Last night I was teaching a class about how we have to practice church in order to be the church. I was challenging the notion that the practice of church life is primary shaped by our public meetings.
I then began to reflect on my years of playing baseball and I realized how many of the drills that we would do don't actually look much like what we did on the field. While there was a resemblance, we would do things with a bat and ball which would be absolutely absurd to do in a game. I'll just site one example: multi-million dollar super-star players will hit a ball off a tee into a net, the same kind of tee my six year old uses in his games. Now if you saw a 250 pound slugger hitting a ball off a tee in a game, that would be just weird, but that is exactly what they do in practice.
The way we practice when no no one is looking shapes how we live as the church when people can see us. This goes so far beyond things like having a personal quiet time or being morally upright when we are alone. It has to do with how we practice our faith in our everyday lives. It has to do with how we relate to one another as the body of Christ. And it has to do with the way we are present in our neighborhoods and relate to those who need Jesus' love long before there is an opportunity to "share the gospel."
For the most part, the church in America steps up in times of crisis. We are there for each other and even outsiders at times of death, birth or trauma. But that's the equivalent to a baseball player only showing up for the games. The way we practice our faith in the normal times is what shapes us to shine when it matters most.