An ancient Chinese proverb says, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step."
That first step is an important one, for it may determine the ultimate destiny. Many of the things that are most familiar to us today began long ago with one very small step – and were completed by another small step. That is why each step must be taken carefully. A familiar maxim warns that great wickedness can have its beginning in many small, gradual deeds, most of which were not wicked, but benign.
A child can end up in jail at eighteen because he/she took the wrong step at eight. A nation or business can become what it never planned to be, all because it started out on the "wrong foot."
That is also true with a Christian – or with a church. Never intending to do so, a church can find herself defending the very thing it meant to oppose, and opposing that which they fervently believe.
A study of church history brings this into sharp focus, for it is often the case that small, gradual, seemingly insignificant choices result in large but very significant problems – that could easily have been prevented. History reveals some of those "short steps" that took Christ's church on a long journey to a place they never intended to go.
DESIRE TO BE LIKE OTHERS
This may have been the origin of the sad situation in 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 in which a congregation was "puffed up" with pride because a man had taken "his father's wife." The city tolerated wickedness, and the church did not want to be viewed as "different." See Romans 12:1-2.
FAILURE TO KNOW SCRIPTURES
Ignorance of Bible principles is at the root of most departures from the faith. If we do not know what God wants the church to support, to do, to teach, to oppose – how can we make wise choices? How can we keep from taking the wrong steps?
Rational thinking is to be greatly admired, but when human "reasoning" reveals disrespect for God's logic, we would be better off looking elsewhere for our wisdom. Our culture puts a lot of confidence in modern education, and rightfully so. But man is more likely to ask, "What's wrong with______?" instead of "What does God's Word say about________?" Proverbs 3:5-7.
Demographics, the "science of human populations," reveals that we humans love everything to be convenient. We like our food to be convenient, same-day dry cleaning and "drive-through-religion." If it's not convenient to us - it's gone!
Religion? Yessir! Has to be real convenient. "Do I have to quit drinkin' and chasin' wimmin?" is a familiar question. "I'm not interested in anything that makes me change my lifestyle." But "convenience" is a bill-board size ‘road sign' on the highway to eternal destruction.
LETTING OTHERS THINK FOR US
The clergy system among our denominational friends lends itself to turning one's mind over to the "clergy", letting him/her think for us. Some religious groups include this viewpoint in their bylaws, their rules of membership. Many of us have run into this idea in discussing the Bible with a neighbor. "I'll talk to my preacher about that" is a safe end to a Bible discussion if you "don't know much Bible." But note these words:
"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth," 2 Timothy 2:15.
"...thyself"! We are responsible for our own thinking, Paul had to do his, and the Bereans had to do theirs, Acts 9:6; 17:11. We used to say, "every tub must sit on its own bottom," and we are still responsible for what and how we think and act.
The Bible gives God's instructions for a church's leadership and its work, but it did not take long for man to make big changes in the local congregations. Oh, it did not take place quickly, but gradually. Sound familiar? At first it was merely putting one man in the role of Bishop, rather than what the Bible prescribes – a plurality of elders/bishops/shepherds.
Those were "short steps," but when we see the end result after centuries of those "short steps," we realize how easy it is for us to lose our way.
NO RESPECT FOR GOD'S AUTHORITY
In God's Book, the Bible, He gives guidance on all that we say and do:
"Whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him," Colossians 3:17.
God's authority overrules man's personal preferences. Huge changes took place because man had little or no respect for doing what God said in the way God said it should be done.
Small steps – make sure they take you in the right direction.