Coaching a pro football team is serious business because football teams have to play games.
Games they desperately desire to win.
At the end of the season, the standings don’t reflect how many practices were held by the team. No, the standings only measure the amount of wins and losses a team has accrued.
But practice is vital to a team having success on the playing field!
Though the pro football season runs through the fall and early winter, teams gather in late spring for workouts and meetings. In August the pre-season practice games begin. Finally, after so many meetings and so much practice, the regular season arrives! But then, soon after the first game – but not before the second game – the team gathers again for practice.
Why do they practice so much? One reason and one reason alone: to win games.
If a team is doing well, practice is meant to sharpen its skills and rub off rough edges.
If a team is not doing well, practice can often resemble an overhaul as coaches try to figure out how to get back on the winning side of things.
But for all time and energy poured into meetings and practice, what really counts is playing the games.
Without the games, the discipline of practice is pretty much meaningless.
Can you imagine a football team practicing without ever suiting up and taking the field? We would feel likely feel sorry for them.
In the same way, we should feel sorry for any follower of Jesus who is involved in spiritual practices (such as going to church, reading their Bible, praying, etc.), but doesn’t appear to put their practice…into practice.
Put another way, our times in prayer, in God’s Word and in fellowship are intended to better equip us for worshiping Jesus, relating to His people and reaching out to the world around us.
We gather together to pray, study, discuss, and learn with the idea that the investment of our time and energy will make us ready to live out God’s will for our lives.
Church is the practice. Our life at home, at work, at school and in the marketplace is where the game is meant to be played.
But sadly, there are some Christians who rarely get on the field. Why? Here’s my hunch: because they think “doing” church is the end goal.
But here’s the deal: church isn’t really for our pleasure or a sort of pastime. Rather, church is much more about preparation, perspiration and pruning.
Church isn’t meant to be an escape; it’s about things like equipping and mobilizing and launching.
Church isn’t about us resting so much as it is about getting us ready.
Church exists because the world is in the midst of war; a cosmic battle the Book of Ephesians describe as a “struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Sure there are moments of pleasure that come from being at church. The songs can encourage us. The fellowship may warm us. And the learning can inform us.
But if we make church “the end” rather than “the means,” we are missing out on what God intends.
Imagine a football team that is well-coached, but never plays a single game. To such a concept, one might exclaim, “Ridiculous!”
But worse than that, imagine a people who participate in a host of spiritual practices and preparations, but never actually apply what’s been learned. More than ridiculous, that would be tragic.
Although church can be enjoyable, let’s not ever forget that church exists primarily to equip the saints for the work of ministry.
We come into church to be refreshed and recharged. We go out to love, serve, minister and reach.
May we not confuse our preparation with our ultimate calling.