Missions Exists Because Worship Does Not

Kenneth Ortiz


“Missions Exists Because Worship Doesn’t” has become a popular maxim in some Evangelical circles. These words were originally written by pastor and author John Piper, who was the Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis for more than three decades. Piper wrote these powerful words in his book Let the Nations Be Glad:

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t yet exist all over the world. 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.”

When I first read this well-known excerpt, two things stood out to me:

  • Piper’s use of the word “worship” is not just referring to ‘musical worship’ but he is primarily speaking about a whole-hearted passionate love of God that bleeds into every portion and compartment of our lives.
  • The focus in his use of the word “missions” refers specifically to cross-cultural missional activity. There is certainly the potential for this sort of activity to happen in your own nation or even your own community, but Piper is specifically emphasizing the call to go across cultures and into foreign lands to engage with people whom otherwise may never hear the Gospel because they are so far away from the regions of the world where the Gospel is most prevalent.

Piper’s overarching point is to make clear that the ultimate reason for missions is to bring more worship to God. Not just more songs being sung, but more people loving God with their whole hearts and whole lives.

There are places on Earth where people are not directly acknowledging God at all, so they certainly aren’t worshiping. And there are ethnic people groups on planet Earth that don’t even know anything about the name of Christ or His supremacy in all things. That’s why we we participate in world missions. That’s why we send people to the uttermost parts of the Earth.

We engage in world missions so that God will be acknowledged in places where He is not currently. We do missions so that the name of Jesus will be known and exalted by people in nations where no persons are currently exalting His name.

Missions isn’t about the tasks of preaching or church planting or evangelism or justice or mercy or serving the poor or whatever else you think missions is all about. While those things might be good, they are nothing more than just means to an end. Ultimately missions is for the expansion of worship. That’s the end game. If everyone on Earth were worshiping God, there would be no need for missions.

Jesus is supreme! We are compelled to declare this great truth to as many people as possible, both with our words and our lifestyle. We are especially called to sacrifice our time, money, and efforts so that this truth can be declared in places on Earth where it has never been declared. We are to give until it hurts, so that people whom have never acknowledged the name of Jesus will know His supremacy and adore Him!

This is what John Piper was talking about when he wrote those words. Over the course of his pastoral ministry at Bethlehem Baptist, Piper preached hundreds of sermons that were related to the topic of world missions. He understood something that appears to be missing from a lot of preaching in contemporary North American Christianity, that is the fact that it is a privilege to be a part of world missions because missions leads to more worship of God.

Therefore every sermon, if properly preached, should inspire people to take part in world missions in some way or another. Missions should be an element of everything the church does. Every message preached in every church should provoke people to sacrifice more of their resources so that God will be worshiped more in places where He currently isn’t.

When people hear sermons about the incredible majesty and love of God, they will often be inspired to share the Gospel with others. And when people are properly informed of the needs around the world, they will be inspired to meet those needs. Properly shepherding people will undoubtedly lead to people answering the call.

Every sermon should inspire people to take part in world missions.

Preaching with these philosophies has had a profound impact on the people of Bethlehem Baptist. Under Piper’s leadership, the church has become an incredible worldwide missionary sending organization. It has been awesome to hear of all the great things God has done through that church, and more importantly, through the people the church has sent overseas. But the legacy that this church currently has established certainly did not start with Piper, he simply was able to take it to the next level. Piper inspired hundreds (maybe thousands) of other churches to follow their lead, but the legacy is a lot older than Piper himself.

In 1890 (122 years ago) Bethlehem Baptist (at the time a 29-year-old Swedish Baptist Church) sent Mini and Ola Hanson from their own membership to an unreached people group in the nation of Burma (now Myanmar). The unreached people group was the Kachin people. They were known as vengeful, cruel, and treacherous. The King of Burma declared to Hanson when he got there, “So you are to teach the Kachins! Do you see my dogs over there? I tell you, it will be easier to convert and teach these dogs. You are wasting your life.”

The Kachin were completely illiterate with no written language. Over the next 30 years Hanson collected 25,000 words and published a Kachin-English dictionary. In 1911 Hanson finished translating the New Testament and on August 11, 1926 he completed the Old Testament.

In a letter on August 14 of that year Hanson wrote: “It is with heartfelt gratitude that I lay this work at the feet of my Master. I’m conscious of the intelligible to all. Pray with us, that our divine Master may bless this work to the salvation of the whole Kachin race.” Today, virtually all Kachin can read and write their own language, as well as Burmese, the national language. And according to the Bethlehem Star, there are now over half a million Kachin Christians (February, 1995). This is the legacy of the Hansons. And in part, the legacy of Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Piper said it this way, “The legacy of missions at Bethlehem [Baptist Church] goes back over a hundred years. And it has been one of the highest privileges of my life, without any exaggeration, to be a part of sustaining and growing this legacy. I have often thought: O Lord, if we falter as a church, if we stumble, if we drop the ropes, so many missionaries will fall. Maintaining the strength of this church is not just about the saints here or the impact that we have on the Twin Cities. It’s about the hundreds of Global Partners who have gone down in the mines on ropes held by this church.”

WOW! What a great statement!

The local church is designed to bring believers together for fellowship and to bring new believers into the family of God. Ultimately, the church does this to bring people to a place where they can know God and worship Him.

The local church is designed to bring new believers into the family of God.

Far too often, the focus of local churches becomes only local and too inward. The focus must be bringing people from around the globe into the fold; bringing new believers into the family of God from many different tribes and people groups from around the world.

The 10 Convictions to Embrace
Here are the 10 main convictions that govern and motivate the global missions movement of Bethlehem Baptist Church. We encourage all believers to whole-heatedly embrace these convictions as we approach world missions:

1. God is passionately committed to the fame of His own name.
God is consumed with His own glory. He desires to be known and worshiped by all the peoples of the world, and this is not egomania, it is love. Missions, Global Outreach, is joining God in His passion to love the nations by offering Himself to them for overflowing joy of their praise.

“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Psalm 96:3).
“Make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.” (Isaiah 12:4).
God sends Jesus on his mission “in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Romans 15:9).
He does his mighty works in history “that [his] name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Romans 9:17).

2. Missions is the means for more worship.
Worship is the goal and the fuel of missions: Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Missions is our way of saying: the joy of knowing Christ is not a private or tribal or national or ethnic privilege. It is for all. And that’s why we go. Because we have tasted the joy of worshiping Jesus, and we want all the families of the earth included.

“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.” (Psalm 22:27).
Seeking the worship of the nations is fueled by the joy of our own worship. You can’t commend what you don’t cherish. You can’t proclaim what you don’t prize. Worship is the fuel and the goal of missions.

3. People must be told about Jesus.
Due to the fact that there is no salvation and no worship where the Gospel of the crucified and risen Son of God is not heard and believed.

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
“Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17).
“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:12).
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19).
There will be no salvation and no true worship among people who have not heard the gospel. Missions is essential for salvation.

4. God is committed to gathering worshipers.
God is focused on bringing new believers into His family, from all the peoples of the world, not just all the countries of the world.

This is what “all nations” means in the great commission. Nations refers to people groups like the Kachin people, it does not refer to nations like the United States and Japan and Argentina. We’re talking about ethnic groups, not nations drawn up by contemporary political lines. This is what Jesus bought with blood:

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9–10)

The Gospel has already reached all the countries. But, according to the Joshua Project (www.joshuaproject.net) there are more than 7,000 unreached people groups. This is why the mission statement of Bethlehem Baptist was clear: “We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples [plural!] through Jesus Christ.”

5. Missionaries are critically needed.
Therefore there is a critical need for Paul-Type missionaries whose calling and passion is to take the gospel to peoples where there is no access to the gospel at all.

There is a distinction between Paul-type missionaries from Timothy-type missionaries. Timothy left his home and served cross culturally in city (Ephesus) different from his own (Lystra), but the name of Christ had already been preached in Ephesus and a church already planted. Timothy had very effective pastoral ministry there, but it’s important to note his ministry was different than Paul’s in one sense. Paul wrote in Romans 15:20 “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named.” There is still much to do where Christ has been named. But how we need to pray for an army of hundreds of thousands with Paul’s passion to reach the utterly unreached and unengaged peoples of the world.

6. We must send the global partners in a manner worthy of God.
This is why Bethlehem Baptist Church has a missions staff and a missions budget and a missions nurture program. “You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God” (3 John 1:6). This is why senders are crucial along with goers. We don’t believe everyone is a frontier missionary. Frontier missionaries cross cultures and plant the church where it’s not. But if we are not a goer, there is a great calling: Sender. And John says, Do it in a manner worthy of God.

7. It is fitting for us to have a wartime mindset.
It is appropriate, and even recommended, that we have an overly diligent war-time type mindset in our approach to and use of our resources as long as peoples are without the Gospel, and we have resources to send it.

In peace time the Queen Mary was a luxury liner but in the second world war she became a troop carrier. Instead of bunks three high they were stacked seven high. Instead of 18-piece place settings, there were rations with fork and knife. You allocate your resources differently if its wartime. And it is wartime. The battles are more constant than any in our world wars, and the losses are eternal.

The Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8:2 are a model for us in the face of great need: “In a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” O that we would deepen in our grasp of the urgency of the hour and remember that ultimately we don’t own anything. God owns us and all we have. And he cares about how it goes in the war effort to reach the nations with the gospel Jesus died to send.

8. Prayer is a war-time walkie-talkie, not a domestic intercom.

“I chose you and appointed you,” Jesus said, “that you should go and bear fruit… so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (John 15:16). Prayer is for mission. It is mainly for those on the front lines of the war effort to call in to headquarters to send help.

One of the reasons our prayer malfunction is that we try to treat it like a domestic intercom for calling the butler for another pillow in the den rather than treating it like a wartime walkie-talkie for calling down the power of the Holy Spirit in the battle for souls.

9. Suffering is not only the price for being in missions, it is the God’s plan for getting the job done.

“If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matthew 10:25).
“They will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9).
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves,” (Matthew 10:16).
This is not just the price many must pay. This is God’s strategy for victory. His Son won the victory this way. So will we. “They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:11). They conquered (not were conquered) by testimony and death.

10. The global cause of Christ cannot fail. And nothing you do in this cause is in vain.
Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go, make disciples” (Matthew 28:18). Not some authority. All. He cannot be defeated.
“I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
“This Gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). He has ransomed a people for all the nations. And he will have them.
“I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).

These are the main 10 biblical convictions that drive Bethlehem Baptist Church and its commitment to global outreach. We recommend that every church embrace these, as you seek to become a local sending agency.

As the leader of Bethany Teams, I always have these convictions on my mind as I approach short-term missions planning. These 10 convictions are always at the heart of our approach as we organize short term mission trips. One of our overarching goals is to facilitate short-terms trips for churches that will help those churches embrace these convictions and become more engaged in long-term missions; ultimately so that God will be more worshiped.

Missions is not just another good task, but it is the means by which we can be a part of the story that God is writing, the narrative of how He has expanded worship on Earth.

Missions exist because there are places where worship does not exist. And in those places, the people are not “glad.” Let us go to the uttermost parts of the globe so that the nations will be glad.

Kenneth Ortiz

Kenneth Ortiz

Kenneth Ortiz is the Director of Bethany Teams. He is an author, international speaker, entrepreneur, and has more than a decade of pastoral ministry and church leadership. Kenneth has led more than 1,300 people on 30 mission trips to 25 different nations. He's also an avid reader, a theology nerd, and a Disney Enthusiast.
Kenneth Ortiz

Latest posts by Kenneth Ortiz (see all)