Back to Basics

By: Jon Meerdink

The NBA season is about to tip-off, which means that if you follow the sport at all, you’ve undoubtedly read a ton of reports about how Team A, B, or C may have had a rough year last year, but this offseason they got back to basics and figured out their problems, so they’re all better now.

It’s a common theme in sports. Legend has it that Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi would start his first meeting of training camp every year by holding a ball above his head and saying, “gentlemen, this is a football.” Sometimes it’s helpful to have a reminder about the fundamental elements of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Recently, I got a reminder of how easy it is to lack basic skills. In conjunction with Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, my church recently started a church-wide study called “40 Days in the Word.” The goal of the study is to become better acquainted with the techniques and skills necessary to incorporate daily Bible study into our lives.

The study itself is pretty basic: a workbook takes participants through six different techniques for studying a given verse. Last week’s technique (the first in the book) was the “Pronounce It” method. Take a verse, it says, and read through it multiple times, emphasizing different words each time and focusing on how each word contributes to the meaning of the verse. It’s simple, easy, and it really does help you focus on different things with each reading.

The technique is so simple and easy that I was very nearly insulted the first time I cracked open the workbook. I had no sooner read a paragraph into the first day’s study than I thought “this is too easy. I have to find something better. I’m smarter than this.”

But it turns out, I’m not. After going through the first study, I struggled to even get through day two. By day four I’d almost forgotten about the book altogether. Turns out the biggest challenge of the study is just doing it, not the difficulty. As ready for advanced things as I thought I was, turns out I need to head back to basics.

I think it can be easy to overlook the more beginner-level aspects of our faith. As much as we like to learn the big, impressive things about God and Christianity, it might be more important to focus on the simple things, like learning how to have a consistent, regular Bible study or discovering how to have a meaningful prayer time.

Getting back to basics need not be scary, but it can (and should) be humbling. Realizing what we don’t know can serve as a great first step towards those big, impressive ideas, but first we have to be willing to say we weren’t quite ready in the first place. Returning to the basics means we may have gotten off the path in one way or another, but it also shows we’re willing to retrace our steps and find out where we went wrong.

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