In a recent episode of The Office, Jim, recently engaged to Pam, took a leap and bought his parents’ house. He doesn’t ask Pam’s opinion, doesn’t even tell her about it. He just buys it for her as a wedding gift.
By the time he is taking her through the house, the look on his face reveals that he thinks he may have made a mistake. The ugly reg shag carpeting, the picture of a clown that is superglued to the wall, even the thought of his parents’ bedroom (“I’m not allowed to go in there,” the new “homeowner” says), are all kind of sad, even creepy.
You can almost see it playing out in his mind, “Why would she like this old house? She probably wants a new one. She wants HER OWN house…” But finally, when Pam sees that Jim has already begun to organize the garage into an art studio for her, she bursts out into a smile. “You bought me a house!” she exclaims and they hug each other and it is wonderful.
Pam sees the gift as an expression of love and the sense of humor they share. They see the potential and enjoy thought of making it their own.
It’s old, out of date and filled with memories that are a bit too much to even consider actually… But it is theirs. And it also a bit sweet and a symbol of love, history and yes, a family. So Jim and Pam will make this old house their home through lots of love, hard work and plenty of funny, awkward moments. (What will they do with that clown picture?)
In many ways, this is the way that I see my life work. Renovating an old, out of date house into a home for a new generation. That is why I work in a denominational church and that is why, while I am so interested in the things that are “emerging” and “organic” and “post-whatever”, I am still firmly situated in a mainline church.
I am a renovator more than I am a builder. I love the old bones, the memories and even the awkward clown pictures on the wall. I love the old stories that cause you to laugh out loud even when they are sooo awkward and I love the sense of history in a “place” and the way that often, below the red shag carpet and under the layers of silver wallpaper are hardwood floors that just need some elbow grease to be beautiful again and carpentry that speaks of a craftsmanship from another time.
This is also why for the past several weeks, I have been offering a series of posts inspired by the book, The Starfish and the Spider. In it, I see the possibilities of an organizational structure that could help old, out of date churches return to the “bones” and “hardwood floor” of an earlier era. I see a way of being the church that can create a new “home” out of an old house.
When I read the book, I was immediately taken by the similarities between the early church and the “hybrid-combo” organizational structure that the authors commend. What has been interesting to me has been that, aside from Alan Hirsch's recommendation, there have been otherwise so little conversation about this book in church circles (Though there have been some good ones that I have highlighted along the way). Indeed, in an increasingly “flat” and “decentralized” world it is probably a matter of organizational survival (whether we should even care about that, is, of course, a whole other topic to consider!).
Most creative types would rather start from scratch. Renovating an old house with red shag carpet and a clown picture on the wall is not nearly as fun as a brand new house or a plot of land and your dreams in your head.
But it is how old houses become the homes for the next generation.
In the year ahead, I will increasingly use “It Takes a Church” to discuss leadership and church life. Less theory and more practices. Less visioning and more deliberate action steps. Less dreaming and arguing and more elbow grease. What are the things that actually transform the lives of people, and the life of the church that is Christ's body?
And I’ll do so by returning to my series on the Starfish and the Spider and getting to perhaps the most important points, starting with this one: What does a “head” of a starfish actually do?