From Theory to Action, Part 1

By:  Staci Stallings

The other night I was listening to the Casting Crowns song “The Altar and the Door.”  In the song, the person talks about how they go to church, hear the sermon, sing the songs, etc., but the message doesn’t last in their heart when they leave the church.

Although there are many issues in the church, I think this is the biggest.  If we could handle this one issue, most if not all of the others would be alleviated.

So, what’s the issue?

It’s that far too many of us go to church, sit in the pew for an hour, listen to the readings and the sermon, and then get up and walk out having not been changed one iota by any of it.  Oh, it all sounds good in theory.  That whole “love your neighbor” stuff?  Yeah.  Okay.  But then we go home and yell at our kids, nit-pick our spouse, run our co-workers into the ground, gossip about the boss, criticize our company management, snip at the store clerk, gossip about our friends, run down other Christians…

What’s going on here?  Why do we listen but not hear?

Well, as I was driving and listening to this song, a clear picture of a basketball court came into my mind.  I have learned that most if not all spiritual lessons have some physical representation in our world.  So although basketball doesn’t seem to have any direct correlation with spirituality, there was something there to look at.

As I considered the question further, I realized that much like a basketball team, practice is important.  You cannot become a good shooter by shooting once in a pressure-packed game.  Sure, you might get lucky, but you are far more likely to miss by a mile.

The same is true with practicing your faith.

But then I realized that there is at least one step BEFORE you ever even get into practicing for a basketball team.  That step involves coaching and learning the plays.

Before kids ever step onto a court to play as a team in a school setting, the coach has to have already planned out the TEAM strategy.

Now maybe you don’t know a lot about basketball.  I never played, but I grew up in a town that “going to State” became our Spring Break because either the boys’ team or the girls’ team, and in quite a few years BOTH teams, made it to the State Championship.  In fact, when we built a new gym, they only brought the State trophies over because the others would never have fit in the copious trophy cases.

Suffice it to say, I know basketball.

I know that every coach has a different philosophy.  I’ve seen “run and gun” where the guys just run up and down the court, firing the ball from one end to the other trying to score and exhaust the other team.  I’ve seen stall if you have the lead.  So if you are leading, you take the ball down and hold it (very boring!).  I’ve seen zone defense, man defense, and press defense.  And although I couldn’t tell you exact names for plays, I recognize that there’s nothing haphazard to the way a team plays.  It has all been thought out and planned by the coach far in advance of the team ever stepping onto the court to face an actual opponent.

Great, but what does this have to do with religion and spirituality?

Well, pretty much everything.

Let’s say that we have a team, and their coach’s game philosophy is a combination of run-and-gun on offense and man defense.  Let’s further say that the coach spends the entire practice time, going over plays on the board.  That means the team never actually put sneakers to the hardwoods.  They never step onto the actual court. They never pick up an actual ball.  Oh, they hear a lot about basketball, but it’s all in theory.

Instead of practicing, the coach stands at the front of the room going, “Now, when they press, I want Greg to take it down low into the corner, then bounce pass it to Jake underneath….”  All with very interesting little squiggly lines and O’s and even X’s!  And that’s what the team does, once a week for an hour.

How good is that team going to be against their first opponent?

No.  Really.  I want an out loud answer to that.  How good are they going to be?  How well will the coach’s theory work?  Will the team members know where to go?  Will they know how to shoot or how to play defense?  Remember, all they’ve done is heard and seen the game plan.

Yeah.  I’m with you.  They are going to totally get slaughtered in that first game!

So, why do we play the “game” of life and expect any different?




Houston firefighter, Jeff Taylor is a fireman’s fireman. No situation is too dangerous to keep him sidelined if lives are on the line. However, when control freak Lisa Matheson falls for him, she quickly realizes she can’t control Jeff or the death wish he seems to have…

To Protect & Serve

The Courage Series, Book 1

To save others’ lives, they will risk their own

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“To Protect and Serve will hold you prisoner to its pages until the final one is turned. Prepare to cry, laugh, wish, love and maybe even cry again as you become enveloped in the hopes and feelings of Lisa and Jeff.”

-Cindy Reiger

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