As I have waded into the waters of youth soccer coaching, one of the biggest and most frustrating challenges for me are the practices. I actually love practicing with the kids, but scheduling practices is difficult. Trying to find an open field and work around everybody’s schedules is almost impossible.
Then you have the parents who don’t bring their kids to practice because Johnny was too tired from playing Fortnite or because they really wanted to stay home and watch a movie.
Many people underestimate the importance of practice. Like Allen Iverson once famously ranted:
“It’s just practice!”
But practice is important. Practice gets you in shape for the games. It builds up your endurance and strength. Even more importantly, in practice you go through the motions of what you will do in the games. You repeat the movements and actions again and again, so that when the game comes, you don’t have to think about it. You just naturally react and do what you are supposed to do without hesitation.
Athletes who don’t practice regularly rarely succeed in games.
In a very real way, our worship on Sunday mornings as Christians is soccer practice for our faith. First and foremost, as we hear God’s Word, as we receive the Sacrament, as we worship together, God feeds our faith and builds up our spiritual muscles.
But it’s more than that. Traditional Christian worship services are designed to be practice for our faith. They are a microcosm of what God wants us doing during the week. God wants us to be in constant conversation with him – talking to him in prayer and listening to him speak to us through his Word. God wants us as Christians to spend time every single day in prayer and Bible study.
Our Sunday morning worship is where we practice that conversation with God. In our worship, we speak to God in our prayers and hymns. He speaks to us in his Word and Sacraments. What we do on Sunday morning in church feeds our faith, but it also helps us practice what God wants us to do in our daily lives.
In fact, one other important thing many churches do on Sunday morning is to stand up and say together one of the three traditional Christian Creeds. We say, “I believe in God the Father Almighty… and in Jesus Christ, his only Son… and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life.” We say as Christians, “This is what we believe about God and what he did for us.”
We do that on Sunday, in part, so that when game time comes – when our faith is challenged, when are asked to say what we believe – we can do so. If you grow up saying a creed every Sunday morning, when somebody asks you what you believe about God, you have practiced your answer. You know what to say.
So don’t underestimate the importance of practice. We need to go to church every week to keep our faith in good shape and to prepare us to put our faith in practice in our everyday lives.
But also understand that going to church is only a part of being a Christian. Never think that simply going to church on Sunday is what it means to be a Christian. That’s not the game. Going to church helps prepare us for the game – to live our lives of faith during the week. To go to church and then not live what we practiced there is like going to soccer practice, but never going to the games.
Living your faith is the goal, but never underestimate the importance of practice.