One quote that gets tossed around a lot in my circles (that is right, even I have circles) is the following, “Missions exists because worship does not.”
Chew on meaty statements like that too long and you may get heartburn. However, if you really think about it, the man makes a good point. Avoid applying Occam’s Razor and splitting theological hairs and listen for the heartbeat of Piper’s statement. The reason we have the great commission in the first place is because humanity is not fulfilling its primary purpose. We have to reach people because people need to be reached. Man’s ultimate end is to testify to the glory of God by worship, obedience and praise. Missions exists because mankind must be brought back to its right purpose. Man’s purpose is worship.
I was reminded of this last Saturday.
I walked in late. Several heads turned around and watched me file in looking for a seat. Our organization was having an annual conference and around 30 of us had gathered for a special meeting. A volunteer team from the States had come out to help, and they brought a stack of hymnals with them. With this welcomed arrival the decision was made to have a hymn sing, an English hymn sing.
When I arrived, the group had just finished one hymn and was taking requests for another. As the sound of flipping pages filled the room, someone made a request. The song was, “How Great Thou Art.” For the first time in a very long time, I was worshipping God with people who speak my language, in my accent, with words and melodies I have known since my childhood. With joy, the group sang praises late into the night.
It is hard for me to fully explain in words how this affected me. Imagine the joy received from finding an old photo album and remembering the events that took place as you thumb through its pages. Now remember the last time you discovered some treasure you did not know you had lost, perhaps an old keepsake or heirloom hidden away for years in a box. You had not missed it until the moment you found it again, but upon finding it, you realized the true value of that particular treasure.
Week after week, I worship in the tongue of the people where I serve. I find great joy in it too. During my time here, I have gained enough understanding of the language and a great enough love for the people that I am moved by their expressions of worship.
But last Saturday I found a treasure I did not realize I had lost. Crying out to God in the language my heart understands best, I was able to agree with those old hymns about the grandeur of God. I found words once again that describe my feelings exactly and precisely in a way my limited vocabulary here struggles to express. Furthermore, I was not alone. I was in a room full of people who understood this completely. We sang together, a group rediscovering the treasure of worship.
It was a good reminder of why I had learned this new language in the first place. I struggle in this language so people here can have the same experience of worship in the language their hearts understand best.
As we left the room that night an air of satisfaction marked the group. It was the satisfaction of purpose realized. My purpose is worship.
So is yours.