Bare Minimum Christianity

An interesting phenomenon is occuring across college campuses throughout the country as finals loom in the near future. Before students crack a book to study, they are first spending time performing a very important mathematical calculation–they are vigorously determining what grade they need to make on their final in order to achieve the desired final grade for the class.

For instance, let’s say they can earn a possible 1000 points in a class. So, they need 900 to have a 90 average and make an A for the year. Before the final, they have already accumulated 827 points–therefore, they need to make a 73 on the final to make an A. Then, they will study just as hard as they need to in order to make a 73.

Why go to all this effort in calculation? No one wants to study harder than they need to because their motivation is not driven by learning but by performance evaluation. If they were in the class with a primary concern to learn the material, they wouldn’t care what their grade was, as long as they truly grasped the subject matter. This perspective would drive them to a pursuit of excellence. But, since they are focused on earning a certain grade, they aspire to do just enough to get by with the desired results. The result is scholastic mediocrity.

This mentality is not something that develops in college. It has been engrained into every student throughout their rearing in our nation’s school systems. In most schools, a 99 is no better than a 90 (both are A’s), so why strive for the 99? In fact, when I graduated from high school, we had 11 valedictorians because the school valued all of their A’s the same!

What I have noticed is that this bare minimum mentality (doing the least it takes to achieve a desired result) has also permeated American Christianity. Instead of asking the question how holy can I be? Many Christians ask the question how holy do I have to be?

Bare minimum Christianity is fueled whenever believers are more concerned with their rights as Christians than their responsibilities; when they are more intersted in the appearance of holiness than the pursuit of holiness (Colossians 2:20-3:3).

Bare minimum Christianity manifests itself in several ways: in Christian dating, it appears as the question “how far is too far?” In Christian stewarship, it appears as the question “how much of my time and money do I have to give?”

But the most evident manifestation of bare minimum Christianity is that, for many people, the Christian life amounts to nothing more than sin management and moral mediocrity. It’s all about minimizing the visibility of sin instead of advancing the expansion of the Kingdom. No wonder the world is so unimpressed with the Church!

Before you condemn American Christianity as the only time period in which this struggle existed, the New Testament is full of indicators that the early church wrestled with the same challenges. For example, in 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul writes:

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.

The common theological mantra among the Corinthian church was the bare minimum mentality of “all things are lawful for me”. I’m sure it played out like this: I am free in Christ to do what I want; it is my right to live like I want to. They were using their freedom for Christ as a license for sin instead of an avenue for sanctification (Galatians 5:13).

In v. 12, Paul makes a telling statement that can be simplified like this: good is the enemy of best. Though all things are lawful (good) in Christ, not all things are profitable (best). For some in the Corinthian church, they had been mastered by the mediocre instead of running hard after the Master.

The same question that Paul offered to bare minimum Christians in Corinth is the same question that is being offered to bare minimum Christians today:

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19)

For a student to ever grow academically, they must shed the bare minimum mentality of scholastic mediocrity and wholeheartedly pursue knowledge. For a disciple to ever grow spiritually, they must shed the bare minimum mentality of moral mediocrity and wholeheartedly pursue Christ. What grade will you make in this class?

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3 thoughts on “Bare Minimum Christianity

  1. Not to mention, this Professor (we’ll call him Dr. Jesus) wants you to ace the course! In fact, he’ll even help you study for it. You get your on private tutor (the Holy Ghost), you own private line (prayer), and whatever questions you miss (sin), Dr. Jesus will just throw out. You might want to think of it, as “Succeding in Life 101 – Temporal and Eternal”. And if you still have questions, you can always go see your T.A. (aka – preacher). “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”-2 Timothy 2:15

  2. Well said Philip. I find it interesting that, as students, there is so much pressure on us to perform. Grades are assumed to be the measure of that performance (or learning to be more specific). While this may not be true in everyone else’s classes, I am finding that the grade I often take away from a class rarely measures what I actually learned from it. This typically is very discouraging. In the same way, we (as Christians- especially young, ambitious Christians) fail to see the value in “learning” if the immediate “grades” (growth or fruit) do not come. Hebrews 12: 1 tells us to run the race “with endurance”. Let us not be caught up in the result-driven Christianity that leads so many to start strong and flame out into mediocrity when trials come. Jesus has to be our prize, our treasure, and our ultimate goal. Anything else will result in either bare-minimum Christianity or burnout.

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