(The following is the next entry in a 31-day blog journey through John Piper’s, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for a Radical Ministry [Broadman and Holman, 2002.]
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. We have come to see that God is passionately committed to upholding and displaying his name, His reputation, in the world.
Over and over we read this in the Bible—that God does what He does so “that [His] name might be proclaimed in the all the earth” (Rom. 9:17). The central command of missions is Isaiah 12:4, “Make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted” (189).
[God’s] 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 (190).
In order to do missions, you must be satisfied in God alone and not in safety or stuff. For in order to reach the ends of the earth with the Gospel, especially in regions hostile to the Gospel—regions where billions of non-Christians live, many believers armed with the message of the Gospel are going to have to die. That is, regions hostile to Jesus Christ and his ambassadors will not simply lay down in order to welcome Gospel workers in to proclaim the Gospel. Instead, missionaries will have to meet in underground house churches in order to hide from Marxist rulers bent on executing them; others will be beheaded by extremists posing as potential Christ-seekers, and still others will be bludgeoned by guerilla fighters and sex-traffickers who feel the morality of Christians hinders their evil plans and regime hopes. As these workers are mowed down, others must obediently go and replace them in order for the Gospel to be proclaimed to the very people who threatened and persecuted their predecessors. Some of these workers reside in our very congregations waiting for the challenge to give their lives to the most meaningful thing.
I pray regularly for the Lord, if he is pleased, to use my family, especially my children, for the cause of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. I have been praying such things for my children since the time each one of them was in vitro. I am very aware of the painful reality that if the Lord is pleased to make the fame of his Name known through my children in foreign lands, I may never lay eyes on any one of them again the day they leave the US shores.
As painful as that thought may be, I would be more pained to stand before the Lord and know that unwillingness to let my children go for a season meant that many went without hearing of the great and glorious love of God in Christ to the ends that they perished rather than experiencing the joys of eternity. I should feel the same way about not challenging my members to give their lives in order for God’s mercy to be glorified among the nations.
At any church, the pastor is the one joyously privileged to exhort the members to live to see the Gospel proclaimed in all the world. This should not be a hard task, since we are preaching the death and resurrection of Christ, and its implications, every Sunday, and we are praying in accordance with the Gospel of Christ before our people. The more often we do this in earnest, if the Lord grants grace, the more we should see the Lord raise up people to go.
The challenge we face as pastors is to help our people see that missions does not stand at odds with the work of “local” and seemingly “pressing” needs. If anything, a constant focus on the pressing and urgent makes missions seem like a waste of time. But if you were on the other end of the wrath of God, knew that someone in a foreign country had the message you needed to escape wrath, but many of those people would not look past the homeless and drug-addicted in their neighborhoods who have access to the wrath-satisfying message all around them, I think you would not think of missions as a waste of time. You would think of it as the most worthy investment. You would wonder why a few people with the message would not willingly share it with you.
I pray for the day that I will see the first career missionary raised up from a congregation I am serving. I am thankful for short-term missionaries. I am grateful for college and youth mission trips. However I hope to see many say, “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also.” This means I have work to do. But my hope is that the Lord would be pleased to use me, my family, and my church to offer his joy to people who have yet to hear his Name. May each of us be satisfied in him alone.