The Princess’s best friend (we will call her The Duchess) recently went on her very first trip to Disneyland. We were very excited for her. The trip was a whirlwind one day wonder with another family who had been there before. They had an extra day in their trip schedule and decided to dash to Disneyland. Afterwards, we were all having lunch together and started talking about her trip. We wanted to know her favorite ride, if she got to see any shows or parades, and how it changed her preferences for the trip the three of us are taking this summer after they graduate. It was not the conversation we were expecting.
The Princess and I asked questions she had no idea how to answer. Come to find out she didn’t go on many Disneyland classics like Peter Pan, Small World, or Thunder Mountain. In fact, they spent most of their day, ‘at the other park’. It was the Duchess’s first time and they spent the majority of their time at California Adventure. The family she was traveling with enjoys it more than Disneyland and wanted her to get to ride the ‘better and newer’ rides. As a result, she has no real feel for Disneyland and still can’t understand half of the stuff The Princess and I talk about as we’re planning our trip.
We couldn’t understand how someone could take a person to Disneyland for the first time and not let her experience Disneyland. We are still considering her trip with us to WDW to be her ‘first’ Disney trip. There are things you just must do to have a full experience. You have to ride Small World (only once though. That song!), Peter Pan, Dumbo, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and all the mountains. You have to get a photo with your favorite character (or at least your favorite available character). You have to stand in it least one line that is too long. You have to see one show or parade. You should have a classic Disneyland snack. You should take a photo in front of the castle. These are the basics. Everyone adds their own ‘musts’. We must always ride the Storybook Canal boats and catch the fireworks while riding Thunder Mountain. We always eat one nice meal at Blue Bayou and get a selfie on the carousel. There is more. Other families have other lists. The Duchess, however, did none of it. The family she was with gave her their ‘best of’ experience without letting her first get to know the basics.
Like many things, this story reminded me of church life. We very often get set in our pattern of ‘favorites’ in the church and forget the newcomers may not have the right frame of reference to get the same experience that we have. We have new people join our covenant groups, without first letting them learn what a covenant is and why it’s important. We invite them to in depth discussions of biblical concepts, without first helping learn about the Bible. We expect them to know why we worship the way we do, enjoy the songs we enjoy, and understand the underpinning theology; all without us having to explain anything. The basics must be there first and it is our job to share them. The rest will come in its own time after the foundation has been built. Just as you can’t develop a love of Disneyland by spending a day at California Adventure, you can’t develop a love of Jesus by spending an hour debating church theology.
We must learn how to share the foundations not simply to skip to our favorite parts. Just like someone may not love Space Mountain as much as I do, so too they might not love the book of Job. We each have our own preferences, they job of the church isn’t to cater to one particular group of preferences, but to offer the whole of the message and allow new believers to live, learn, and grow into their own faith even when it doesn’t look like ours.