One thing I have learned about parenthood is this: you have to pick your battles.
When you have a baby, you likely have in your mind a set of ideals for how you, and your child, will relate to one another and to the world. Then you discover that your child is human. And you discover even more quickly that you and your spouse are as well.
I was commiserating with one of my best friends here about the fact that somehow both of our little girls had been introduced to Disney “princesses” (Cinderella and Belle, respectively) and that they are both enamored. While there is nothing evil or bad about these stories and their characters, let’s just say they do not represent our first choices for heroes for our little girls.
But again, you have to pick your battles.
In my field of church planting and pastoring, I sometimes suffer “idealism-fatigue”; that sense I get when our “ideals” start to feel more valuable to us than the actual people we claim to be here to love. Example: we have an “ideal” format for studying scripture, cherished by many in our core group. Our neighbors find it weird and intimidating! They respond better to canned bible studies where you fill in the blanks.
My list could go on here: questions about worship, facilities, even having a pastor at all are all things that we filter through our cultural context. Doug posed an interesting challenge to me the other day: would we spend thousands of dollars on choir robes if having them would make certain members of our community feel more “at home” in our worship? What about other decisions we make that may not have price tags attached, but theological ones: decisions that reflect slight (or perhaps dramatic) shifts from our “ideals” in order to accommodate for where people are at in our community culturally, spiritually, intellectually, and economically.
I am feeling a bit like all those birth analogies given about church planting are even more appropriate than I realized. It would seem that in church planting, like parenthood, you likely also have to pick your battles. But where do we accommodate? When is it too much? Those are the messy questions of discernment that will not be going away anytime soon here…
I am a self-professed idealist at heart. So I am left with this thought: I have long ago realized that in Mercy and Aaron I do not have child-development or parental ideals. I have children. How then am I supposed to think about my church?