“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exist 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.” - John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad
Psalm 97:1 The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.
Every Sunday, as the earth rotates and the sun makes its course across the twenty-four time zones, a relay race of worship occurs. One time zone hands off the baton to the next as people from almost every tribe and language and people and nation praise the Name of our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. What an awesome thing it must be from the heavenly perspective, to see the amazing progress the Holy Spirit has made in regenerating people from all these different cultures, saving their souls, putting a new song in their hearts for Christ! This was prophesied in Malachi 1 in amazing detail:
Malachi 1:11 My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations," says the LORD Almighty.
As the gospel makes its painful and glorious progress through the nations on earth, the result is worship for God. Not just temporary worship, but eternal worship. And God delights in that worship coming toward Him with the distinctive flavor of the culture from which it comes. The truth of God’s Word is universal and must never be altered, not to the slightest jot or tittle. But God is greatly glorified in the wide-ranging variety of cultural worship that the 24-hour relay race presents to Him week after week. He delights in the way Chinese house churches and Irian Jayan tribal churches and Maasai desert-dwellers and Latinos and Anglos all sing and pray and craft the esthetics of their worship to the risen Christ. A global perspective is a great antidote to an overly strict view of worship style that dogmatically asserts “one right way to worship.” The variety of worship presented to God honors Him immensely, and I believe it was prophesied in various places in Isaiah:
Isaiah 2:1-3 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: 2 In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. 3 Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
Isaiah 60:1-11 Nations will come to your light [O Zion], and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 4 "Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm. 5 Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come. 6 Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD. 7 All Kedar's flocks will be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth will serve you; they will be accepted as offerings on my altar, and I will adorn my glorious temple…. 11 Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that men may bring you the wealth of the nations-- their kings led in triumphal procession.
Let us learn to delight in the sweetness of hearts united around biblically accurate doctrine which wafts heavenward in radically different worship styles from every culture on earth. This does not mean that, within each culture, godly people should not discern what is appropriate and what is too burdened with ungodly cultural baggage to be used for true worship. But it does mean that God delights in far more worship styles than you or I do. Let us look forward to the day when our worship will be united eternally by the transforming vision of the face of God, as we delight in what God is doing now all over the globe to prepare us for that day.