We caught last night’s episode of “The Office” and I was immediately intrigued to see that it was held in a church. Jim and Pam were having their baby christened and the entire Dunder Mifflin office attended. As I say, I was intrigued, and also slightly nervous. After all, in most cases where the church makes an appearance in primetime, it’s bound to be the subject of derision or an example of imcompetence or abuse.
Imagine my surprise, then, when the episode went on to depict the church in a generally positive light. More than that, it provided an amazing example of the attractive appeal of the church being the church.
During the announcements before the christening, the priest announces that the church youth group is leaving that day for a three month mission trip in Mexico. At the reception after the christening, Michael Scott observes the unrestrained joy and excitement of the youth group on the other side of the fellowship hall. He is deeply moved by their enthusiasm, especially as it contrasts by what he sees as the petty cynicism and bad attitudes of his own employees. When a young lady stands up to proclaim that the group cannot wait to get to Mexico and work with the poor people there, Michael becomes genuinely caught up in the moment.
He becomes so caught up that when the youth group boards the bus to go on mission, Michael boards the bus with them! Andy, one of his employees, follows as well.
One of the youth compliments Michael on the bus telling him that she cannot believe he would leave everything to join their mission.
It was a beautiful picture of the inherent evangelistic appeal of koinonia. In a church culture inundated with evangelistic programs and gimmicks, it would behoove the church to remember that the greatest evangelistic tool we have is the ministry of contrast. When the world looks at the church, they should be struck by our joy, our counter-cultural mission, our love for one another, and our love for the least of these, especially as these traits contrast with the lost culture around the church.
To conclude, shortly after the bus takes off, Michael and Andy panic and begin to think, “What have we done?!” Finally, they demand that the bus stop and they jump off to return to their normal lives. Tellingly, this is not applauded in the episode. Rather, their abandonment of the mission is seen as just another manifestation of their own neurotic impulsiveness and and shallowness.
There’s a lesson here too, of course. Jesus spoke about putting your hand to the plough and looking back. Some left all to follow Jesus. Others began the journey and turned back when the reality of what following Jesus would mean for their lives set in.
Michael and Andy got off the bus. One of the kids jumped off with them. The rest went on to their mission.
Who knew that “The Office” could be convicting?