Churches across the earth, regardless of denomination or model, are sensing an increasing burden for a culture of prayer. There is a growing conversation among local churches on how to establish prayer as a foundational element of their congregations. At the same time we have also seen the explosion of large-scale prayer gatherings over the past few decades as stadiums have been filled across the earth with concerts of prayer. In the same way that prayer is touching the local church, we are also seeing a growing movement in the missions movement in the nations towards expressions of missions that are built on a culture of prayer.
Prayer has always been a core component of missions. Due to the challenge of their task, missionaries have always been praying people and their sending congregations have likewise always prayed for the success of their mission. What is happening in this generation is unique. We are seeing an emphasis on doing missions in such a way that it operates within a culture of prayer and seeks to establish a culture of prayer. At the same time we are also seeing prayer as a method of missions as expression of prayer in the nations begin to engaging unbelievers and are opening doors for the proclamation of the gospel. All of this is a significant shift in how we think about the way missions is done.
Historically when people have thought about cross-cultural missions, they primarily think about cross-cultural evangelism and church planting. These are critical and necessary components of missions, but we are beginning to see that there is more to the work of missions. When we look at the Scripture, we find that the Bible predicts a day will come when the global church has a culture of prayer that expresses itself in extravagant, corporate prayer.
If the Bible predicts that the church must become a praying church worldwide, it means that prayer must become a missiological objective because we want to produce what God wants in the nations. When we think missions we cannot only think about evangelism and church planting, we must also think about the establishment of prayer and worship in a region because God wants prayer in every tribe and tongue as an expression of the church in the nations. John Piper’s well known quote summarizes it best:
“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.”
What Piper is expressing is that God wants something in the nations and that missions exists as a tool to produce what God wants. That is why it is important that we have a robust view of what God wants in the nations. In this case, Piper highlights worship as the ultimate expression of missions. Biblically, one of the primary expressions of worship in the nations is night and day prayer with worship. Because God wants night and day prayer with worship, missions must labor towards that end.
God’s Finish Line for the Church
It is important that we look at biblical descriptions of the church at the end of the age so that we can better understand God’s finish line for the church. For the labor of missions to have precision, it must take into account these key passages that predict what the result of missions will be in the nations. God has told us ahead of time what the church will look like when He returns, so we already know the end result of world missions.
Our part is to develop missions strategies that partner with God to see what He has already predicted will happen begin to emerge in the earth. Because God has a predetermined plan for what the church in maturity will look like at the end of the age, it is important that we search out the Scriptures to understand that plan and labor towards His goal for the church because it is part of the divine finish line for world missions.
Many of the characteristics of the church at the end of the age described in Scripture will take years to develop so we know that we must labor over a long period of time for the fulfillment of what we see in Scripture. We do not know if many of the things recorded in Scripture will develop 5 or 50 years before His return, but we can be confident that these signs of the time are missiological goals we should labor towards when it is in our power to do so. With that in mind, let’s examine some of the primary characteristics of the church at the end of the age and what missiological goals can be developed from them.
 John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993/2003), 17.