FIRST-PERSON: Classic cars and
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--My wife, Lynn, and I were in
Chattanooga recently for the Gideons Tennessee state convention, and stayed at
the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel. The hotel was filled by three clubs of
classic car enthusiasts, friends and soon-to-be friends joyfully bringing
along their own special piece of the past.
You need to understand something about me -- I love
classic cars. Not like. I love classic cars. These are the tremendous muscle
cars and family sedans that I grew up with, marveling at the raw horsepower,
the sleek lines, or the indefinable "cool" factor. Each fall brought a time of
eagerly anticipating the new lineup to see what exciting changes the
automotive designers had wrought over the previous year's models. This was an
era when American automotive manufacturers reigned supreme; imports were
almost unheard of and were generally disdained by a public whose viewpoint was
definitely pro-American due to the country's involvement in World War II, the
Korean War, and the Vietnam conflict. Cars were symbolic of stepping into
adulthood and embracing an exhilarating sense of independence, enjoying a
freedom that expanded your boundaries and your horizons.
While at the hotel I saw a breathtaking red-and-white '57 Chevy, three classic
'64 Mustangs, a gorgeous 1970 canary yellow convertible Chevrolet Impala, a
cherry red 1967 Ford Falcon, and a mid-50s Buick painted a great
black-and-salmon scheme. I inspected a 1969 Ford Thunderbird with suicide
doors, virtually all-original everything, with an owner whose face beamed like
a first-time father when describing the 429-cubic-inch engine under the hood.
If there is anything in the world that I would dearly love to own, it would be
a classic car.
Sometimes I wonder if some portions of the Protestant world haven't adopted a
similar approach to our faith. We seem to crave classic Christianity, going
back to an older model that reflected a time of greater certainty. Maybe we
liked the brand that was more readily and universally accepted in our past,
instead of today's faith that seems to endure unending attacks from
individuals, splinter groups, and even government itself. We absolutely
preferred American Christianity; none of those foreign models for us! In those
days, only missionaries went to those countries whose names we couldn't
pronounce and whose people and cultures seemed so, well, weird. Not us. We
stayed in our home towns and our home churches; it was someone else's job to
reach the world for Christ. And let's not even bring up the differences
between the real church music, those wonderful old hymns, and what we hear in
Here is the question: What were some of the great features about classic
Christianity that perhaps have been cast aside, elements that offered a great
sense of community, belonging, and conviction? What are some aspects of
today's faith and worship that are building churches, reaching people like
never before, and emphasizing the individual responsibility and accountability
of a personal relationship with Jesus? Instead of looking forlornly to the
past, let's instead see our faith as a model that God is changing each year,
smoothing out fenders on some brands, adding much-needed horsepower to others,
installing more effective braking systems to slow us down, or renovating
others to become a convertible, allowing us the opportunity to more fully and
joyfully experience the world that is flying by us.
While the issues and the comparisons between "old school" and "cutting edge"
may seem complex, here is a simple challenge for you and for me. Merely ask
God, "Would you redesign me into a new model, one that you are completely
proud of?" God will decide if your fuzzy dice have to go or stay, if an AM
radio only will suffice or if you require a teeth-rattling, iPod-compatible
sound system. Leave it to the Master to determine if you need Baby Moon
hubcaps or 22-inch spinners. God will pull out the dents, eliminate the rust,
and put you back onto the highway of His choosing as you begin a renewed
journey of faith and service.
Van Richmond is a member of Hermitage Hills Baptist Church in Hermitage, Tenn.