>“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” I’ve seen this as a status update on Facebook several times. What’s the motivation behind using this as a status? Are these people trying to say that you don’t need to go to church to be a Christian? Or are they saying there are many in the church building on Sunday morning who are not really Christians? Let’s look at both of these possible meanings.
I have heard people say over the years a person can worship God on the riverbank as well as in the church building. Or at home or in a park. The Bible teaches we worship in spirit and in truth. But it also teaches that we are not to forsake the assembly. As the writer of Hebrews says:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:19-25
We cannot encourage our fellow Christians if we never meet with them. One of our jobs as a Christian is to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” I don’t see that happening sitting on a riverbank. Furthermore, we assemble together for many more reasons: to hear God’s word, to commune together, to give to further God’s work on earth, to pray together and to sing praises—all ways to worship God.
I can hear someone say now—”No, no. That’s not what the status means. It means you can go to church and pretend to be a Christian, but that doesn’t make you a Christian.” Agreed. Are there people in churches who are simply pew warmers? I know that people attend church for ulterior motives. Some of these might include business men wanting to drum up business, civic leaders who think being in church looks good on their resume or career politicians hoping to garner votes. Some might go just to develop friendships. So, if we knew who these people are, should we kick them out of our churches? No, because what better place could they be? We are to seek and save the lost. If there are lost people warming our pews, aren’t they where they need to be to learn about God? With love and encouragement from us, they may turn into a Christian.
Let’s look at this one more way. “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” If we were a car, wouldn’t we want to be in a garage, out of the elements, in a place of safety? Aren’t that what garages are built for? Perhaps this status is just a warning to those of us who are Christians. It may be saying that when we go to the church building to worship, let’s really mean it. We Christians are God’s church. And Jesus himself said:
On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:18