It can still have nice comfy seats and music, and be a good place for people to meet. It’ll have the advantage that people always know where it is!
It will have an engine which may seem a bit pointless. The car will rarely need to be filled up with fuel – so rarely that people may argue over whether being filled up is something which only needed to happen once or needs to be done on a regular basis. People probably won’t remember the last time you needed a refill unless you’re running the lights, music and windscreen wipers an awful lot.
Come to think of it, there is probably quite a lot to do to keep a car without wheels ticking over and safe from people who might want to nick your stuff out of it. It could take up all the time we can spare to keep it clean, stocked with biscuits and coffee and attractive to people we’d like to try sitting in it. Funnily enough, despite all the efforts to attract visitors, they seem strangely reluctant to get in, however. Maybe it looks a bit weird to them. Maybe we need to educate people in how it all works.
Most of what a car is only makes sense when we understand its job is to make the wheels turn. Sure, there is a bit extra to keep the occupants safe and comfortable, but you don’t buy a car because you want a place to sit. You get into a car because there is somewhere you need to go. Jesus sent us on mission. We need to get going.
Looking at my own life and our time together in church groups, I wonder how much we really get this, and how much we’re content to idle in the car park with the music on.
We are putting a new programme together for church interns (and we may want to change that name to make it less “internal”) to get us rolling and learn, from the experience of moving on mission with Jesus, what all the vital bits do. I think the experience of ongoing missional practice will change our view of what the vital things actually are. Quality of the seats and stereo looks paramount if the car never moves, but we’ll become more concerned with whether we are being refilled with fuel and water, whether there is rust, dirt or other impurity blocking the smooth movement of the engine, and whether our structure can carry us where we need to go, not just shelter us from occasional rain.
At the risk of pushing this analogy to breaking point, I wonder if we actually think of mission as a car’s wheels – totally essential to what it is? Or do we think it’s more like the satnav – a useful extra which we want to get when we can afford it and have got our plans together? It strikes me that Jesus spent a long time navigating with his disciples, showing them bits of the road ahead but knowing they wouldn’t understand until they got there. On the other hand, every follower of Jesus has to start by following, moving, changing, and the good news is that God makes this possible.