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Going to church does not make you a Christian, no more than standing in a garage makes you a car!

January 2, 2013

I recently heard the following joke: “Remember, going to church does not make you a Christian, no more than standing in a garage makes you a car!” and it made me think about my own faith and witness among people who largely find Christ irrelevant.

It is almost time for 2012 to go and 2013 to arrive. Another year will have passed with the traditional egg on the faces of those who predicted that in 2012 the world would end. There were so many people worried that the Myan prophecy would come true, but then I’ve noticed that people tend to be superstitious.

CS Lewis said something like, “When people stop believing in God, it is not that they believe in nothing, it is that they believe in anything”.

People turn to mediums to help them talk to the dead. Even if they succeeded, just because your dead does not make you wise! I once went to pick up my daughter from the gymn, and having come straight from a church meeting I was wearing my collar. I sat in the waiting room waiting for Elinor, and as I did there was a steady stream of people, mostly women going past me. I thought that the gymn was getting popular, but thought nothing more about it. But the women did look embarrassed to see me. I looked at myself, well I was no body builder but I was training 3 or 4 times a week and I was in pretty good shape; so it wasn’t that. Then Elinor came out, saw me and laughed. In the car she explained that the gymn was having a psychic evening.

All those women were going in looking for some comfort from talking to their dead mother or father or friend. I laughed with Elinor but that eagerness stayed with me. Those women were eager for hope, for meaning and for some guidance for their life. But people are not listening to the message of hope, of God here with us in this world, the hope that came with the first Christmas. People seem to like something simple, something that seems real.

Sadly, we do not seem credible to so many people. People like the tinsel, and the presents, and the drunken affairs, and all that goes with a traditional English Christmas. People only hear the nice bits of the Christmas message, then, because it has not gone deep, they forget it all with the first family row, or the first hangover or indiscretion of New Year. People want more, and they look to that more in us.

But why, why is this Church not packed, packed to overflowing like at Christmas Eve? Obviously, some will worshipping with other Christian congregations. But what of the rest? Why is our message so easily forgotten?

I could blame society, other churches, busy modern lives, and so many other things. I also know that throughout the ages there have been many that have remained immune to the message of God’s love. I could blame so many things, I could accept our decline as inevitable but then I would be denying the Spirit within me; I would be denying the power of God to change lives. I would be denying the power of the Holy Spirit in so many people.

Decline is not inevitable. In fact it should not be. The Church nationally, and here were I live, is growing. Everywhere in England the Church of God is growing, and often the Church of England is part of that growth. Sadly, that is not the case everywhere, but there is no reason why churches should not be growing.

It is down to each of us, you and me. We need to show the people around us how we care for one another and how we care for them. We need to show people that the message is real, that it changes lives, our lives. You and I need to be credible witnesses to Christ.

The very early church had far more challenges than we face but it grew fast. There are probably many reasons for that, but I suspect that one of the greatest was this emphasis on mutual care and love. This made the early church credible, it showed that the message was real, because people could see changed lives, attractive lives.

Hear again St. Paul’s words to the Colossians: Colossians 3.12-17: 12 ¶ As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.

Anything else will be a cancer at the heart of our church. I need to be clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 

 I need to remember that going to church does not make me a Christian, no more than standing in a garage makes me a car! So need to take care not to let the wonder of the Christmas message of faith fade with the New Year. 

  1. I think our society, at least our media, is really beginning to promote a disbelief in God. Sadly, most people who call themselves Christian don’t even attend a Church anymore. They aren’t very convicted.

    • Hi Ben,

      Thanks for your comment. It is a shame that so many don’t go to Church, but that may be due to the bad experiences with Christians in Church. This is as much as a challenge to us to be more Christlike, as it is to them to come back.

      The media does sometimes promote athiesm but I see the general perception of Christianity improving. The tide is turning as we become more confident in what we believe.

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