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But I Like It!

In a curious way, realizing a 50-year-old dream of owning a Fiat 124 Spider has made me more compassionate toward many church leaders and members.

I am grateful that, five decades after the original 124, Fiat’s partnership with Mazda’s MX-5 (Miata) division has made my dream possible. Although, some feel I am driving the wrong direction into the curve!

Citing the almost daily reports of the emergence of self-driving, technologically sophisticated, cars in five years or less, my friends wonder if my next investment will be in a livery stable!

When our longtime neighbour Bernice died she was still driving a 1960s era, robin’s-egg blue Mustang that was in mint condition. The chatter with her son over the back fence was about which of her grandchildren vying for the prize would succeed.

I expect no such tussle. None of my seven grandchildren has, so far, shown any interest in antiques. The youngest of them may soon regard a steering wheel with the same confused curiosity reserved for a rotary phone attached to a wall socket.

The new Fiat has some welcome technological additions - back-up camera, proximity warning sensors, GPS, satellite radio and the like. But, fundamentally, it remains a classic roadster. It retains a steering wheel and gear shift and exists to be driven. Unlike the cars that will soon emerge, it does not have a “Captain’s chair” that reclines and it will not automatically find its way back to the dealer when the sensors reveal either a potential problem or the need for routine servicing.

But I like the 124.

I like the sound when the engine turns over, the leather bucket seats, the Italian trim, the curve of the steering wheel and the feel of the engine as I downshift into a tight corner.

My friend Bill Laurie once said, after a ride on his BMW motorcycle, “I like the way I feel after a ride.” I get that.

And I like the connection I feel, at some deep level, with the old MG, parked by my Dad’s garage.

I would sneak out and sit in the cracked leather seats as a 14-year-old. I do not need to replicate the peculiar odour of oil and grease that permeated my father’s shop but, like him, I have a deep appreciation of the satisfaction that comes from the sound of a well-tuned engine, the feel of an extraordinarily engineered vehicle and the beauty of a well-designed body.

The current model of church - too much mileage,  maintenance and is unsafe to the spirit.

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Church leaders and members know that much about the current model of church must and will change in the next 10-15 years. They comprehend that the current body has too much mileage, requires too much maintenance and is often unsafe to the spirit. But, truth be told, they simply like the current model; and, even though some small modifications are received and incorporated, they quite like the church as it was 25 years ago. Often it was the vehicle they sat in when young and they see its beauty and, often, can remember the feel when it ran well.

I am not, by nature, a person drawn to institutions or an ecclesial view of the church. In fact, I have spent much of life chafing against such. But, in recent years, I have gained some appreciation of place steeped in faithfulness and tradition.

I well remember climbing the stone stairs of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. As we wound our way up the circular staircase to see the beautiful stained glass my eyes were drawn down to the stairs, deeply indented by the footsteps of literally thousands of Christians over almost 900 years.

I experience the same feeling stooping down to cross the small entrance-way to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Rock wore down by the footsteps of the faithful. I am humbled. And I sense a power when gathering in such places that does not occur when gathering in a coffee shop or street corner. I understand the devotion the old places provoke.

When considering the acquisition of the Fiat, major conversations occurred between my wife and I over a period of many weeks. We went back and forth, often exchanging positions.

Sure, I like it - love it! Sure, it is beautiful and fulfils a lifelong goal but would the purchase compromise our ability to live into this next chapter of our future or the legacy we might leave our children?

Serious questions that required a lot of honesty and clarification of matters of heart and head.

Faithfulness and legacy questions require fierce honesty about matters of heart and head.

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Fortunately, with some creative financing, we were able to make the numbers work.

Sadly such is not the case for many church leaders or congregations. Present and future ministry would be too restricted by maintenance costs; sometimes the white wall tires can no longer be patched. And it is not feasible to put a patched body on an old chassis.

But can I show you some of the new “concept vehicles” of church coming on stream? They might just blow you away.

If you are a church leader, does your current situation require so much maintenance and remodeling that you lean towards a new model of church? Or, with a quick tune-up, is your current situation ready to go for a few more decades?

4 Comments

    1. Like all new concept vehicles the best ones arise in conversations among a small number of people. AND, the amazing thing is that different teams of “engineers” can come up with such interesting designs.
      First question – what does this vehicle really need to do? 🙂

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