Last Friday night I took my five-year-old to his t-ball game. The first 30 minutes is set aside for practice. While a light rain fell, my son traipsed through the wet grass and tried in vain to climb the soccer goal frame. Then he came back to the car. I told him that he needed to go through the ball with his team. He said to me "It's just practice. I don't need to practice. I'm already good."
His comments remind me of how we often live our faith. We tend to emphasize action, radical choices and public declaration. In other words, we prioritize our faith when it's measurable. But no sport works that way. Games are won or lost on the practice field long before the games begin.
But this is the way it is with anything worth doing. I've heard stories about how Jim Carrey would practice his facial contortions and unusual noises for hours in front of a mirror. Monet painted over more paintings than we will ever know. Doctors call their daily work "practice." Practice, practice, practice. It's what shapes our lives, for the good or bad or the fair-to-middlin.
Think with me: if you practice mediocrity you will become quite proficient at it. It takes practice and effort to deny the God-given passions that you have and just go along with the crowd. Life is lived through our daily practice.
There is no such thing as "just practice." Practicing is life. The question we must ask is this: What are you practicing today?
Missional action is the result of missional disciplines, practices that shape our lives to make room for the Kingdom. If we try to put mission into action without practicing mission, we turn mission into something we perform. This is why there is a huge difference between doing missional things and being missional. Being includes doing, but in our activist, outward, performance-based world, we need to develop practices that will shape our lives for mission.