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Your Good News: Buggy whips or Steering wheels?

Posted by Arlen Vernava on January 17, 2012

I drive a car with 225,000 miles under the hood and Mazda’s bones are feeling achy.  Here’s my conundrum.  Mazda:  faithful, dependable, (hasn’t missed a day since we met in 1997 except for regular maintenance), economical, safe and in it’s younger days, energetically fun.  Sadly, Mazda has less and less “get up and go,” blah curb appeal, noisy, and likes to drive in it’s own ruts (so to speak).  New tires, windshield wipers and a tune up?  Necessary, but they do not make for a 21st century Mazda.  My biggest fear?  One morning Mazda will start, then stop for the last time and I’ll have no sensible transportation plan.  What to do?  What to do?!  

If you are a leader in a congregation or organization with 225,000 miles on her, you have exclaimed:  What to do?  What to do?!  Memories, experiences, relationships.  Success, defeat, ecstatic joy, knee buckling sorrow.  You have been around the block with people and a “product” that matters to you.  New copy machine, steam-cleaned carpets and a revamped training program?  Necessary, but regular maintenance may not make for a vitally relevant “now.” And though “decline” often measures in decades, not years (for long established congregations and organizations), that day will arrive.  What to do?!  Consider...

horse and buggy

An early 20th century leather goods company made one product: buggy whips.  When automobiles arrived they (mostly) set aside buggy whips to make seat and steering wheel covers.

John Wyclif made the first English translation of the entire Bible between 1380 and 1397.  He translated it from the Latin.  William Tyndale made the first English translation (of the entire Bible) from Hebrew and Greek between 1526 and 1535.  The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (from Hebrew and Greek), translated by Eugene Peterson in 2002 represents an early 21st century offering, and certainly not the last.  

 The take-a-way?

Don’t confuse how you offer your product with the good news you announce.  A few folk, like the Amish, use buggy whips, the rest of us drive holding onto steering wheels.  I keep the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible and Peterson’s The Message both close by, but have The Jewish Annotated New Testament on order. Congregations and organizations, at their best, straddle the space between the way it’s been and the way it is becoming.

If all this seems simple and obvious, it is.  All the same, I invite you take a survey of your congregation or organization.  Who do you wish to reach, serve, nurture, teach and equip with your good news?  What are your preferences and bias?  Are your means congruent or in conflict with your aim?  Keep attentive to cultural and technical seismic shifts, then choose your vehicle wisely! 


-Arlen G. Vernava

arlen vernava, design group international 


Topics: business, faith-based community