I was recently asked to help coach our school’s junior varsity basketball team. It was a last minute request, so the first time I actually met the team was the day they had a tune up game. We had never practiced or run a play together. The head coach and I talked after the game and both of us said the same thing “we need to practice fundamentals”. No triangle offense or full court presses. Just rebounding, passing, and defense. I hear it all the time watching sports on TV. Coaches like Mike Krzyzewski or Rick Patino focusing on playing fundamental basketball. It’s a hallmark of their longevity and success as Hall of Fame coaches. So why do so many people think focusing on fundamentals is wrong?
It’s funny to me how differently we view the word “fundamental” when it comes to religion. You mention the word “Fundamentalist” to a religious individual and they cringe. They think of Amish with no electricity, Mormon’s with 4 wives, or Muslims who attack the US. No one wants to be a fundamentalist. Being a fundamentalist gives the notion you’re rigid, unimaginative, and even a bit crazy.
But since when is focusing on the fundamentals wrong?
I had dinner a while back with a friend of mine who was hired as the pastor of a church plant. He started with 10 people in a small space at a strip mall, and a year later has over 100 in attendance. When I asked what he felt was the key to his success he said “We don’t water everything down with complex programs. We do the fundamentals: Bible study and community service. Isn’t that what Jesus did?”
Part of the problem with fundamentals, is even those who call themselves fundamentalists go overboard to overcomplicate their message. They create layers of regulations and practices to ensure that their view of proper fundamentals are practiced. At the end of the day Jesus summed up the entire fundamental doctrine of the gospels in one sentence “Love God and love others” (Matt 22:36-40).
Jesus ate with sinners, went to parties, and crossed a lot of lines that others were appalled by. But couldn’t you say that the founder of Christianity created the fundamentals? And if you were to look at Jesus’ life those fundamentals translated to prayer, study, and service. Whenever approached and questioned, he didn’t give a laundry list on how to behave. He even accused the pharisees of overcomplicating the fundamentals (Matt 23:4). Jesus talked with his father, studied scripture, followed the commandments (as God listed them, not man), and reached out to a hurting world around him.
I’m guilty myself of fearing fundamentals. Of falling into the contemporary Christianity crowd and accusing those who want to focus on fundamentals as rigid and unfeeling. They have no creativity and emotion to their worship and walk with God. Yet, like a high school basketball player who wants to skip to behind the back passes and alley oops without first learning how to dribble, you can’t get to a true commitment and understanding of your faith without taking the time to practice the fundamentals. Prayer, Bible study, and service.
It’s time more of us got back to practicing the fundamentals and stop worrying about all the other things that really don’t matter. It’s time we just loved God and loved our neighbors.