Recently, it came to light that the Houston Astros stole signs in 2017 when they won the World Series. Now they’re getting fined, some are getting fired, and the legacy is tarnished. A time of great celebration for Astros fans has turned into a time where many are no longer fans of the team and their reputation is largely trashed. They now are forced to rebuild from the ground up, and their so-called “win” now seems hardly like a win at all in the eyes of nearly everyone.
Is there a cautionary tale here for Christians to think about?
In what ways might the church “cut corners” in order to get ahead as Christians?
There are a variety of ways we can do this. Some of the most obvious being:
Turning church into a big performance to attract crowds rather than a place where people can learn the hard work of following Jesus in community.
Following the cultural streams of progressive Christianity rather than taking a stand on the essentials of Christian faith.
Making the Church focused on personal fulfillment rather than obedience to Jesus’ teachings (a.k.a. the “prosperity gospel” or something like it).
Seeking innovation rather than application of Jesus’ teachings.
These are some ways we can try to make on-ramps to “lead large numbers of people to Christ” which actually end up being off-ramps when those people realize that Christianity did not meet any of these expectations.
It’s conceivable that a person could become a Christian only to start reading the Bible and realize that Christianity was something very different than what he thought he’d signed up for!
When we try such shortcuts in order to bring people to Christ, we may not think we are “cheating” or doing something immoral, but we are definitely trying to cut corners that will come back to bite us. We may even find ourselves drifting from the faith as well.
On the other hand, there are other ways we can “cut corners” that may not be so obvious:
We might not invest our faith in the young in order to pass along the faith to the next generation (See Judges 2:10).
We may not allow the younger generation to address questions and doubts so that they can build any intellectual depth. In this way, we over-shelter them and they are not able to address the questions that come when they are on their own. We may never acknowledge any of the objections Christianity faces. This is a short-cut that will cause more harm than good when young Christians finally do get these questions thrown at them and are totally unprepared. Young Christians without that depth become the “rocky soil.”
We might act like the Bible is always easy and is not as complex a book as it actually is. When people start to discover the difficulties whether in college or some other challenging environment, they may be unprepared, or feel like they were “duped.” People might spring up quickly in this environment only to fade even faster.
We might not build up the whole body of Christ by focusing only on one part of the body while treating others as unimportant or unusable. We might only go into certain higher-income areas of town and rarely set foot in the harder areas because our focus is on building up the church as a man-made institution rather than as God’s kingdom.
We may not strive for a healthy biblical teaching of grace and obedience. One extreme could lead to great shame and condemnation when someone realizes they fall short of Jesus’ commands. The other extreme leads some to ignore Jesus’ terms of discipleship and obedience.
We may not be educated or educate others on the differences between “essential,” “important,” and “unimportant” aspects of Christian faith. In this way we may end up “majoring in the minors,” or as Jesus said, “Strain out a gnat but swallow a camel” (See Matthew 23:24).
When Christians cut corners, even subtle ones like these, they are setting a time bomb for themselves.
Let’s not be like the Houston Astros and try to “cut corners” in order to win the championship of bringing as many as possible into God’s heavenly kingdom. If we do this, we will likely find ourselves taking one step forward and five steps back as a church.