27 October 2009

extreme makeover

The concept: Locate a family dwelling in poor living conditions, often with a hardship or crisis that they cannot quite overcome or have problems dealing with, and rebuild their home in seven days with a professional design team and an army of skilled and unskilled volunteers.

This is the essence of what is now a well-known and popular television show in the US. When Extreme Makeover: Home Edition rolls into town it is with no small disturbance to live-as-usual. I don't get to watch all that many of them, but I will confess - I'm a fan. There is a strong emphasis on human emotion, hope and life restored built into each episode. In the process of helping out one family, the crew is able to pull together an incredible number of volunteers and donations to remake an entire home within a week's time - often having competing contractors swinging hammers side-by-side for the common goal. It takes the dire condition of one family and turns it into a hopeful situation. By remaking a house.

In a few hours this team will be revealing their latest completion which is just a few miles from where I live. The Cowan-Brown family will drive up the road and have their new home given to them, a place where they can face the future with a renewed spirit. I was unable to go and watch the building, and will not be at the reveal today. But I did keep up with much of the news coming out of the plethora of activities there . . . FYI, the local Chipotle went and rolled over 300 burritos for volunteers one night. It has been a flurry of excitement for the past seven days, ever since I passed the production bus - complete with police escort - coming down the highway last Wednesday. (Until then, I didn't even realize they were coming!)

A great concept and perhaps one of the best uses of television entertainment. But, without intending to throw a wet blanket on everything, it is imperative to ask of ourselves: Where is the church?

I was told by one person, 'This family attends our church' without any pause for why their situation was so dire and hopeless. That is where I started to wrestle with this, especially knowing that the process of show-selection considered three other homes for production . . . this means that at least two families in this area need help as well. Who will come in and change their lives? Who will restore their hope? Who will reshape their future?

And why does it take a television show to do the work of the church? Extreme Makeover: Home Edition comes in and does an incredible work. They restore, remake, renew and reignite individuals, families and entire communities. That sounds like the definition of church more than it sounds like the definition of TV show. My only answer is that our current culture is more inspired and motivated by money, ratings and notoriety than it is by the power of the Spirit. That's the only thing I can come up with . . . because churches and parachurch organizations which focus on this area cannot seem to generate the same enthusiasm or volunteerism.

The church might not be able to make things as flashy or refined as the production crew of this show, but it can certainly reach into itself and keep people from the conditions which are highlighted at the beginning of each episode. Especially within the context of believers, it is inexcusable for this level of 'extreme' need. Such a situation reeks of the conviction found in 'Go in peace, be warm and well fed' faith without action. Our churches are looking a bit too much like as-long-as-I'm-ok Christianity, and it takes a television program to reveal ourselves.

Congratulations to this family. But now . . . what about the needs which remain?

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