During my four years at Heartland Baptist Bible College, I sat under the teaching of Bro. R.B. Yeager. Each of his theology classes started out similarly, in that we needed to learn a long list of various terms, mostly the same for each class. One recurring term was this: pragmatism. The definition is this: stresses the practical consequences of an idea as a measure of its truth. Simply put, “The end justifies the means.” At its most simple form, the idea is this: taking shortcuts. Pragmatism is the idea that, for any given goal, you can perform any way you want as long as the long term goal is fulfilled. You can take shortcuts, even if morally questionable, providing that you complete your task.
Unfortunately, this idea of pragmatism, or spiritual shortcuts, has crept its way into the church as an acceptable idea. Many independent Baptist churches have become nothing more than a nondenominational church with the Baptist name because they have given up on Biblical standards for growth or “effectiveness,” or any number of reasons. Churches allow the full extent of contemporary music (what you would find in a common “worship service” at a non denominational church) into their churches so that more people will come. Churches diminish Biblical preaching because they would rather not offend anyone. These are only two areas, but I think you get the point.
Please understand that I am not saying that the end goal is always wrong. Sometimes it is, but not always. It isn’t wrong to want more people to come to your church. It isn’t wrong to want more people to get saved. It’s not wrong to desire effectiveness. But how you achieve those goals, both as a church and personally as a Christian, is important.
Not only has it crept into the church but it has crept into many Christians’ thought processes. Christians in various avenues constantly live pragmatically. In their personal lives, they take shortcuts to accomplish what may be worthy goals, but in so doing, they create more trouble for themselves by participating in activities that are spiritually detrimental.
You want to provide for your family. When an unexpected bill comes, you choose to forego giving tithes and offerings. You may have enough money to cover unknown expenses, but you have robbed God, as well as the church you attend. Perhaps you lost your job. You’ve sent in applications and the only interview you’ve received is for a job that schedules you for Sundays and Wednesdays. You may have been able to provide, but your children notice that money is more important than assembling with the body of believers.
You want to study the Bible more. So you venture into “easier versions.” You may have started reading more, but you have opened yourself up to incorrect doctrine.
You desire to find your spouse. Instead of waiting for God to do His work in leading you to the right person, you start noticing one of your unsaved coworkers. You might find a spouse, but you also find yourself in a world of hurt void of God’s blessings.
You make serving the Lord a priority in your life. You get to work. However, instead of serving through your local church, you find out your friend’s church has a “cooler” ministry. So, you help them out.
You forsake the church where God has placed you.
In each scenario, as well as countless others unmentioned, Christians have taken shortcuts. They have accomplished the goal to an extent, but they have compromised beliefs. They have put themselves, or others, in danger spiritually.
I work at the oil plant in Borger (the next town over from Fritch). The Refinery has a slogan, “There is no job so important or urgent that it cannot be done safely.” They enforce that slogan. Rules are put in place for safety. If I need to do some work higher than six feet in the air, I have to wear a safety harness. Not only do I have to wear a harness. But there is a policy that says I have to be tied onto an acceptable anchorage point. Why? Because taking a safety shortcut is dangerous and can be fatal when something goes wrong.
What’s the Big Deal?
Here’s the bottom line concerning pragmatism. When you choose to accomplish God’s purpose for your life, yet you forsake how He wants it done, you have demoted God from King to advisor. You are still in control. You are doing what you want to do rather than what God wants you to do. He is concerned with how things are accomplished.
Dad, God doesn’t want you to quit tithing to pay a bill. He wants you to be in church. Single person, God has a special person waiting for you. When you choose an unsaved coworker, you have usurped His authority. When you choose various Bible versions, you deny God’s providentially preserved Word for inferior books. Your local church can’t continue to operate when its members forsake her to join with other churches they don’t belong to. God put you in that church for a reason. Each scenario shows that when you take shortcuts, you cut God out of your life.
The End Game
You can reject pragmatism by allowing God to direct how you accomplish His purposes for your life. Recognize that, to God, methods matter. Then allow Him to guide you every step of the way.
When you take shortcuts in your Christian life, you risk integrity and true effectiveness, all while denying God’s authority. There is no task for God which is not worthy enough to be done acceptably in His eyes.