Missions exist because worship doesn't

Missions: The Heart of God

"Like your name, O God,
   your praise reaches to the ends of the earth" -- Psalm 48:10

"All over the earth people praise you" is how The Expanded Bible renders the key phrase of Psalm 48:10. When the sons of Korah wrote those words, they were more of a vision about the future than a description of reality at that time. Today, Psalm 48:10 has become a prophecy on its way to fulfillment. To the extent to which that statement reflects the reality of today's global Church, we can rejoice that world evangelism efforts across the years have borne good fruit.

More than two hundred years ago, Adam Clarke, author of a classic Bible commentary, saw Psalm 48:10 not as a simple statement of fact but rather as a declaration of God's will. The words of that verse, wrote Clarke, "outline the duty of God's people to praise and honor Him." That would mean, according to the verse itself, doing that "to the ends of the earth."

Some time ago, Baptist pastor John Piper wrote a book called Let the Nations Be Glad. People immediately began quoting one sentence from that book: "Missions exist because worship doesn't." Piper meant that the divine plan was and is for God to be worshiped by people everywhere on the face of the earth. Sadly, that is not yet happening, and therefore, the Church is obligated to carry the Good News to wherever it is that Yahweh is not being worshiped.

While praise to God does resound today from locations worldwide, there are still places totally devoid of praise to Him. Two-thirds of the world's population still adhere to religions other than Christianity. More than five thousand distinct cultural groups lack a viable church-planting movement in their midst.

If we are to fulfill Psalm 48:10, we must work to see that God and His great grace and mighty deeds are proclaimed in all the cultural groups where that is not yet happening. We must help fellow believers understand that the world mission enterprise is necessary today so that God's praise will reach the ends of the earth.

If people praising God is a key goal of world evangelism efforts, then our task is not that of trying to convince people we're right and they're wrong. Although right belief is important (because it fosters healthy relationships with God), we believers are not simply promoting a belief system. We achieve very little if all we do is get people to change their stated religious affiliation to "Christian" from Muslim, Buddhist, or Atheist.

We must lift up the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who came in Jesus Christ to reconcile the world to Himself. We must call people everywhere to fall on their faces in worship of Him. We must do that so that God will be praised and worshiped all over the earth.

Reflection questions

  1. According to John Piper, why is there a need for world missions efforts?
  2. What may be the significance of Psalm 48:10 for world evangelism efforts?
  3. Why is it important for believers to focus on God's praise reaching the ends of the earth rather than simply trying to convince non-Christians to adopt a Christian belief system?
  4. What is the divine plan for all people? What evidence do we have that this is not yet happening?
  5. What should believers be doing to fulfill Psalm 48:10 and ensure that God is praised all over the earth?

    -- Howard Culbertson,

This mini-essay on a world missions Bible passage is one of more than three dozen articles in the "Heart of God" series published in Engage, a monthly online magazine. That series explores what the Bible says about missions.


The primary goal of world evangelism efforts is not merely to convince non-Christians of their wrong beliefs. Rather, it is to call all people to worship the one true God. Psalm 48:10 is a vision and a declaration of God's will for all people to praise and honor Him to the ends of the earth. Sadly, two-thirds of the people in the world today embrace religions other than Christianity. Many cultural groups are still without viable church-planting movements in their midst. Believers must focus on proclaiming God's grace and mighty deeds to all nations, inviting them to fall in worship before Him. The ultimate goal is to see God praised and worshiped all over the earth, thus fulfilling the vision of Psalm 48:10.

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