Have you heard the saying, “Being in Church doesn’t make you a Christian like being in a garage doesn’t make you a car.” I agree with that statement on the surface. Attendance and participation does not equal salvation. Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ alone received by grace alone and not by our works. However, the application is usually applied by those who are justifying a lack of attendance to congregational worship, discipleship, and fellowship gatherings. This is not acceptable. We need to gather (even if by Zoom in this time of pandemic). Let’s explore this statement a little more.
Being in Church doesn’t make you a Christian like being in a garage doesn’t make you a car.
Neither automatically qualifies you as a Christian or as a car. Still, these are ideal places to learn. As for the garage, I’m not trying to become a car. But, I might be trying to learn about being a mechanic, developing new skills as a practicing mechanic, or serving others in that space. The reality is that it is very hard to be a mechanic without a garage and the tools found there. A good mechanic can do their work outside the garage mostly because they learned inside the garage. The same goes for Christians. We can function and live as Christians when we are not gathered together as the Church because we have grown in Christ by being present in the gathering when it happens. Yes, simply attending and participating doesn’t make you a Christian. But, you won’t grow in faith and grace without attending and participating.
Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children’s games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown-ups—playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits so that the pretense of being grown-up helps them grow up in earnest.Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (p. 188)
We have to put into practice what we learn. Being in church doesn’t make you Christian but it is a foundational place to learn and practice your faith. Just like being in a garage doesn’t make you a mechanic but it is the foundational place to learn and practice that trade.
A garage is also a great place to store things. Tools, memories, and other items are often stored in a garage. The same thing takes place in church. Tools that we use in our faith can be learned, cared for, sharpened, and examined in the Church. Bible study and theology are best done in the community as Scripture is best not left to individual interpretation and no instruction and sharpening from the greater Christian community (2 Peter 1:20-21). We can learn to pray from others and hear needs of others that we can pray about. Fellowship is found in the church and is needed for living out a strong Christian faith. There are objects in my garage that are there because they remind of previous events. Being in Church should remind of God’s faithfulness in our individual and collective history.
So, we can see there are many things from this saying we can pick at. We learn a few things here. First, metaphors and illustrations easily break down. Second, we need to be careful of popular culture references that creep into the Church. Statements like this one and many others may sound like a solid truth but they actually do more damage by leading the mind and practice towards unscriptural pathways.
Here are some other popular culture references to get away from:
- Being in Church doesn’t make you a Christian like being in a garage doesn’t make you a car.
- It’s about a relationship, not religion.
- God helps them that help themselves.
- God won’t give you more than you can handle.
- God just needed another angel or they gained their wings (when someone dies).
What other statements can you think of?