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FIRST-PERSON: Classic cars and Christianity

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 church today.

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.

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