“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1).
Worship fires mission. Isaiah knew this from his own experience. He had known the Lord for a long time, but in the year that King Uzziah died, he saw the Lord, and in that awesome experience of worship, he heard the Lord say “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And he responded “Here I am. Send me!”
Now at the end of his prophecy, Isaiah lays out this mandate for the church: First, God gathers a community of people who see His glory (v18)—that’s worship. Then God sends people from this community to proclaim His glory (v19)—that’s mission.
That’s the pattern: A worshipping church increasingly becomes a missionary church. Those who see Christ’s glory are compelled to proclaim Christ’s glory, so where worship is restored mission will flourish.
If you want to evaluate a church’s worship, the first thing to look at is its commitment to mission. One sure sign of a church losing its way in worship is that it loses its interest in mission.
Missions is central to our ministry
This church is deeply committed to worship and to missions. Gathering around the word of God for worship is central to our life. That’s why each weekend we have seven worship services, held on two days, in three different venues.
We have the privilege of supporting over fifty missionaries in various parts of the world. Twenty cents of every dollar or one-fifth of all that we give at the Orchard is invested in missions. That doesn’t count the work of the pastors. If you include that it’s much more.
I wonder if you’ve noticed how worship and missions are bonded together in our vision statement:
The Orchard Evangelical Free Church exists to glorify God by multiplying God-centered, Christ-exalting, world transforming believers through the Gospel in the greater Chicago area and around the world.
Both “God-centered” and “Christ-exalting” are about worship, and “World transforming,” that’s missions. Worship and missions stand together at the heart of this church, like an old married couple who should never be separated.
Seeing Christ’s Glory is the Heart of Worship
“I… am about to come and gather all nations and tongues, and they will come and see my glory” (Isaiah 66:18).
The LORD is speaking here about what will happen at the end of time. This is the God’s promise to all His people: You will see Christ’s glory! In heaven, everything you discover, and everything you accomplish, and everything you enjoy will give you fresh glimpses of His glory.
You will never get used to Him, and you will never tire of Him. His truth will keep expanding your mind for all eternity. His love will keep filling your heart. His beauty will keep firing your imagination and His purpose will keep directing your will.
After a million ages in heaven you will only have grasped the beginning of Christ’s glory. That’s why life in heaven will never be old and will never be dull, but always fresh and new. Christ’s glory is inexhaustible.
Worship is a foretaste of what we will experience
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Worship is a foretaste of heaven. It is seeing now, a little bit of what we will see then. Many people today associate worship with singing, but the heart of worship lies not in what we sing but in what we see.
Every glimpse of the glory of Christ—in singing, in praying, in preaching, and around the Lord’s table—is in anticipation of your unclouded joy when you see the Savior. Seeing Christ’s glory is the heart of worship.
Every service of worship should be a like a visit to the Grand Canyon. You know that the Grand Canyon is big, but when you get there it’s always bigger than you remembered. That’s how it is with God.
His love is deeper than your eyes have ever glimpsed. His power is stronger than your experience can ever know. His holiness is purer than your imagination can ever grasp. God is always greater than our highest thoughts about Him.
Seeing Christ’s Glory is a Miracle of Grace
“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Paul describes Satan as the “god of this world,” who blinds the minds of unbelievers so that they can’t see the glory of Christ. Every weekend there are people who come to worship—they sing, they stand for the reading of God’s Word, they bow their head for prayer, and they listen to the sermon, but they don’t see Christ’s glory. They may say “It was great!” But they don’t say “Isn’t Jesus Christ great!”
If that is our natural fallen condition, how is it that some people from every nation tribe and language will come to see Christ’s glory? “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Back at the creation the whole planet, the entire cosmos, was dark and God said “Let there be light.” It is the same with us. Everything was dark in your heart, and God said “Let there be light.” He made his light shine in your heart. He gave you the light to see His glory in the face of Jesus Christ. And this happens through the Gospel. That’s why Paul says, “We do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord” (v5).
If your mind and your heart are gripped by the greatness and glory of Jesus, realize that this is a miracle of grace. Thank God for it, and ask God for more. Moses prayed on one occasion “Show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). That’s a great prayer to pray every time you come to worship, every time you open the Bible to read it, and every time you meet with your small group. It is a work of the Holy Spirit.
Seeing Christ’s Glory Changes Your Life
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect [behold] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness”
(2 Corinthians 3:18).
The way to become more like Jesus Christ is by beholding His glory. Authentic worship is transformational. That’s why the worshipping church is a missionary church. As we worship, we are changed into the likeness of the Son of God who came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 10:19).
Moses saw God’s glory when he went up the mountain, and when he came down his face was shining (2 Corinthians 3:7). It’s the same for us. The more we behold His glory, the more we become like Him.
Isaiah’s Missionary Charter
Worship fires mission. Out of this community of people who see Christ’s glory, come commissioned people who proclaim His glory. When God restores worship, His people pursue mission.
- God Distinctly Calls Some People…
…to Serve Him as Cross-Cultural Missionaries
“I will send some” (Isaiah 66:19).
There’s a lot of debate today about whether there is such a thing as a “missionary call.” Does God call some people to be missionaries?
I’ve often heard it said “You don’t need to go overseas to be a missionary. You can be a missionary right where you are, in fact, all of us are called to be missionaries.” Is that true?
It sounds great because it makes everyone feel affirmed. But if we say “Everyone is a missionary,” we lose sight of the distinct calling that God gives to some people to give their lives to cross cultural missions.
It is true that all of us are called to bear witness to Christ. But we have different gifts and different callings. God says “I will send some” (v19), not “all.” God distinctly calls some people to serve as cross cultural missionaries.
How do you know if you are called?
God’s call is normally identified in two ways. It is discerned by the individual and confirmed by the church. How do I know that God called me to be a pastor? He gave me a strong passion for pursuing this work that I couldn’t shake off, and you guys agreed. There’s something internal and subjective, and something external and objective.
You may say “I want to be a pastor!” But if nobody says “We want you to be our pastor,” then God is almost certainly not calling you to be a pastor. You may think God is calling you to be a missionary. But if no one says “We want you to be our missionary,” then God is likely not calling you to be a missionary.
If God is stirring your heart about cross cultural missions talk to someone about it. Talk to Pastor Dave Wardle, Liz Lightbody, Craig Ott, or someone on our missions committee. Don’t be a lone ranger on this. And don’t ignore this impulse either. In every generation God says “I will send some,” and one of them might be you!
- Effective Missionaries are…
…Worshippers Gripped by the Glory of God
“They will come and see my glory” (v18).
The missionaries God sends come from the people who see Christ’s glory. The kind of person who becomes an effective missionary is a person who has been gripped by Christ’s glory.
Some years ago, John Piper coined a memorable phrase:
“Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” 
That’s true. The reason we send missionaries is that across the world there are millions of people who do not yet see Christ’s glory. The great purpose of missions is that Jesus Christ should be worshipped and exalted in every nation on the face of this earth.
But thinking about this passage has helped me to see that the opposite is also true: Missions exists because worship does. Why would anyone become a missionary? Because they have been gripped by Christ’s glory and feel compelled to declare His glory to others.
…Survivors Shaped by the Discipline of God
“I will send some of those who survive” (v19).
Isaiah is writing before both exiles—Judah’s exile to Assyria in 722 BC, and then Israel’s exile to Babylon in 586 BC. He’s talking about those who will “survive” the exiles. We could apply this more broadly by saying that “Those who are sent have ‘survived’ the judgment of God through the saving blood of Jesus Christ.”
But there is an even broader application here: Those who will be most useful and effective in the missionary enterprise will be people whose lives have been marked by God’s discipline.
They will be “survivors.” There has to be toughness here. They are being called to a difficult task. They will be those who have learned what it means to “Run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” (Hebrews 12:1), who know how to “Endure hardship… like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3).
God uses the tough things in life to build the kind of character that makes a person useful in tough situations. Let’s draw this encouragement: Whatever you do, don’t despise the hardships of your life. Effective servants in any ministry are worshippers gripped by the glory of God, and survivors shaped by the discipline of God.
- Unreached and Unconverted People…
…are the Focus of God’s Mission
“I will send some… to the distant lands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory,” (v19).
Notice that there are two descriptions of the people to whom God sends these missionaries: God sends his missionaries to those who “have not heard of His fame.” That’s what we would call unreached peoples, people who have never heard.
God sends missionaries, and we should send missionaries to communities where there is no viable church. It seems clear that we should focus missionary effort on unreached peoples, and give priority to those who have not heard.
There is significance in the second description too: People who have not seen Christ’s glory. There are many people who have heard the Gospel and not yet seen Christ’s glory. Some of us have sons and daughters, and mothers and fathers, and neighbors and friends who’ve been reached with the message of the Gospel, but they have not been converted. We would not call them unreached.
It is sometimes said “Nobody has the right to hear the gospel twice until everybody has heard the gospel once.” But how many people are converted the first time they hear the Gospel? Although unreached people are the primary focus, they are not the only focus.
God’s heart is for the unconverted and His purpose is not only that nations should be evangelized, but that people should be converted, not just that they should hear of His fame, but also that they may see His glory. That happens through the preaching of the Gospel and the miracle of His grace.
- Proclaiming Christ’s Glory…
…is Central to our Missionary Task
“They will proclaim my glory among the nations” (v19).
There’s an old phrase that is often quoted, and I think it is profoundly unhelpful: “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.” How in all the world can you communicate the gospel without words? You can convey love without the words. But love is not the gospel. You can bring hope without words, but hope is not the gospel.
The gospel is that Jesus Christ died for your sins, and that he lives in the power of an endless life. He offers forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with the Father, and eternal life to all who will turn to him in repentance and trust him as Savior. How can you communicate that without words?
Missionaries will engage in many tasks. Bridges must be built. Whether it be at home, here, or around the world, we want to invest in ministries that are committed to proclaiming God’s glory, and that means putting the Gospel of Jesus Christ into words.
- Bringing People from All Nations to Jesus Christ…
…is God’s Promise and it will be our Joy
“They will bring all your brothers, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the Lord” (v20).
Who’s the “they”? That’s the missionaries. What a marvelous picture: People from “all the nations” are gathering before the Lord. In Jesus Christ they have become “brothers.”
This is God’s promise. He says “I will gather all nations” (v18), because a nation can be changed in a day. God does the gathering. This is God’s mission. That’s why He sends people who have seen His glory. Never underestimate God’s ability to fulfill His promise.
Isaiah describes the missionaries who proclaim God’s glory in the distant lands. He says they will have the joy of bringing the redeemed people from the nations where they have served the Lord (v20).
The full extent of His redeeming work
The New Testament takes up this picture in the book of Revelation. John sees a vision of the New Jerusalem, and it has gates that face east, west, north and south. The gates are open and God’s redeemed people from all nations are pouring in from every direction. How did the Gospel get to these nations? Through those that were sent.
“The glory and honor of the nations” (Revelation 21:26), are brought into the city. How did the gospel get to the north, south, east, and west? Those who were sent took it. Every one of us who has heard the gospel, heard it from somebody else.
I tried to picture this, and my mind went to the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Athletes from each nation enter the arena. They walk together behind their flag with great joy, while the vast crowd cheers. A special honor is given to those who carry the flags of the nation that they love.
God is telling us that he is gathering a people from every tribe and tongue and language and nation. So he sends some who have seen His glory. They go and proclaim His glory. And God gives them the honor of bringing the redeemed people from the nations, to which they have been sent and to which they devoted their lives, before the Lord.
We’re not talking about the individual people the missionaries have led to Christ. We’re talking about the whole company of redeemed people from the nation to which God sent them.
On that day, there will be missionaries from this church marching in with God’s redeemed people from Albania, and Chad, and Germany, and Honduras, and Hungary, and India, and Indonesia, and Japan, and Kenya, and Lebanon, and Mexico, and the Middle East, and the Philippines, and South Africa, and Spain, and Sri Lanka, and Tanzania.
Try to picture this day: God’s people redeemed from every nation, and the angels who rejoiced over one sinner who repents. Can you imagine how their joyful praise will fill the heavens, as they see the full extent of His redeeming work? And when we are gathered, we will lay the flags of all the nations from which we come at the feet of Jesus, and He will be crowned and exalted as King of kings and Lord of lords, forever and ever.
 John Piper “Let the Nations be Glad,” 2nd ed., p.17, Baker Academic, 2003