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Does Going to Church Make You a Christian?

"Going to church doesn't make you a Christian anymore than going to the garage makes you a car,” says Canadian writer Laurence J. Peter. And, he is absolutely right. But, putting the car in the garage does help protect it. Isn’t that why garages are built? Why build a nice garage only to park your car outside?

The same is true of church. Going to church won’t make you a Christian, but being a Christian means you’ll go to church. That’s part of what a Christian is and that’s what the church was built for.

The word church (a translation of ecclesia) originally referred to a community gathering – a town meeting. In Acts 19, there is a description of an angry mob in Ephesus that rushed into the theater. Three times, the gathering is called an assembly. Each of those is a translation of ecclesia - church.

The point is: church is a community gathering. Being at a citizens’ meeting doesn’t make one a citizen, but you would expect citizens to attend a citizens’ meeting. It’s not much of a meeting if no one meets - and difficult to get much done that way.

In the same way, the church is the community of citizens of God’s kingdom - a community built by Jesus himself (Matthew 16:18); a community that, from its earliest days, met together “on the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7); a community that on that day shared a memorial to Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:20ff ) and pooled its financial resources (1 Corinthians 16:2).

Yet, the majority of Americans feel they can be in relationship with God without being in relationship with his other children. According to LifeWay research, 90% say, “I believe I can have a good relationship with God without being involved in church.”

To Christians of the first century, that notion of being a Christian apart from the church would have seemed bizarre. How can one be part of a community with which he spends no time? How can he be part of a body from which he is cut off?

No, being in a garage doesn’t make you a car, but being a car makes the garage a logical place to expect to find you parked. Being in church doesn’t make you a Christian. But being part of the Christian community makes the community meeting a logical place to find you parked.


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