Example Of Book Review On “Let The Nations Be Glad: Challenges For Missions”
In his book Let the Nations be Glad! : The Supremacy of God in Missions (2010), John Piper reemphasizes the point that God is predominate over all, both in the affairs of the world and in the conduct of missions. Matthew states that “all authority belongs to Him on heaven and on earth (New International Version, Matthew 28:18). The new structure that global Christianity operates under is God’s doing; He is building His church and all of the benefits and its imperfections are under his absolute influence (Matthew 24:14).
Hence, the basic mission of the church, in the analysis of Piper, is that the mission of the Church today is the same as it has been for the past two thousand years. The principal goal of the church here is enshrined in the Psalm 67:4 that states that “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy.” The joyousness of the nations by the agency of faith in Christ “for the glory of God”-that is the overarching goal of mission work (Piper 32).
However, no matter how empathic Piper points to the mission of the church to go and reach the “unreached,” a commitment to missions is not the target of the church; it is worship. One position is that since worship does not exist, mission does. Piper emphasizes that worship is the primary function of the church; this is due to the position that God transcends man. When the time ends, and the millions upon millions of those that are saved come before God’s throne and worship, there will be no more need for missions. Here, Piper emphasizes that worship, rather than missions, is the perpetual duty of the church. Hence, worship feeds and is the objective of missions. Worship, Piper points out, is the unchanging activity of the church, even with all of the changes occurring or will occur in the world. Worship will be the perpetual objective of God; it is the fuel that drives the mission activity to reach those that have not come to worship the One God in Jesus Christ.
Piper presents the concept that along with other changes that have occurred and are still occurring, the axis of the global Christianity era is changing; from the European continent and the United States, the “great sending churches,” the missionary sending churches, are now from Africa, Latin America, and Asia. These are the ones that are growing exponentially and are now the new bastions of the missionary movement.
The movement, citing Pennsylvania State University history and religious studies professor Philip Jenkins, this slow shift is characterized by the introduction and understanding of a new “target” area: the “Global South,” an indicator of the staggering growth of the Christian churches in the above mentioned regions; furthermore, the “Global South” term also recognizes that the rapid growth in these regions is parallel to the rapid decline of Christianity in Europe.
Citing historian Mark Noll, it is stated that the Christina church is now more widely dispersed geographically than at any comparable era in its existence, save for the earliest years of the existence of the church. This is favorable news for Christians to revel in God’s supreme grace. However, the news is not all positive for believers. One of the impacts of this type of disclosures has been to transform “Western Christians” to believing that the era of sending missionaries to far-flung areas, without any form of civilization in the area, is all but done. This is a tragedy. Believers in the West have been lulled into a mindset of supporting missions rather than actually going to the mission field.
Simply put, Western individuals would be quite comfortable with supporting missions overseas-giving money, praying for- and eventually, giving up their very lives to propagate Christianity. Aside from this notion, majority of Christians in the West are acquiesced to the practice of supporting local churches and groups rather than allocating significant amounts in order to deploy missionaries coming from Western countries. Here, Piper seeks to clarify some points. Piper emphasizes that there is nothing wrong with partnering with local or area specific organizations and churches in the “Global South.” There are a good number of trustworthy churches in the area or adjacent missionaries that can be more efficient at reaching these people groups compared to Western missionaries.
However, it can be regarded as arriving at an unenlightened understanding of the parameters of the actual issue. One, in spearheading missionary works, it is understood that no area churches is equipped to do the task. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that bringing in a local teacher will have an improve chance compared to the bringing in a Western teacher, have that teacher acclimatize to the culture and learn the language of the area. This is particularly true in areas where there are lingering tribal tensions (Piper 18-19).
Another challenge for missions from the West to the “Global South” is not that there are no teachers, or there is even a lack of effective teachers. Piper emphasizes the point that there is a lack of individuals willing to go to the mission field; Piper points out that there is a dangerous new “gospel” being dangled to the “unreached”-the “prosperity gospel.” Piper posits that in contemporary Christianity, not every interpretation of the faith can be termed as “sound doctrine (Titus 1:9, 2:1). Of the forms of the “new gospel,” the “prosperity gospel” is the most popular and rabid. The “prosperity gospel” conveys the teaching that centers on the purported “will of God” that all believers must be healthy, wealthy, and wise. At the same time, this type of gospel undermines the need for Christians to adapt to a wartime mindset, and the need and the design of hardship in a person’s life.
For example, this principle would be amply served by the preaching of a preacher in impoverished Africa that an overriding desire to be wealthy is not a sin, or a trespass, against God. In addition, the teaching weakens the argument against materialism, or the wanton and unbridled pursuit of material gain. This brand of Christian teaching has found widespread acceptance in Africa. In 2006 Pew poll, survey participants were queried “would God grant material prosperity to all believers who have enough faith.” The survey results reveal that 85 percent of Pentecostals in Kenya, 90 percent of Pentecostals in South Africa, and an astounding 95 percent of Pentecostals in Nigeria agree with the proposition.
Regrettably, Piper posits that the most acerbic form of this type of gospel is unsurprisingly, an American made phenomenon. Rather than attending worship services in a church, “television” ministries have displaced formal church services as the primary means of learning about God. To Africans, since America knows everything, it follows that whatever American televangelists convey about God, even though it is actually erroneous, then it must be the truth.
Piper makes an interesting distinction and parallelism between the “prosperity gospel” as it impacts the poor and the rich. To Piper, the “prosperity gospel” not only has some degree of effect on the poor, whom it is traditionally taught, but interestingly to the rich as well. The variegation is that the poor does not have any amount of wealth and have an overarching craving to have it; the wealth, on the other hand, wants to keep whatever riches that they have, and become incensed with God if He, the One who gave that wealth in the first place, decides to take back the riches He gave. Here, it can be seen that rich and poor have inordinate cravings for prosperity. However, Piper reiterates that fact that the book is on missions; Piper cites that manner that Christians convey or impart the way that money and possessions should be regarded will impact the missionary as well as the manner that converts are taught and mentored.
Nevertheless, Piper cautions people that will go ahead and castigate a teaching mentioning “prosperity.” In sub-Saharan Africa, “prosperity” can be taken to be a “roof over one’s head, nutritious food for the family at regular meals, and potable drinking water. At present, more than 300 million Africans in the sub Saharan region subsist on less than one dollar a day; what would be completely natural and even taken for granted in the United States- a car, hot water, heating, phones, a wide choice in grocery options-would be considered as luxurious superfluous living; this is why opponents of “prosperity preaching” must be cautious in challenging these teachers.
Piper additionally warns critics to consider the fact that Christianity conveys wealth in various ways. There are few that would contend against the fact that a mindset and practice of honesty, diligence, a desire for excellence, unselfishness, and patience would slowly overcome a society from the decay of corruption that would translate to more stable times. Should this be the actual meaning of the “prosperity gospel,” then there would be no tension or debate on the matter. However, this message is the complete opposite of what is actually the message of the “prosperity gospel (19-21).
Piper centers the argument not only on the content of the “prosperity gospel,” but also on the profligate lifestyle of those preaching the doctrine. Even by the standards in Western society, the living standards of these preachers would outpace even the richest corporate entrepreneurs. Private jets, residing in opulent homes, and even being billeted in hotel suites worth $5,000 per night-and attended by the manner that these preachers adorn the gospel with the accessories of materialism, Piper considers it prudent to afford a structured biblical reply; here, Piper gives that feedback in several responses, mainly targeted to the content to prosperity gospel preachers as well an appeal to these to dissuade them from contemplating on preaching further on these tenets.
Piper restates that in making worship as the ultimate objective, the objective is to serve God’s purpose and not the welfare of man and the objectives of the church, in the end man will not be served at all, and God will be severely dishonored. Here, Piper balances the statements; it is not a call for decreasing the work and effort given to missions, but for a return to amplifying God in one’s life. The relationship of missions and worship is established here; when worship burns bright in the heart of the worshipper with the inestimable value of God, the lamp of mission work will go to the farthest corners of the world.
In comparison, when affection for God is debilitated, then fervor for missions will also be weak. Churches and organizations that are not focused on the praise of God’s majesty and His beauty will never light a fire to declare the gospel to the world. Even unbelievers and scoffers will be able to feel the difference between the strength of the claim and the insipidity of the believers’ involvement with God. For example, Albert Einstein is one to be noted to “have very little use for organized religion.”
Though observers commented that Einstein seemed to be religious in his own right, Einstein disdained “organized religion” after making the observation that preachers were stating one thing, and actually believed that these were actually reviling God rather than magnifying Him. Here, Piper displays a loaded proposition; Piper here evinces the position that in today’s worship services, God is not properly magnified and comprehended. In fact, in contemporary worship, God is often disparaged, though unintentionally. “How to’s” and psychological “anti-depressants, and all of the other “therapy-oriented” teachings, can be perceived to be dramatically removed from Reality-that is, the God of immense majesty and power.
Missions must and should be centered on God as He sustains the church. Simply put, God must be the primary concern of churches, not missions. This principle is the soul of missionary zeal and fortitude. William Carey, the great missionary to India, notes that mission work is commissioned, it will eventually die, unless it is sustained by God. Though the local superstitions were strong, and Europeans left a most disparaging legacy, Carey’s faith in God carried and sustained him, believing that God’s advocacy will prevail in the end.
Carey and numerous others that have been persuaded to carry the light of God’s Word to the world by the vision of seeing God magnified. That foresight must precede the work; relishing it in worship of God antedates spreading that ideal in the mission field. Piper states that history is steadily moving in the direction of the peoples worshipping God in perpetuity. Here, Piper proffers that worship is the method, and worship is the ultimate goal. This is also declared of God, that worshipping Him is the penultimate goal of the life of the church, and missions are only a work toward that goal (34-39).
Piper, John. Let the Nations be glad: the supremacy of God in missions. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010
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