catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 3, Num 12 :: 2004.06.04 — 2004.06.17



Empire Records takes place in an independent music store that is on the verge of being bought out by a mega-corporation. The employees?all bizarre in their own endearing ways?are not looking forward to being pressed into uniforms and conforming to policy. It’s not just that they’re rebels; it’s that their manager, we come to realize, is more interested in them as people than in the bottom line. They’re a family of sorts?lots of squabbles, but a deep love for each other underneath?bound by a love for music.

I once had a work experience like that. It wasn’t a real job?I only received a small stipend working on staff at my college student newspaper?but it was a true family experience. Every person I’m still in contact with from college was on the staff. Like the staff of Empire Records, we had a common purpose, and we had a respect for each other that overshadowed our diversity. We laughed and told stories and complained about the administration as much as we did our real jobs.

Maybe it’s just the twentysomething age that makes those experiences possible; once you have spouses and families to attend to, the people at work aren’t your best friends anymore. Maybe it’s the lack of pressure to make money?on my newspaper we were college-funded, and at Empire Records the manager somehow manages to place people above profit. But maybe it’s also the sense of purpose.

As the church moves more and more into businessdom?the tendency toward bigger-is-better, sermons like seminar lectures, organizing by committees and hierarchy, the emphasis on professionalism, evangelism as selling—perhaps it?s time for a new church model along the line of Empire Records. Jesus gave us the most concise mission statement ever: “Love.” What if we were all charged with living that out? Would we spend as much time fundraising or would we spend our money helping people? Would we focus so much on the quantity of people reached or on the quality of our interaction with them? Would we look to the pastor to get things done or would we dive in ourselves?

I find all kinds of examples of familial care in Empire Records that seem worth emulating. It’s the rare teen movie that cleaves to ideals of youth while recognizing the fallenness of humanity. The staff’s interactions with the shoplifter Warren and the suicidal Gina, particularly, show what it means to love in a broken world. The manager delivers a stunning act of forgiveness that reminds me how undeserved my own forgiveness is. The whole staff disregards the rules in weird and wonderful ways. If you get a chance to watch it, just groove for a while on the smooth blend of freedom, love, and purpose you’ll find there. Then go and do likewise.

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