Practice Churches

I was a proud member of the Franklin High School Marching Band.   Go ahead with  your band geek comments . . . I can take it.  Putting on a show is a very intricate and detailed process.  You have multiple instruments (some playing 3 part harmony), 200 band members, 20 flag and baton twirlers, and a band director who is usually on the edge of insanity. All of these elements have to come together on a football field.  Did I mention that all of those people are moving and making different designs while they are playing?  

Rehearsal for all of this began in July at a place called band camp.  Band camp is kind of like Guantanamo Bay without all of the amenities.  Instead of being water-boarded into submission, we endured hours of drilling.  We would move from one position to the next over and over and over and over. We would play the same 5 notes over and over and over until we perfected a three-second portion of the show.  When band camp was over we would have one hour of practice during the day (because band was an elective), and then we would practice two hours after school.  We were a well-oiled machine dedicated to musical interpretive movement. 

The Contest of Champions was the big show.  There were smaller shows during the course of the year, but the Contest of Champions (C.O.C., as we band geeks would call it) was our Super Bowl.  We would go and play the smaller shows because they were good practice.  You had a certain amount of tension, and you really did want to win but you always had your eye on the big one. 

Those practice shows were stepping stones for us.  I have come to believe that many young seminary students see small and rural churches like we viewed those small band competitions.  You have a certain amount of concern for the small church while you maintain your focus on landing the big church.  These churches are places where you work out the bugs in your preaching and ministerial practice.  The problem is that these small churches begin to understand their role.  They begin to see themselves as “practice churches”. 

The second Sunday I was at Cottage Grove a man told me, “If you keep working at it Preacher, you’ll be able to pastor a big church soon.”  I’m not sure what I was offended more by.  The fact that he thought I needed “work” or by the fact that he was already promoting me out of Cottage Grove.  It is alarming to know that many churches see themselves as practice churches.  Pastors have led the way to this mentality.  I believe pastors have lost their sense of what it means to be called to a local church.  We have begun to see churches in much the same way a young executive sees the corporate ladder.  Each church is a rung on the way up to First Baptist Big.

I don’t believe God sees any local church as a practice church.  I don’t think He sends pastors to a local church to hone his skills.  There is nothing wrong with God calling a man from a small church to a big church, but he better be called.  When God calls us to a church He is also calling us to a group of people.  He is placing us in a community of people to preach, teach, equip, and minister there until we are sent somewhere else.  I look forward to the day when rural churches are no longer practice fields.          

Published in: on February 11, 2008 at 3:13 am  Comments (3)  


  1. Good to hear from you. I will gladly let you know that this August will be 10 years since you married Mistey and I and all is good with your 1st marriage. I laughed at your band camp comments, we had fun! Your picture of your little girl is beautiful. I have a brown-eyed beauty as well that looks just like me with long hair (remember the 80’s). Well, take care and tell Robin hello. We are going to Thompson Station Baptist with Jon and Tonya as our Sunday school teachers. Jon and I are playing on the TSC softball team and won the entire tournament last year. We had a ball just playing together again but my body didn’t quite recuperate like it use to. OUCH! Take care, Max

  2. I have seen the pictures of your girls and they do tend to favor you. . . and somehow they are still beautiful.

  3. Like the good book says, God works in mysterious ways!!! 🙂

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