Having a 100,000 Mile Warranty Doesn’t Mean You Don’t Need an Oil Change…
According to Facebook, 471,246 Facebook users like the phrase “Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” Some of my Facebook friends are among the 471,426. The phrase was originally coined by Billy Sunday who used it frequently as one of his famous one-lines in his evangelistic meetings. His line was, “Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.”
I have used the phrase myself, and I think it makes its point well in a bumper sticker sort of way. But I think the point it made may have been more to the point in the first part of the Twentieth Century when Sunday coined it than in the first part of the Twenty-first century.
Billy Sunday spoke to an America where “everyone went to church,” which, of course, was not true, but going to church was what respectable folks did (and the blue laws made it hard to do much else). Except for the village atheist, most everyone could tell you whether he or she was a Baptist or a Presbyterian, a Catholic or a Methodist. But just because you went to church, at least at Christmas and Easter and maybe when you were feeling guilty about Saturday night, didn’t mean you had become a disciple of Jesus.
Our America is an America where most people don’t go to church and if they do, it doesn’t matter to them whether it is Baptist or Presbyterian, Catholic or Methodist, much more than it matters whether it’s McDonald’s or Burger King, Lowes or Home Depot. Or it matters in the way that it matters whether it’s McDonald’s or Burger King, Lowes or Home Depot.
In fact, our America is an America where a lot of people, those who sometimes go to church and many who don’t, are pretty sure that you can be a Christian – just fine, thank you – without going to church. 60% of the 23% of Americans who never go to church self-identify as Christians and a third of them as “born again” Christians, “who have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that they consider to be very important in their life, and who believe that they will experience Heaven after they die because they have confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their savior.” (See the Barna report)
“Me ‘n Jesus on the golf course” is the great American heresy.
Sociologist Robert Putnam uses a different sport analogy when he talks about the fact that we are “bowling alone” – that “more Americans are bowling than ever before, but they are not bowling in leagues.” As a sociologist, Putnam is worried about the disintegration of social networks and the dangers of social isolation.
Christianity is a team sport. Oh, for sure, we need to practice on our own, but in the end it is a team sport. In fact, all good teams practice and play together. In the church worship is both the practice and the play of Christian submission, mission is both the practice and the play of Christian service, study is both the practice and the play of Christian understanding, fellowship is both the practice and the play of Christian connection.
The Calvinists call our assurance of salvation in and through Christ the “perseverance of the saints,” the P in the TULIP. I trust in the perseverance of the saints. But that doesn’t mean that I pass on the practice and the play which is the faithful Christian life.
So here’s my variation on the Billy Sunday quote, “Knowing Jesus doesn’t mean you don’t need the church any more than having a 100,000 mile warranty means you don’t need an oil change…”
See you Sunday at the garage