Yes, it seems ironic, but Tony Soprano has become a mentor to me, teaching me about the church and the kind of pastor I want to become.
There is no evidence of redemption in his life. His marriage is fragile at best, and he is always about an episode away from a complete breakdown. But I love the man. That's why I keep coming back for more, me and the millions who watch "The Sopranos," HBO's popular series about a New Jersey Mafia family. As I've journeyed with this fictional mob boss, here's what I've learned:
- Integrate the family
Tony knows that any family member in isolation is vulnerable; it's suicide. You don't advance in the business by working on your own. Learning comes from your own experience and from people further down the road than you. Tony Soprano has his nephew Christopher, an associate, ride with Paulie, a captain, to learn the ropes of the family business. And in this business, Tony says, "we're soldiers." A soldier should learn from the captain, and a captain from the under-boss and consigliere.
The same is true at Tony's home; all family members sit down to share dinner together. Three generations of Sopranos break bread and share life on a daily basis. This is a sacred time and tardiness is not acceptable. There would never be a children's table in the Soprano household. It is a time when all business is put aside to be together.
This simple truth has been lost in the church, and it may be our greatest weakness.
The single young people who fill (or used to fill) our communities live in fear and ignorance when it comes to marital issues. Many come from broken homes and have no concept of a healthy family.
So what is the church's response to these people? We separate them out to lead one another like blind guides. Who will teach them how to deal with the difficulties that come with love relationships? The Singles Pastor?
These people (along with everyone else) should have a seat at the family table. Life is lived with the whole family, not at the kid's table.