I’ve been thinking a lot about adaptability lately.
Most people who know me well would agree that I am pretty adaptable.
The journeys of my life have led me into difficult and uncomfortable circumstances from time to time, but I’ve always prided myself on my ability to make the best of things.
Church-owned pastoral housing has begun to fade away, lately. One reason for that is that fewer pastor’s families are willing to put up with the conditions of many of these homes.
Unpacking in the parsonage of one small church after another would challenge anyone’s adjustment skills, but I always managed to make those small, cramped, run-down and generally inconvenient houses feel like home. I was challenged to become creative in the use of space and decor to meet the needs of my family. I adapted.
Whenever life has thrown me a curve ball I have tried to adjust to the new reality with as little fuss as possible.
This past week I participated in a webinar of church leaders to discuss the need for adaptive change in the organized church. It was proposed that the only way for the church to thrive in modern culture is to adapt to it.
Although my personal prejudice is against the church becoming more like society in order to remain relevant and attractive to more people, I found that some of the things being suggested seemed valid and could get the people in the congregations to look at their communities with new eyes.
After this meeting I began to think about the pros and cons of adapting to situations as opposed to resisting or trying to transform the situation itself.
I spent years adapting to an increasingly unhealthy marriage that eventually ended. Perhaps if I had resisted sooner or tried harder to transform the dysfunctional elements of the relationship things would have turned out differently.
In my job when I am given more and more work to do for the same salary due to economic cut-backs, I adapt, trying to work faster and more efficiently in spite of the extra pressure to perform. My health is beginning to be impacted by the stress. Perhaps if I made more of an issue of the burden being placed on me, my employer would respond with a raise or by reassigning some of the work.
If the church adapts to its culture in a way that doesn’t water down the Gospel message or compromise God’s word, but that opens doors to evangelism, that seems like a good idea.
At the same time we need to resist the temptation to become just another service club or social organization in order to add names to the membership roll.
The church is to be salt and light. Our mission is to introduce the world to God’s love in order to achieve transformation, not to become indistinguishable from it.
It is said that an organism requires stress in order to grow strong. Stress comes from effort. If I am adapting in order to avoid the effort of resistance or transformation then the situation will not result in my growing stronger. Sometimes adaptation looks just like capitulation.
Perhaps the key is in knowing when to adapt to circumstances, when to resist them and when to try to change them.
Like the Serenity prayer:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.