Nobody likes waiting. Thankfully, in our society we almost never have to.
Take Amazon Prime, for example. Where we used to spend hours driving from store to store to compare items and their prices, we can now do so by scrolling our phones. As if that wasn’t convenient enough, they saved us the 2 minutes it takes to walk across the room, grab our credit card, and enter it to check out by replacing it with a one-click payment. And, of course it comes with 2 day shipping (sometimes even overnight), a shortcut which saves us from the insufferably long 4 to 5 day waits for shipping we used to endure and promises a future where we’ll get items on the same day.
Shortcuts are great. Shortcuts save time, and they often save money. The truth is, though, some things do take time. Not everything has a shortcut, and if you try to hurry those things it just won’t work out. Some recipes can’t be microwaved. Some items must be handmade instead of produced by a machine. Even when we do find shortcuts for these things, they still can’t turn out quite the same.
Because our modern attention spans and our patience have been cut so short, it’s tempting for Christians to look for options that allow us shortcuts in our walk with God. And, it’s tempting for church leaders to try to provide those shortcuts. We are surrounded by convenience, and we’ve come to expect that convenience in every area of our lives.
But Jesus didn’t give His own life to give us lives of convenience, did He? Jesus turned away those who tried to follow Him on their own terms (Luke 9:57-62). Our God is too great and His cause is too important to let us follow Him at our convenience, establishing shortcuts to streamline our church lives and personal spiritual lives.
Here are a few shortcuts we must avoid:
Prayer shortcuts. There is no replacement for fervent, regular prayer. We can’t live the life God called us to live on our own strength. Each Christian must “Continue earnestly in prayer” (Col. 4:2) every day. Each congregation must make time to get Christians together to pray. That doesn’t mean taking the shortcut of only praying together at the beginning and end of the worship service, or before a Bible class, but times specifically set aside for prayer (Acts 2:42, and throughout Acts). That might (and probably should) even involve fasting from time to time.
Fellowship shortcuts. Jesus prayed for a church that would be as united as He was with the Father (John 17:21). He said that His people would be known for their self-sacrificial love for each other (John 13:35). The early Christians showed this kind of love and unity as they gathered together in each others homes to fellowship and share the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42-47). An occasional fellowship meal (or pot luck or whatever it may be called) simply won’t accomplish this. It’s not the kind of thing you can put on the calendar every so often and consider it accomplished. It takes commitment. It takes time.
Confession shortcuts. “Confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16) was a command for every Christian, not just for those who have done something “bad enough” to warrant going forward after the Sunday sermon. We are blessed by regular confession. It makes us more dependent on Christ and our church family. If we are not pursuing a culture where confession is something each Christian does (and not just on extreme occasions), we’re settling for a shortcut and denying ourselves that blessing. This too takes time and commitment, and it takes the kind of fellowship mentioned above before people are comfortable doing so.
Discipleship shortcuts. It’s the job of church leadership to bring people to spiritual maturity (Matt. 28:19, Ephesians 4:11-13, Colossians 1:28, 2 Timothy 2:2). This simply can’t happen through sermons and Bible classes alone, because disciples can’t be mass-produced. Each one is at a different spiritual level. Each one faces different challenges in their walk.Therefore, each one needs the kind of face-to-face care that can’t be provided in large group settings. It’s easier and quicker to try to do our teaching to a lot of people at once, but that shortcut will keep our fellow Christians immature.
Evangelism shortcuts. There’s nothing wrong with getting the congregation’s name out in the community, but we can’t confuse mailers, a web presence, or advertising to let people know what programs our churches offer with evangelism. Evangelism is hard, and it’s uncomfortable. But no shortcut method can substitute for the impact of building relationships with the people around us and talking about Jesus with them face to face.
By all means, use every shortcut available to simplify your life. But make time for the things that matter. Not everything can be as simple as an Amazon Prime order, and that’s exactly the way it should be. You will be blessed in every minute you invest in Christ and His mission. Don’t let any shortcut steal that blessing from your life