Purpose of the Church: MAGNIFY (Part 1)1
When I was a junior in college I had a pretty sweet job. I was a Campus Brand Representative for the energy drink pioneer, Red Bull. My job was to give out as much product as I could each month to people who needed it for all-night study sessions, road trips and sports events. I didn’t have to sell a single can and even got to keep a light-up mini-fridge in my dorm room. Job training consisted of a single weekend away (at a Dude Ranch in Arizona) where they taught us everything we needed to know about the company, the product and the needs that it met. The irony of this weekend, was that it taught me more about the purpose of Red Bull in a weekend than my previous 13 years as a Christian and two years of Bible school had to help me understand the purpose of the church.
The truth is, you probably know more about a lot of major companies, (think Apple, Starbucks and Nike), what they produce and what their goals are, than you might know about the church. So across the next few posts on the blog we are going to explore the purpose, mission and glory of the church. Because while the church may not have a brand or make a product, it is producing something, and it is worth joining our lives to – in fact, you could say Jesus died so that we would.
The Purpose of the Church: MAGNIFY
Now, I admit, magnify is an old and odd word to use, when you hear the word magnify – you probably first think of a magnifying glass that takes something small (like an ant) and makes it big, so you can see it; it makes much of something small. That is not what we do with God.
When we talk about magnifying God, it’s not like a magnifying glass, but rather more like a telescope. A telescope’s job is to take something incredibly big (like a planet or star) and bring it into view, so we can be amazed. We don’t make a big deal about God because He needs to be made bigger, we make a big deal about God because He is an infinitely big deal already, but we have trouble seeing Him for what He really is.
To magnify God is not about increasing His size, but about improving our eyes. It’s about setting our eyes on the one who is most glorious and worthy of pouring forth our very selves. As Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. - Matthew 22:37-38
Now, you might be thinking, well, yeah, but I’m supposed to do that on my own. Why do I need the church? (To be honest it’s easier without them!) And it is true. You are, we all are, called as individuals to magnify God in all that we do; to respond to His greatness, bring Him more greatly into view in our lives and honor Him. But more than that, God wants His people to do this together.
Old Testament Magnifying
In the first chapters of Exodus, God carries out the defining act of the Old Testament: the redemption of His people from slavery to Egypt. This action was completely of God’s initiative and God’s power: His outstretched arm, His deliverance, His great acts of judgment. God was the one bringing His people out of Egypt. Yet, what we sometimes forget is that God was gathering them first for worship. God’s message for Pharaoh through Moses is:
The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness. – Exodus 7:16 (NIV)
The immediate goal of the exodus was to magnify. God saves and assembles his people at Sinai to worship together.
New Testament Magnifying
Just like with the Exodus, in the New Testament, God calls and saves His people of His own strength and might through the work of Jesus. And as people are being saved He gathers them into a group of worshipers:
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. - Acts 2:46-47
As part of the church, your job now is not only to worship God on your own, but to gather and produce praise together.
The Bible helps regulate what that should look like through its commands to sing, to pray, read the Scriptures, baptize, take part in the Lord’s supper, and “preach the Word” (2 Tim 4:2). Scholar Ligon Duncan summarizes what should be included in our worship services with the motto: “Read the Bible, preach the Bible, pray the Bible, sing the Bible and see the Bible.”
In fact, in the book of Hebrews (12:22-24) it shows us that when we gather together to worship, we are joining in with the heavenly assembly now, and we are a sort of preview of the eternal worship to come. But, then that begs the question doesn’t it? Why not beam us up at the moment of salvation? If our purpose now is to do in part what we will do even better then… then let’s go!
It’s like if one of your friends invited you to an amazing party, but said that you had to first go to the pre-party party. The pre-party party is still pretty good, but everyone there just keeps telling you about how much better the real party is going to be. At some point wouldn’t you say, “Can we please just go to the real party now, please?!”
However, for the church, that’s not our only purpose as a church. Praise is not the only thing we produce. We not only look up, but we also look across. We not only MAGNIFY, but we also MULTIPLY – which is our Part 2: The Mission of the Church.