As summer comes to a close, we begin to settle into what we often call our “normal” routine. Vacations are over, school is starting, the temperatures will soon begin to drop, and the busyness of summer will give way to the steady rhythm of fall.
And if you’re a sports fan, particularly a football fan, it also means that you get to enter the joyous time of weekend games. Practices have started, the media outlets have kicked it into full gear, scrimmage games are already happening, and eyes are turning towards the television to see what sports hero will screw something up next.
It’s this time, this season, that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. For all the time given to New Year’s resolutions, I think the start of a new school year, a new sports year, and a return to an old rhythm often goes missed as a vital time in our lives.
Think again of the sports teams. If you listen to them talk about the goal of winning a championship, many of them say that the foundation for what they want to do gets laid in August. The championship game is in January, but the foundation to win that championship starts in August.
What’s in August? Practice. Lots and lots of practice. Sometimes two or three times a day. Everybody that wants to succeed later, has to take practice seriously.
If you want to enjoy the fruit of a season well done, you must cultivate early on.
And while I often hesitate to use sports analogies, because they don’t resonate with everyone, there are three great principles that we can learn from the great sports teams, especially when we talk about the rhythm of a missional life:
Begin with the end in mind. What often separates the good teams from the great is not only stating goals, but writing them down, looking at them everyday, and then making decisions that only help draw them closer to completing that goal. It may seem daunting to host a neighborhood block party, but if that is what God is calling you too, write it down, find people of peace and begin to plan how it will all come together.
Start small, be faithful. In practice, teams often work on the fundamentals: dribbling, blocking, catching, footwork, etc., depending on the sport. If you can’t do the small things right, well and repeatedly, then you never have any hope of doing the bigger things well — like running plays, scoring or stopping your opponent. If you want to throw a block party, that may be a bit daunting, but it doesn’t have to be the first thing you do. Can you start by learning your neighbors’ names? Can you go on nightly walks and wave at people sitting on their front porch? Can you volunteer for a local agency or nonprofit that could introduce you to other members of the community? As we practice and develop a rhythm of life in the small things, the larger issues tend to get easier.
Show up everyday. You can’t practice if you stay at home and sit on the couch. Similarly, you can’t live missionally with the windows closed, the blinds drawn and the television on. Again, it doesn’t have to be big or grandiose right off the bat, but commit to showing up everyday and doing something (small) for someone around you with the opportunity to share in community with them.
The great failure of the missional movement happens when it gets divorced from the simple acts that we can do to love our neighbors as ourselves. In the past, the church has relied heavily on the event-oriented program, with the right speaker, the right music, and the right atmosphere to encourage participation and attendance. In the missional movement, it’s much simpler than that. It is instead the exact opposite. Where before the church was like a complex machine that needed to run smoothly, missional is defined by simplicity. Where the attractional church thrived on passivity and silence, the missional movement focuses on communal participation.
And when we try to make missional hard, we stop making it missional.
So as you begin to settle into your fall routine with school and work, make it a daily habit to be missionally focused. Look at your schedule and find one thing on your to-do list that you could be more intentional about, and use it as a time to share in community with others and advance the Kingdom in your neighborhood.
Begin with the end in mind.
Start small, be faithful.
You’ll be amazed what God does through you.
Justin Hiebert is a Mennonite Brethren pastor in the Denver metro area. He studied Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership at Tabor College and completed his M.Div. at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary. He blogs at empoweringmissional.com, where this post originally appeared.