The Real McCoy

Elijah McCoy was a black Canadian-American inventor whose success in developing oil-dripping cups and lubrication technology made him world famous. His portfolio of inventions went onto include a lawn sprinkler, a folding, portable ironing board and tyre tread. Although there is some dispute about the phrase’s origin, most attribute ‘The real McCoy’ to railway workers’ insistence on using Elijah McCoy’s lubricating system rather than his competitors’. Presumably, its better quality and performance made it more attractive to them. 

On the other hand, it may be a corruption of the Scots’ expression "The real MacKay", a reference to a clan which suffered a leadership dispute in the nineteenth century, with Lord Reay Mackay, one of the claimants, providing the phrase’s origin. So whether it was borne out of highland feuding, or a Canadian innovator (who trained in Scotland), it refers to the real or the genuine article.

Surprisingly for someone living on the edge of Western Europe, I come across increasing numbers of those belonging to the Greek Orthodox church. It claims to be the ‘original’, authentic expression of the Christian faith. So does Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, the Watchtower organisation, the Exclusive Brethren et al. Even the Lutheran Augsburg Confession teaches that “the faith as confessed by Luther and his followers is nothing new, but the true catholic faith, and that their churches represent the true catholic or universal church”.

All these competing, grandiose claims. Who is telling the truth? Does it even matter? If my beliefs and practices are sincerely held and performed, who dares tell me to change? I think the ‘railroad’ workers of America know the answer. McCoy’s lubricating technology worked, and worked well. The others looked the part and may even have made the carriages glide, but not as well as their preferred brand. So which ‘expression’ of Christianity works the best? In terms of architecture and artwork, the trophy must go to Rome. For using the same language as the apostles, surely Greek Orthodoxy gets the gong. In terms of organisation and training, the Mormons or JWs come close to the top. But is that a church’s objective? Surely the most authentic church is that which points sinners to Christ, that they may accept and be transformed by the glorious gospel of free grace? This most closely resembles the apostolic church from which all churches claim to descend.

We at Martin Top have only been around for two centuries- a drop in the ecclesiastical ocean of time. Our Georgian heritage is no claim on our being the real McCoy, nor our traditional style of worship. Rather, it is our faithfulness to the scriptures, revealing the faith once and for all delivered. 

I do not doubt your sincerity nor your denomination’s antiquity. But does the church to which you belong, or the one with which you identity, lead you to a genuine knowledge of sin’s forgiveness and death’s destruction?

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

John 8:31-32

Photo: Ypsilanti Historical Society