by Skip Heitzig | Tuesday, May 10, 2022
I read a study some time ago that concluded the most important thing a church could do to attract people is provide parking. Number two on that list is the nursery. Preaching and worship and things like that ended up pretty far down on the list.
It’s not that those top-of-the-list things aren’t important, but I laugh because when we first opened our church, we only had twenty or thirty on-site parking spaces. People happily parked in the surrounding neighborhood and walked down the street to come to church.
Because Jesus is the head of the church, having established it Himself (see Matthew 16), He gets to say what is most important. Number one on Jesus’ list—His top priority—is for every church to glorify God.
In John 17, where Scripture records Jesus’ prayer for all believers, one word shows up eight times in one form or another: glory or glorify. Most Christians know the term, but what does it mean to glorify God? What do you do when you glorify God? The original Greek word means to make renowned, to make famous, or to form a good opinion of.
That’s Jesus’ intention in this passage: “I have glorified You on the earth…. I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world” (vv. 4, 6). Jesus is saying to God, “I, your Son, have focused attention on You, Father. I have made You the central focus on the stage of history. And I have passed that on to My followers as a primary goal.”
The number one purpose of the church has been discussed throughout history. Some have said the main purpose of the church is fellowship and community. Others have said the main purpose is to evangelize the world because Jesus commanded, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Both are admirable goals for the church, but neither is its primary purpose.
The church’s primary purpose is not growing or going. It’s glory. We exist to bring glory—to make renowned, to bring fame—to God. Every true church has a true north. It points unquestionably in a particular direction. Church must be oriented toward God.
Traditional churches sometimes use a catechism, a manual to help teach children about faith in God and how to follow Him. One such manual, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, begins with the question, “What is the chief end of man?” In other words, what is our purpose in life? The catechism answers, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” So that is the purpose both of the church collectively and of believers individually. Jesus gave us two ways to accomplish this:
1. We glorify God in what we say. Look again at verse 6. Jesus said, “I have manifested Your name.” In this prayer for believers and throughout Scripture, Jesus glorified His Father, and in the Lord’s Prayer, He gave us a pattern to do the same: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done” (Matthew 6:9-10). Jesus always pointed to God in His words.
2. We glorify God in what we do. When we share the gospel with someone or disciple a new believer, or when we train our children to know and follow God, those actions demonstrate that God is worthy to be trusted and followed. And of course, when we worship—the one activity we do wherein God gets our full attention—we declare that He is worthy as we glorify His name.
As the church is purposed collectively to glorify God, each of us is purposed personally to glorify God. What if everything we say and do is first put through the filter of “Will this glorify God?” We would likely never text or talk or post or behave the same way again. That’s my prayer for us as God’s people, His church, that we would be all about giving Him glory all the time.