Where I grew up in South Jersey, I stopped almost daily at a local gas station called Wawa. Calling it a gas station doesn’t do it justice; Wawa is a sandwich shop, quickie mart, and brewer of amazing iced teas & coffees. Oh, and they also have often the cheapest gas in a given area. Whenever we travel to visit family in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, we always find time to stop at a Wawa on the way.
A gas station is a place for a quick stop on a long car ride; it is a place where you fill up your car, restock on drinks and snacks, and take care of any restroom needs. It is not a place you spend too much time, nor is it ever a final destination. In the grand scheme of a road trip, the gas station is but a brief detour.
Church as a Gas Station
Some people bring this same gas station mentality to church. They view the church as a place to refresh and recharge their spirituality for the upcoming work week; it is a place where you can get refilled on Christ and Christianity before the weekly grind. Of course, this is only when a fill up is necessary; you don’t go to church every week, just when you need it.
There are several problems with viewing the church as a gas station. First, this view fails to place a relationship with Christ as supreme in life. A person’s relationship with Christ is pushed to the side, only tended to when convenient. To carry the gas station analogy further, this person thinks about their relationship with Christ only when the Empty light is flashing.
Second, Jesus is viewed as a commodity, something to be received. With this mindset, church is where you go to fill up on Jesus. Sometimes this is spiritualized, with people saying “I really felt God this morning.” Too often, they are not looking for Jesus, but rather the power to make it through the week. They don’t want Jesus, they want what he can give them.
Third, this mindset assumes the Christian community is unnecessary. If you are attending church for a fill up, you are not looking for the type of Christian community found in the early church described in Acts. It is impossible for you to build meaningful, life giving relationships with other Christians over the coffee and donuts served after church each Sunday. True Christian community involves shared meals, sports games, shopping, fixing a car in a parking lot, and crying together in a hospital room. Christian community requires a shared life, not a brief catch up on Sundays.
The church is not a gas station, allowing you to fill up quickly and be on your way. Rather, it is a place of constant refreshment, through the encouragement of the Holy Spirit and the fellowship of genuine Christian community. It is not a place you come and take from, but a place of mutual encouragement and uplifting. It is not a place you fit in your schedule when you can, but an integral part of living a life worthy of God’s calling.
Series on False Church Self-Identity:
- Church is Not a Social Club
- Church is Not a Labor Union
- Church is Not a Gas Station
- Church is Not a Volunteer Organization
- Church is Not a Walled Fortress
- Church is Not a Self-Help Group