Our Goal is to develop a mission’s theology that focuses not upon the plight of man but upon the supreme worth of God.
Doing Missions Because of Man’s Need?
Many people do missions for all the wrong reasons. They may have honorable intentions, but their focus is not on the ultimate purpose. When people do missions with the emphasis on bringing relief to hurting people, they will quickly find themselves frustrated. That’s because no matter how much effort, money, and resources we put into the need we are only treating the symptoms and not the actual disease.
I’m always intrigued when I read about Jesus rebuking the disciples in Matthew 26 after a sinful woman crashes their dinner party and pours expensive perfume over him as an act of worship. The disciples immediately thought about the waste of the perfume and how the money from it could have been used to help the poor. But Jesus elevates their thinking by saying, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” He establishes a missional order of operations by placing the supremacy of worship over everything else.
Doing Missions Because of the Missionary’s Need?
I have also seen many missionaries go out and do missions driven by pure emotional need. They are seeking to fill up in themselves a lack of self-worth. They want to be wanted, so they go to places where people need them. The problem with this motivation is that the emotional cycle of being used just continues to spiral downward. The people that the missionary is trying to reach are not valuing the missionary for who he or she is but for what he or she can do for them, and that is a superficial answer to emotions that will only leave you wanting more.
These methodologies are a form of idolatry. The missionary is worshiping missions as their God and themselves as the answer to what the people need. This is a wrong motivation for missions. Far too often people fall into these two methodologies not intentionally, but simply because their focus is not where it should be. Their motivation is that of a weak and sinful heart rather than an overflow of worship to the One who is supremely valuable.
Doing Missions for the Sake of Worship
John Piper, in his book, Let the Nations be Glad, summarizes what the ultimate goal of missions should be when he says, “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.” This paradigm-altering statement is what has reshaped my theology on missions. When missions is merely an idolatrous action that places man at the center, it is doomed to fail. But when missions is an overflow of delight in the supreme worth of God, then even in the face of trials, persecution, or martyrdom, we can join the ranks of men like Paul when he says, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” In the book of Romans Paul also declares, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” It is only when God is the chief vision of the missionary that trials, persecutions, and martyrdom make sense. Why suffer the headaches of cross-cultural missions with a vision that places man at the center when that is doomed to fail? When we go out to confidently declare that God is supremely valuable in all things, even in our suffering, our hearts become one with God’s heart, and our ministry will be destined for success even in our trials, persecutions, and death.
 The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), M14:6–9.
 Piper, John. Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions (Kindle Locations 548-549). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 Ac. 20:24.
 Ro. 8:18.
Train4Missions.com is a ministry Pastor Mike Thiemann runs to help equip and train missionaries and senders on all topics of long-term overseas service. Pastor Mike and his wife Erin serve State-side as full-time missionaries through Saving Grace World Missions and raise their own missionary support. If you would like to partner with Pastor Mike and Erin to help them further the ministry of Missions Training, please click the “ways to give” image below.