MF Behind the Scenes
A Pastor with a Passion for the Unreached Peoples For over 17 years now John Piper has pastored a growing inner-city church named Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Amazingly, at the same time he has become the most eloquent of spokesmen for a growing God-centered motivation for missions, focused on the worship of God by all the peoples of the earth. (See page 8 for the interview with John Piper and page 12 for his article, “There is no Greater Satisfaction.” Also don’t miss the listing of John Piper books and tapes on page 14.)
As Piper says in his book, Let the Nations Be Glad, “Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions ... Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. You can’t commend what you don’t cherish. 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’ (Psalm 96:3).”
It should be quite natural for pastors to exalt the majesty and beauty of God and kindle this passionate desire to ‘declare His glory among the nations’ within their congregations. Why, then, is it so unusual for a pastor to have a passion of the world beyond his neighborhood? Should this not be the norm? Commonly, church pastors ignore or even disdain the missions budget fearing lost funds for local ministry. When funds get tight, the missions budget is among the first to experience cuts.
Popular thinking justifies the action with the assertion that “if we just allocate more funds for local ministry, we will develop more disciples and therefore more funds will eventually return to missions.” Yet there are numerous examples that this is not the way God’s economy works. In fact, just the opposite is true. When the missions budget shrinks, the rest of the budget is not far behind. How can an inward focus on personal needs ever result in an outward focus of any kind? The church budget communicates a great deal to the congregation about what is really important to the pastor and to God.
The examples of John Piper’s church and that of Bethany World Prayer Center, featured in the Sept.-Oct. ’95 issue of Mission Frontiers, demonstrate that as we focus on God’s priorities in reaching the world, He will bless us and our local ministries. People who have a passion for God’s glory among the nations are also more likely to have a passion to reach the lost locally.
Bethany World Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana has made missions a high priority from the very beginning. While starting a building program worth $3.9 million in 1985, they also committed themselves to increasing missions giving. During the construction of their new sanctuary, missions giving went from $100,000 a year to $1.1 million in 1992. By January 1993, the entire construction debt was paid off. Over the seven-year construction period, the people gave $7 million to missions. This year the missions budget will be over $2 million.
Just last month, Bethany completed a massive project, researching and producing prayer profiles on almost 1,800 unreached peoples. This half-million-dollar project is now complete with people profiles available to order. (See page 21 for details.)
Clearly, God is faithful to meet our local financial needs when we are faithful to make the expansion of His global kingdom a financial priority. (See pages 16-20 for more examples of churches that have made missions a priority and have been blessed as a result.)
If we truly love God as we claim to, then we must also passionately desire to see God worshiped and glorified among all peoples. If we do not, we nullify our claim to love Him. John Piper is helping us to understand that we love God best as we invite all the peoples of the world to worship and love Him also.