need to recognize that some of us may need to cross boundaries to reach people who have not yet been exposed to the gospel. This truth still applies to us in the twenty-first century. In thinking about reaching out to people (all nations), we need to think beyond countries to peoples as well, as there can be multiple groups of people in a single nation (for more on what a “people” group is, see this article by the Joshua Project). Therefore, even if every country has a gospel presence in it, that does not necessarily mean every people group in that country has been reached by the gospel. The hope of the gospel is for all people groups, and the promise of the gospel is that all people from every people group will declare and proclaim God’s glory. In John 10:16, Jesus said he has sheep that are not of this fold -- may we be like Paul and his desire to reach the nations, not like Jonah who wanted to ignore them. We look forward to the day in which a great multitude from every tribe and tongue and people and nation are worshipping God (Revelation 5:9).
What a great way to come full circle -- missions exist because we are made to worship God; may we seek to bring people from all nations to worship our great and glorious God.
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