2Co 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and
more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. (esv)
If someone where to ask me, "What is the reason for missions?" I would probably say something like this... "to reach the lost people of the world and share with them the good news (Gospel) of Jesus Christ and the redemption of sins in order to bring them into a right relationship with God." In fact, that is exactly what I believe the purpose of missions is. But as I studied in Corinthians recently I encountered this verse in chapter 4. I believe this is the true meaning of missions. "To extend God's grace to more and more people and in so doing that we increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God."
As I thought through this verse I came to the realization that missions, as with all of our Christian life, is ultimately about the glory of God. When we are truly alive in Christ, we long after God's glory. When I realize that my role in reaching lost people is not about them and all about God, it completely changes the way I look at it. Now I am striving for, hoping for, and praying for what He is most worthy of - His Glory! Rather than being compelled to only reach the lost for the sake of their eternal well being (which is still a vital part of missions) I am seeking sinners for the glory of God.
God is worthy of thanksgiving and glory from all mankind. Every one of us was created to glorify God. However, we have turned other things into the object of our glory. Rom 1:22-25 tells us that in our foolishness we have exchanged the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, an other things. We have exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worship the creation rather than the creator. We are giving other things our Glory and missions is to bring people back to their true purpose... to bring Glory to God. Rom 3:23 says this: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. It doesn't say for all have sinned and aren't going to spend eternity in heaven. The ultimate issue with our sin is that it steals away the glory that is supposed to be reserved for God alone. Heaven is the reward for a faithful life on earth serving God and bringing Him glory. It is not the end in itself, it is the means for us, for all of eternity, to do what we were created for.
With an understanding of the true purpose of missions, for me, it helps with so many objections when I share my faith. Christianity is not a "private faith." When Jesus was resurrected from the grave he made himself public for all to see. He told his disciples to go and preach the good news. Paul reminds us, if we read all of chapter 4, that we are going to encounter hardship and trouble when we share our faith. Look at the outcome of the life of Jesus, it ultimately ended in his death for his claim of Deity. But the glory of God is our motivator. When we encounter an atheist, a Muslim, a Hindu, or anyone else who is not honoring God, it should motivate us to show them the way. If I believe that Jesus it the path to the One True God, then how can I stay silent and watch those giving false god's the glory and thanksgiving that is due Jesus knowing that their ultimate end is eternity apart from God in hell... forever? Forever is a very long time by the way.
So how do you view missions? As a believer in Christ, what is your role when it comes to reaching the lost people of the world? All of us should be concerned about the fulfillment of the Great Commission. (Mat 28:16-20) However, not all of us are called to go out and preach to all the nations. But I believe we are all called to participate and whether you are a sender or a goer, bringing thanksgiving and glory to God should be our ultimate purpose in everything we do.