Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Psalm 67 A Missional Prayer for the Nations

KEY TEXT: Ps 67:1-3 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

KEY THOT: From start to finish, the Bible presents God as a missionary God whose goal is to redeem lost humanity. Missiologists call this revelation of God as missio Dei (the “mission of God” or the “sending of God” in Latin). The entire Trinity is involved in this "sending" of God: the Father sends the Son; the Son sends the Spirit and the Spirit sends the Church. In today’s psalm, the psalmist prays that God may be gracious to make his face shine upon us so that “your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” The end goal of this salvation is to “let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” The mission of God is to call back lost humanity to its original design and purpose: to worship God the Creator, not self or Satan. But how is God going to accomplish this? 

But it won't be through mission agencies (para-church organizations) for they are too few. It will have to be through the local churches that God has planted everywhere on earth as his missional centres. In 1 Thess 1:8, Paul commended the Thessalonian church because “the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.” In other words, the local church is to be God's centre of his missional effort to seek and save the lost. While the church is called to worship God while still on earth, its purpose is not just self-edification but missional—to bear witness to the God's presence and power in our midst so that others may experience God’s salvation and become worshipers of God. 

Unfortunately, what has happened to Christian worship is that it has become in-grown and self-focused. It isn’t just the “contemporary” and “charismatic” worship that has become self-focused; even the “traditional” worship services have become self-focused because there is a lost of missional vision in all our worship. Worship is no longer about releasing God's saving grace to transform sinners into saints but about more about Christians as consumers of the worship “service”. And this is not just happening in charismatic churches; it is also happening in conservative churches. As I move around different churches, I find charismatic as well as conservative Christians are as likely to complain about the quality of the “worship service” as we would about “customer service” at the restaurant. A consumerist society has turned our churches into "service centres" to attract Christians (especially from other churches) instead of "missional centres" to win the unsaved and unchurched. We seem to have forgotten that the God who calls us into existence is missio Dei, He's not likely to "make his face to shine" on churches that have become ingrown and self-focused because they are out of sync with His character and mission.

The psalmist is calling us back to the true purpose of worship: which is to declare God’s saving grace to the nations. Worship should be outwardly focused, not inwardly focused. It’s not just for believers—it is also for unbelievers, so that they may know there is a God in heaven and He is now in our midst.

The local church is called not just to send missionaries oversea but to be God's missional centres locally. There are enough “unreached people groups” in Singapore to reach out to without having to spend tens of thousands to visit foreign places: today, in Singapore, of the 5.5 millions, about 2 millions are foreigners from Malaysia, Thailand, India, Bangladesh, China, Japan, Vietnam, Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia, even as far as Europe, the United States and Korea. When we reach them, we reach their home countries when they return back after they have finished their work stint here. 

We don’t need to travel very far now to reach the peoples in the "mission fields”: they are right here among us. They are now our neighbours and our working colleagues. But how much effort (manpower, money and time) is spent by local churches to focus their ministry on outsiders? 

May God open our eyes to see why He has left us here and not take us away. 

Father God, You have called us into being as a church in order to declare the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into Your marvelous light. May the local churches be Your missional centres to seek and save the lost, that more peoples of the nations might praise You. Amen.

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