For the Glory of God Alone

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Missions is 100% about glorifying God, not about saving souls. God saves souls, not missions. Everything we do, is about the glory of God. Worship, Community, Mission, it is about God. He is worthy and all the heavens and earth were made to glorify Him.  It is the reason we have been created. ( Isaiah 43:7 )  It is the reason we are to do anything. ( 1 Corinthians 10:31 )

The Word of God, the book by which we are to draw closer and understand Him, brings Him glory for the purposes of bringing us closer to Him for His glory, for the purposes of us bringing Him glory. The central theme of our existence is bringing God glory.

One of the most talked about books of modern missions is John Piper’s “Let the Nations Be Glad”

John Piper writes:

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Mission exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions 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.”

As much respect and love I have for Mr. Piper and His writings, I’ll take his statement one further. Mission exists not because worship doesn’t, it exists because God loves to glorify Himself through the telling and sharing of Himself. Indeed, I believe that there is a good chance, missions, in one form or another will exist in heaven.  I can imagine heaven will be filled with us going to one another and telling of God’s great victories, the gospel, and His fame! We need to take a step back and realize that missions isn’t about the lost. It’s about God. Again, the emphasis of this is life changing. Missions is not about men, people, you, me, human beings, life itself, or even souls lost or found. Missions is centrally, about the fame and honor and claim that God lays on His own renown. God stresses this so much so, that in the book of Ezekial he says over 70 times “You will know that I am the LORD.” God wants His name known.

Indeed, this viewpoint, that missions is an act of glory as much as worship, indeed being worship itself, must infect us from mind to soul. And when the realization that missions is 100% about God, and not about men, only then can we get down to the real mission of glorification of the almighty. Indeed, when we know this in our hearts, everything changes. Missions is no longer about numbers. It is no longer about people.  It is no longer about a more thought out and intelligent strategy or plan that we devise. The measure of success lays simply, yet powerfully, in the glorification of God. God made missions to not only spread His renown, but to increase the power, boldness, and brilliance of His renown, God Himself brings this about. Missions is no longer about passing out Bibles, tracts, relationships, and so on, even how ‘good’ they may be. Missions is about how to bring about the most powerful and glory-filled expression to God.

So how does this change us? How does this change the way we think, the way our church thinks, and the way all of us do missions, for indeed everything should change! Immediately we need to realize the salvation of the lost is not the primary goal, glory is. If this statement bothers you, then the understanding that missions is for the soul purpose of God’s glory hasn’t hit the depths of your soul yet. When we understand and believe this, how we conceive mission changes. It’s not about strategy, numbers, unreached peoples, C1-C6 scales, 10/40 Windows, or any ‘man-based’ thinking. All of these man-made schemes will be replaced by ‘God-centric’ thinking. Only once the God-centric thinking has permeated our thoughts and soul can we truly engage the world around us in a meaningful way that brings about God’s glory. Then and only then as people endowed with the responsibility and privilege of bringing glory and honor and praise and renown to the throne of God, do we engage others in a God-centric glorifying way, and sharing His renown amongst them.

Only once we intentionally, daily, hourly, minute by minute and second by second guide all of our decisions by a God-centric worldview can we then look at missions anew and realize how far we have gone from the heart of God for mission.

Does God care about the lost? Of course! But even the way He cares, and loves, and brings about salvation shows His love for His own glory! God’s ultimate goal is His Glory. He brings that about through you, me, the saved, the lost, nature, and all of creation. Yes, indeed, all of creation sings glory to the Lord God almighty!

Biblical missiology is all about considering how the Bible reflects on current missiology, and how to call it back to the heart of God. Sadly the definition of missions for so many people is less about glorifying God, and more about getting a message out, getting numbers to respond, and letting supporters know about this. So many modernist mission strategies sway the masses of churches to do this and to do that. Try this and to try that. Yet the heart of God is calling us to stop, remember our first love, and to reflect on His ultimate purpose, bringing Himself glorify. Then, and only then out of the glory purposes do glory driven strategies arise.  I dare say, and the cry of my heart hurts at this thought, that God, is not pleased by the way we have done missions. However good, and well motivated our actions are. They are not a sweet aroma to Him. We have lost our first love, and been caught up in the business of missions, and lost the spirit that guides it.

Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

We so often do things, and say, and perhaps even deceive ourselves in believing that our motivations and actions are the will of God. That will is bringing Himself glory through all of creation. We say that we do amazing things in the ‘Name of Jesus’, but our heart’s motivations betray us, and tell a different story. Do we not instead more often than not covet the applause of men? Do we not seek the approval of our supporters, congregations, friends, churches, and neighbors saying how such a good person we are. Indeed, Jesus Himself says, that we may say we did these things in His Name, but in truth we did not, and He never knew us.

Let us swear, and plead, and pray that as a church, we will not create inventions to glorify any man or invention of man, but will rest in the call of glorifying God, and in every situation, not pander to our worldview or even to others, but to take every chance to bring about the most ultimate fame and honor and glory for the One and only who deserves every second of glory we can worship Him with. When that time comes, we will no longer have arguments on the theology of man-centric strategies, but rather they will fade away and we will be working to out do one another in boldness in proclaiming without shame the fame and name and renown of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

As the body of Christ, all of us need to evaluate our strategies, ministries, and our lifestyles. Were they created to reach men, or to glorify God. Let us not deceive ourselves, so that we do not repent. No one can deceive God, and He perceives our motivations. Let us repent, turn, and reach out to the world to glorify God, and let God handle the numbers of salvations.

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About Author

Mark has lived and worked in missions for all of his adult life, living and ministering in the Middle East for 7 years. Currently Mark lives and resides in the USA mobilizing for the field, and working hard to bring modern missions back to the heart of God, His glory. His goal is to build missional communities focused on Christ, that live out Christ incarnately, giving Him glory, and transporting those communities to the Middle East to continue glorifying Christ.

7 Comments

  1. Pingback: Mark Stephan | For the Glory of God Alone

  2. Great post. I believe that the focus on unsaved man in missions is resulting in the next logical shift – one you treat partially – a focus on the missionary. Some of that is seeking applause, but I think that the most devastating manifestation of the focus on the missionary is found in missions as a means to the self-fulfillment of the missionary.

    http://foibled.org/2011/09/18/translation-is-my-life/
    http://foibled.org/2011/10/26/the-carla-controversy/

    Where I work, missionaries unabashedly raise the issue of how this or that structure, program or change will affect them with hardly a word about whether it will be more effective and not a whiff of a discussion about whether it will glorify God.

  3. Biblical missiology mentioned by Mark in the 9th paragraph is missiology based in the Bible. The Bible explains all the points Mark makes. The way we stay on message about the glory of God is to remind one another of what the Bible says. We need to read and study both the O.T. and the N.T.
    The mistakes being made by people such as those following Insider Movement, Common Ground, and C1-C6 thinking are being made because they won’t interact on the biblical injunctions that direct us to seek God’s glory. Where does the Bible teach us to glorify or affirm or follow non-biblical religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and others? Without a biblical worldview/theology, it is impossible to glorify God because that is where he describes the way we see and recognize and praise his glory.

  4. Nice article. I would love to see some good examples of Biblical Missiologists who have lived first to glorify God in spite of the desire to promote the inventions of men.

  5. Excellent points Chuck and I’ll address these. Being in a blog format, the goal is to focus on one point, and drive the point home in as short of space as possible. What I didn’t cover in my article is how to carry out this in practical terms. I’ll probably write something on that later.

    The point of this article is drawing the attention to the current strategies we are doing, and the need to analyze all of them in the light of the glory it gives God, and its God-centric/Man-centric viewpoint.

    I do believe God wants us to strategize, but only doing so rooted from His perspective of giving Him the most glory. Not from the perspective of creating a man-focused strategy, and then trying to think of how it glorifies God. God has a strategy that is clearly marked out in the gospel, that spreads the gospel giving Him glory. He calls us to undertake that strategy of glorifying Him. The result will always be impacting. Yet we need to realize it’s not us doing the impacting, it’s God. Every God-centric strategy will always impact men. Not every impactful man-centric strategy will glorify God. Just look at the world of cults and false religions that have impacted man.

    I am not saying all missions strategies are not God-centric and giving Him the utmost glory. In fact I hope all would! I do know not all are focused on Him, and are frankly unbiblical. This website addresses some of those strategies they have adopted. Again, the goal of this article is to get everyone to look at themselves and their own ministries and to ask the fundamental question. “Does my ministry bring about the utmost glory that God demands from me and He deserves?” If not, then does it need to be scrapped and re-started at the root of God’s glory, or can it be transplanted and rerooted in God’s glory.

    More to come later…

  6. I agree that our ultimate goal is to glorify God, and this should be true in all we do, including missions. All that we do is tainted by the fact that we are all sinners. Non of us do anything with completely pure motives. But this does not mean that all current missions are out to lunch, or that to plan or strategize is not glorifying to God. To say we need to glorify God in missions is wonderful. To march out the door without a plan seems foolish. And maybe that is not what you are saying. There are numerous places in scripture where the Lord gave men a plan of attack – a strategy for accomplishing the task at hand. God does want to be glorified, but I don’t believe He is down on plans or strategies.
    Is it wrong to count the results? That seems to be your inference. When Jesus fed the hungry people on the hillside he asked how many fish the disciples had. When they were finished we are told how much was left. Jesus could have done this miracle without any reference to numbers, but for some reason he thought that was important.
    I agree that an over emphasis on numbers without giving glory to God and seeing how he worked is not good. However, since many times we are the ones to take the precious money of God’s saints and use it to reach a people group, shouldn’t we use this money wisely? How will we know if the money is used wisely if we don’t keep track of what happened? If a strategy is not working and very few lives are being changed, do we keep doing it as long as we are doing it to glorify God? No, we should not.
    My point is that all we do should be to the glory of God. And in the doing we should know what we are doing and have a plan or strategy for wisely using our time and resources.

  7. A very insightful article. Coming from a church that is big on “missions” this gives me alot to think about in why and how we do what we do. “Mission exists not because worship doesn’t, it exists because God loves to glorify Himself through the telling and sharing of Himself.” I would also say that missions exists because we are obedient to “go forth….” But…I agree that glorifying God as the basis of all we do is critical to us as frail men keeping our perspective about missions. Numbers are not a indicator of success or failure in missions and when I see a person, group, organization say that this many souls were saved last year I often question whether they are doing it for God or their own glory. I have known tremendously Godly people who lived abroad that could not count success in numbers, but if you return to where they lived their legacy of loving God still continues to this day. It was about them glorifying God whether they knew it or not.
    Very good article.

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