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Fiji Time: 11:42 AM on Wednesday 3 September

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What makes one a Christian

Ruby Taylor-Newton
Sunday, February 10, 2013

"Going to church doesn't make you a Christian anymore than standing in a garage makes you a car."

That phrase may sound downright offensive to some who believe that going to church is crucial to being considered a true Christian. Others believe that going to church is not necessary for a spiritual relationship with God.

Then there are those who believe that daily communication with God through Jesus Christ in prayer, reading and meditating on the scriptures in the Holy Bible and living a life in obedience to God's commands, making God the very foundation and leader of one's personal life, relationship, marriage and family is the essence of Christian living.

The phrase: "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car," attracted an interesting mix of reactions from people from various religious spheres of our society.

"This sentence has a lot of truth in it," says L, 30s, from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

"The historical development of Christianity has made our normal worship day as Sunday, where we meet once a week to be fed spiritually. However, the conventional Christian has taken this literally and has developed a pattern of living that sees him or her not adhering to keeping the commandments on other days of the week, but then come Sunday there is a reverence that includes common phrases such as ‘thou shall not lie on Sunday', or ‘thou shall not play, or kill animals' etc. Being a Christian to me means to be Christlike, and that is to keep His commandments 24 hours 7 days a week, having personal prayer and scripture study every day and to love your neighbour as yourself," she says.

"I go to church because I feel great spiritual strength and receive much peace in being taught spiritually, being edified by the Word of God, fellowshipping with others, learning to be of service to my fellow beings, and also teaching my children correct principles. Our family is happier after we do a spiritual ‘cleaning' so to speak, and learning to progress together as a family is just a wonderful journey.

After a crazy week of lots of work and other commitments, going to church helps me to be centred, to be reminded of what is truly important and to rethink my priorities as to where I spend my time, resources and energy. I love going to church, and when I do miss it I feel terrible or I don't feel like I have been spiritually re-charged and prepared for the next week," she says.

"My answer to that is, it's true if you limit yourself to the physical. A car is a combination of metal, wires and other materials which are designed for carrying a person from point A to point B. While parked in the garage, it does not ponder on the meaning of its existence. It cannot because it doesn't have that ability. That is the extent of its being, just physical. It's different for us humans. We operate on the physical, academic, spiritual and there are other levels. Once in a while we think about the meaning or purpose of our existence. So the car analogy is limited," says S, 40s, a Catholic, who "tries to go to church as often as possible".

"First and foremost, it is someone's view, whoever came up with it, and they are entitled to it. It is true to an extent - if you limit yourself to the physical environment. A car does not have feelings, it does not take time to delve into the deeper meaning of life.

"This is done by a rational thinking human being," "In the beginning it was fear of being punished by my parents that made me go (to church). But over time, my parents have died and it is my conscious decision to go to mass when I can. Just as people with similar interests in any aspect of human endeavour will meet from time to time, so it is with religion.

"I go because I belong to a community of faith. I draw strength from people, who despite all manner of hardships they have been forced to endure, have never wavered in the faith. Also, in their presence, I am with fellow sinners who all need the solace that comes from God's healing. And of course there is discussion and sharing of life experiences relative to religion. As the words of a hymn go, "we are companions on a journey".

S says not going to church is an individual's choice. "Just as I expect others to respect my decision to attend a mass when I do, I also respect their decision to stay away from church. I know of people who say they do not need organised religion to find and maintain a relationship with God," he says.

H, 30s an Anglican says Christianity is within you. "It means you don't have to go church to be considered a Christian. And its true.....church is inside of you. I practice my church inside of me by believing in Jesus Christ and in faith."

His main reason for going to church is to retreat into a discovered sanctuary of peaceful serenity.

"There's a place in the back of the church - a little chapel where its calm and peaceful - away from my everyday, normal surroundings. Really, I always like that chapel," he says.

R, 30s, a Methodist, attends church every Sunday. She says someone who doesn't go to church doesn't know the Lord.

"Some may say you can pray in your own house or room, but having it done in a church is a totally different experience because a church is where we get to meet the Lord who we pray to, and believe, will be able to hear our pleas and thanksgiving.Going to church for me is a priority. We can say people who are not spiritual also go to church, but at least they make an attempt to go. It's a matter of going to church and being part of a family," she points out.

"I go to church to get spiritual strengthening from the word of God, the hymns, and testimonies is a learning phase for me as I try to live a Christian life.I maintain my relationship with God through quiet time prayers in the mornings and night, reading the scriptures and meditating on it.

Attending church functions and be part of the good work of the Lord because these are things we want to be involved in when we try to commit ourselves to the church and do its work. To become a Christian and be part of the work of the Lord is a sign you have been spiritually saved, you want to spend your life, money and skills to enhance the work of the Lord and let others know of this life with the Lord, that even though there are trying times, there are always better days ahead and you are fulfilled with the Christian life.You have to live it to experience it," she says.

"(That phrase means) exactly what it means - church is no guarantee of any kind of elevated spirituality. The church is a house of ceremonies that I can recite like a poem from my primary school days," says B, 40s.

"I was born a Catholic. Had no choice in the matter. Hardly a practising Catholic. I believe a spiritual relationship with God is a very private matter because only he judges," he points out.

B says a person has his/her reasons for choosing not to go to church.

"I don't judge them. You don't need anybody to interpret your faith for you, especially not the Roman Catholic Church whose history is pockmarked by sins so vile they make the blood boil and the stomach churn. Let God judge me - and let everybody else be a spectator," he says.

E, 20s, a Jehovah's Witness who goes to church twice a week, says going to church doesn't mean you're automatically a Christian, rather its your works.

"Scripture says "Faith without works is dead"...so you can be sitting in church every Sunday, but from Monday to Friday your actions say something else, than it's foolish to say you're a Christian.

"I believe we need to have a relationship with God because he is our creator and he knows what's best for us and its true we can do that on our own with our bible reading and prayer, but as humans we are always motivated by others and as Hebrews 10:24,25 says: to incite one-another to love and fine works, so we need the encouragement of our fellow worshippers and these encouragements come from the sermons that we hear at church, something we probably did not pick up from our own study and research of the bible." she says.

"Most people won't go to church because they think there's too many religions and teachings, and do not know which is right, that they'd rather stand on their own and serve God on their own as best they could...but in order to know the true religion and one you want to belong to, I would recommend you see the fruits of the religion, do they have good fruits? If they have good fruits despite imperfection, then you have your answer of genuine worship...or as the scriptures say, ‘Test to see if what they teach is inspired of God'," she explains.

F, 20s, a Catholic, says church will not take us to heaven, but we ourselves by living right and according to the word. But when she does go to church, it is to strengthen her faith.

"I go to church to find myself. To strengthen my resolve in whatever I am doing ....to pray and have some time alone with my God. To thank him for everything he has done for me and also to help me become a better person and to always look after my family. After I have prayed I feel that I do not have to worry about anything because the Lord will protect those I care for and he will guide me in the right direction. My faith is strengthened and solidified," she says.

F believes it is possible to maintain a strong spiritual connection to God without going to church.

"Yes, by believing in themselves and praying and continuing to follow whatever Christian doctrines they have learnt.

"Remember those Christians who came to Fiji and other island countries around the Pacific were unable to make it to a church for years but they were still able to spread the good news and convert natives.

"A church is not what we see with our eyes but what we carry within our hearts. What we believe in and what our faith is based on has a great impact on our lives. Everyone has their own perspective of the church and Christianity and the numbers of times you attend church?..does it matter?"

"But if they believe that by going to church they can achieve this, then maybe yes and maybe no. For me, I don't have to attend church, my love for the Lord is already certified, signed and stamped and cannot be taken back, so I am not so churchy-going like most Catholics," she says.

L, 30s, a Christian, says going to church does not define a born-again Christian even though Christians are advised to fellowship at a Bible-believing church. He says he goes to church to "fellowship with my church family in worshipping God in songs and listening to His Word."

"Going to church to worship with fellow believers is a biblical practice. Without it, Christians will have an unexplainable spiritual emptiness," he says.

M, 30s, a Catholic, says the phrase is self explanatory.

"I don't remember the last time I went to church. I pray a lot. When I was much younger, I went to church every Sunday. Today, I believe that not going to church is between the person and God," she says.

"I know of a lot of people, who come straight out of church and gossip about others. I think while we are not perfect, many people don't understand why they go to church.

"To be a Christian means striving to be Christ like in everything that we do, say and think. Hopefully some of that goodness will rub off on someone else and you in turn can convert people without realising it. After all, actions do speak louder than words," she says.

M, 40s, a Christian says going to church is in the physical form. What makes one a christian is their continued relationship with God.

"We all go to church and God does not look on the outside appearance but He looks at the heart. In other words, going to church really does not make you a Christian if the life that you live does not reflect your belief that God does exist and that you have a relationship with Him. By being a Christian should reflect Christ living inside of your and your adhere to His way of life and not of the world. You live and walk by faith and not as the world sees you but as God sees you. And He is everywhere not just in the church.

"Even if you don't go to church but have a continuous relationship with God, you know that you are a Christian because you have Christ there inside of you," she said.


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