Allow me to preface the first installment in this series with a quote from A. W. Tozer’s epic book Knowledge of the Holy concerning the supreme importance of the knowledge of God. He said that:
All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared to the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him. The man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems.
God is the beginning, the end, and the chief motivation for all Christ-glorifying and humanity restoring ministry. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” What then is the chief end of missions? The answer is the same. That the nations would glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Therefore, the majesty of God must be the bedrock of our theology of missions.
This has been the theological seedbed of missions throughout Church history, especially to unreached peoples in difficult places. Count Nicholas Zinzendorf (1700-1769), the founder of the Moravian prayer and mission movement put it this way:
Our passion for lost souls is only surpassed by our passion for the Lamb of God.
Paul said that Christ is to have “preeminence in all things” (Col. 1:18)–even missions. Missions exists to make Jesus preeminent in all nations among all peoples above all things. It is a means, not an end. Missions is our assignment and our mandate. God is our inheritance and our reward.
The number one reason why missionaries burnt out, fizzle out, or cop out is because they have never connected with this in a person way. I’ve known many people who signed up to ‘serve the Lord’ in ministry who are now disillusioned, disappointed, bitter, jaded, and bored. The reason is because they elevated the needs of man, the nobility of a service, or their own hunger for adventure above the worth of Christ. Though it is an abrasive term, this is idolatry. And it is toxic to the missions movement.
SAMUEL L. ZWEMER
Few have influenced my understanding of the relationship between missions and majesty as much as Samuel Zwemer (1867-1952). Zwemer was an American missionary to the Middle East back when there were none. Church historians refer to him as, the “apostle to Islam.” The following statements have indelibly shaped my worldview.
The chief end of missions is not the salvation of men but the glory of God. 
God has created the entire world that it should be the theater of his glory by the spread of his Gospel. 
With God’s sovereignty as basis, God’s glory as goal, and God’s will as motive, the missionary enterprise today can face the most difficult of all missionary tasks—the evangelization of the Moslem world. 
Some find this offensive. They argue that it sounds like divine narcissism. I staunchly disagree. God’s love for God is the best news that has ever been declared to the fallen sons of Adam. Why? Because it means that there is nothing more valuable, precious, beautiful, or magnificent than God! And He knows this better than anyone.
Before He ever created anything, God was busy loving God. If this is hard to imagine, think about the way you feel when you see a sunset, snow capped mountains, hear your favorite music, taste your favorite food, or spend time with your favorite person. The joy you feel because of those people, places, or things is a faint echo of what God felt about God before Genesis 1. All those things are great! But all of them pale in comparison to the One to whom they point. Jonathan Edwards wrote that
The enjoyment of [God] is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean. Therefore it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey toward heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end and proper good, the whole work of our lives; to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labour for, or set our hearts on, any thing else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness? 
If a man like Edwards feels this way about God, how do you think God feels about God? This is the center of the flame of the theology of missions.
GOD IS NOT MAN-CENTERED
One of the premier teachings in the Church has been the believer’s calling to bring glory to God (1 Cor. 10:31). But it is very rare to hear sermons or to read books about God’s desire to bring Himself glory. The command to “do everything to the glory of God” is rooted in God’s infinite passion for His own self-exaltation. To cite the Biblical command about the believer’s obligation to bring God glory without acknowledging the reason why the command was given in the first place robs us of the primary reason why we should obey it.
Our desire to make much of Him is the fruit of Him desiring to be made much of. This is the theological bedrock of missions.
Most of us have been taught that we are to be God-centered and God is us-centered. This way of thinking is rampant in the Church today. As a result we believe that missions is ultimately about the nations—about us. But it’s not. Missions is ultimately about the exaltation of God. But it just so happens that the means of God’s self-exaltation is the salvation of the nations!
Missions is a temporary necessity that serves an ultimate end, namely, the universal acknowledgment and celebration of the matchless majesty of God. By prioritizing the glory of God above the salvation of the nations, we exalt the call to missions higher than we ever could by merely affirming that God desires to save sinners. Think: Why does He desire to save sinners? Because He loves them? Yes. But there’s more! That is not the ultimate reason. The ultimate reason is because God loves God! Does this mean that God doesn’t love humanity? Of course not! It just means that it is not what primarily or ultimately motivates Him. And for that we will be made eternally happy!
MISSIONS IS NOT THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF THE CHURCH
No one in Church history has developed this worldview more extensively or articulately as pastor and theologian John Piper. In his phenomenal book Let the Nations Be Glad he writes:
Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions 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.
Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God. “The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!” (Ps. 97:1). “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!” (Ps. 67:3–4).
But worship is also the fuel of missions. Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. You can’t commend what you don’t cherish. Missionaries will never call out, “Let the nations be glad!” if they cannot say from the heart, “I rejoice in the Lord. . . . I will be glad and exult in you, I will sing praise to your name, O Most High” (Pss. 104:34; 9:2). Missions begins and ends in worship.
Therefore, I go to the nations driven by the conviction that there is nothing God cares about more than His own glory. And I joyfully give myself to the task of global missions because I believe that this is the best news we’ve ever heard. Why? Because, in Piper’s words, “God doesn’t ask us to choose between His glory or our joy” because “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
ARE WE MOTIVATED BY GLORY OR ARE WE MOTIVATED BY NEEDS?
The greatest weakness of the missions movement throughout history has been the exaltation of the needs of humanity above the glory of God. This is especially true in our generation. The evidence of this subtle form of idolatry is everywhere. Our preaching, our teaching, our evangelizing, our praying, our serving, our feeding, our giving, and our recruiting make it very difficult to determine what we care about more—God or man. As a result, His worth is belittled, our service of man is cheapened, and our apostolic call to believers to “go into all nations” is emptied of its prophetic power. Therefore I agree with Piper when he says that
If the pursuit of God’s glory is not ordered above the pursuit of man’s good in the affections of the heart and the priorities of the church, man will not be well served, and God will not be duly honored. I am not pleading for a diminishing of missions but for a magnifying of God. When the flame of worship burns with the heat of God’s true worth, the light of missions will shine to the darkest peoples on earth. And I long for that day to come! Where passion for God is weak, zeal for missions will be weak. Churches that are not centered on the exaltation of the majesty and beauty of God will scarcely kindle a fervent desire to “declare his glory among the nations” (Ps. 96:3).
 Samuel Zwemer, Thinking Missions with Christ, (London: Marshall, Organ & Scott, 1934), 67. See Vander Werff, Christian Mission to Muslims, 260.
 Calvin quoted by Zwemer in ‘Calvinism’, 208.
 Zwemer, ‘Calvinism and the Missionary Enterprise’. Theology Today 7:2 (1950): 214.
 Jonathan Edwards, “The Christian Pilgrim,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Edward Hickman, 2 vols. [1834; reprint, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1974], 2:244
 Piper, John (2010-03-15). Let the Nations Be Glad! (pp. 35-36). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition.
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