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May  2015 27
Nurturing Leaders: Leaders to Recycle, Re-purpose, Re-hab

Scripture: Matthew 13:51-52

Have you noticed a goodly number of recycling, repurposing, and rehabbing TV shows? I wonder about the connection between the transformation of material remnants of the past the churches’ need to recycle, repurpose, and rehab.

My wife, Cheri, is creative with an amazing variety of materials. She can rebuild an old couch, rewire a mid-century lamp, or paint a wall to look like high-end wallpaper. She loves TV shows where the “stars” either repurpose someone else’s junk into something useful and attractive, or restore an old house and save as much of the original charm as possible while updating the house for a modern family. (Her favorite show and TV hero is Nicole Curtis, the “rehab addict.”)

Cheri has watched shows where the “contestants” are charged with furnishing and decorating an entire office space with materials salvaged from dumpsters. Recently, she asked me to shop first for high quality, used clothes before buying new as a way of “recycling” (in addition to the other kind of recycling which is one of my chores).

While it might sound like a stretch to connect these reality shows, where the stars repurpose or reclaim something old, with what is happening in Christianity today, I’m going to stretch.

We may be living in a once-every-500 year period of transformation in Christianity. The outward forms and the inward values, beliefs, practices, and the like are in flux. At these times, the attic of Christianity is open and a huge rummage sale is on (if we follow Phyllis Tickle’s thinking).

What might we find in Christianity’s attic that could help us be the people we need to be, for God, today? We find clues all around us.

Leaders of all ages, who know something of what is in that attic, are taking items out, dusting them off, and communities are breathing new life into ancient practices. There is recycling, repurposing, and rehabbing going on!

Yes, also some outright invention, but I suspect most of what passes for “new” is a fresh combination of things old. A prayer from the 11th century, a practice from the 6th century, and technology from the 21st century: Labyrinths and Good Friday processions in public, house churches and megachurches, reading the scriptures in small groups using lectio divina and teaching sermons using video clips, gathering for worship and including feeding the hungry before everyone goes on with their day, alternating fasts with feasts, incense and worship in the park, silent retreats and loud worship, high-tech and no tech. AncientModern, in Leonard Sweet’s neologism.

And all the above is to say nothing of what we would learn and the resources we would acquire by repurposing the history of Christianity when we have been a minority presence in a society.

In terms of leadership, we should be looking for individuals with creative energy who are not afraid to connect two seemingly disparate pieces to see what results. We should be looking for persons excited by the possibilities of rummaging around in Christianity’s attic.

In order to rummage well, however, one needs to know what one is looking at or holding. Not everything should be taken out of moth balls! And there are surely treasures that many persons would not recognize at first blush.

A great rummage sale buyer has both a well-schooled eye and a creative imagination for what a thing might become.

Let’s look for persons with the creativity and the courage, and then provide them the education necessary, to recycle, repurpose, and rehab.

Prayer: Grant us, O God who has re-purposed a life or two, vision to see those around us who you have tapped to bring something new, good, and useful from that which others see only as old. 

Browse more posts by: Gary Peluso-Verdend, Phillips Faculty
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