Going to a church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. I have heard that before. I have said that before. I used to agree with it, and in some ways I still do.
But not completely.
Because, they are different, garages and churches I mean. There is a point at which the analogy breaks down.
Garages aren’t designed to turn you into a car: that’s not what they’re for. Depending on the type of garage you have in mind the purpose of the garage is either a place to park a car (which is already a car and has no intention of being anything else), a place to repair a car (along the same parameters), or a place to refuel a car (ditto). Garages are for storage and repair, not for transformation. Even if your Ride is to be Pimped, the car remains a car throughout the process.
Churches on the other hand are designed to turn you into a Christian: that is what they are for. Depending upon the type of church you have in mind…well actually that doesn’t matter because all churches are supposed to make people Christian.
I have heard that some people, indeed many people, go to church for stupid reasons. You know, stupid things like being dragged along by your parents, or because you’re lurking for lerve and churches have a unique kind of talent, or because you want to be seen in church, or because you are hoping to do business networking with actual Christians when you are actually not one. Or maybe the stupid reason is that you’ve always gone to church and you no longer remember why at all, any more.
Yet I believe in grace, mercy, and a somewhat interventionist God. I believe that if you’re going to be made a Christian you’re better off in a church than not in a church. The proviso of course is that the church you are in is a positive, Christ-centred, love producing fellowship of worshipping believers. If that’s not your church then you are, no doubt, better off in another one, but you’re still better off in a mediocre church in place of a bad church than in no church at all.
So, in Christian phraseology, I now believe the opposite. Belonging in a local fellowship will enhance and equip you in discipleship. If it isn’t, well maybe the place you are going to isn’t actually a church at all…