He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15 NIV
It is known as the Great Commission but many of us see it as the great intimidation. How can we talk to people we know, let alone strangers, about what it means to walk with Jesus?
He frequently used analogies and similes as well as parables to help others understand what He was saying. “The kingdom Heaven is like…” appears eleven times in the Book of Matthew alone.
What does it mean to be “saved” or “born again”? Those terms are difficult for non-believers to understand are often uncomfortable for believers to use when trying to help non-believers. They represent a comprehensive remaking of who we are: the way we think, the way we feel and the way we appear. It is an inside-out renovation. Christians have experienced it and explaining it to those who are unfamiliar with what it is can best be done – maybe only be done – by living it.
When engaging people who are unfamiliar with or are turned off by the concept of being “saved”, there are other, more contemporary ways of explaining the concept. One that I have found to be useful, especially for men who are high achievers, is using the concept of overhauling. See if this works for your outreach and use the questions below to help stimulate the conversation.
Fine-Tune or Redefine?
One of the first questions I ask CEOs, business owners and other clients when invited in to help their companies improve their bottom lines is, “Do you want to modify what you’re already doing or do you need to make major changes?” Before I can help them, I need to know if it is time to fine-tune their familiar ways of doing business or if it is time for them to redefine their business model.
They may not know the answer to that question at first if they just want a quick fix to a complex problem. When major changes are needed to upgrade their products or services. Personnel changes may be required or new products and processes will need to be developed. Businesses sometimes have to change their names, their mission statements and their purpose.
Other times, an adjustment in their process, messaging or employee development is all that is needed. It is like putting a fresh coat of paint on an otherwise satisfactory vehicle.
In our spiritual walk, we need to fine-tune ourselves regularly. Like changing the oil in our cars, continuous, ongoing maintenance will help us better “run the race” as Paul said. Neglecting the essential upkeep of the engine in a car will cause hidden, internal damage that may not be noticed until it is too late, and an expensive engine rebuild or a replacement is the only alternative.
Likewise, keeping the car clean can extend its life. Salt and dirt from the road can cause rust that eats away parts of the body. Besides being obvious to everyone, the damage cannot be rebuilt or repaired, it must be replaced.
Ongoing spiritual maintenance involves spending time in the Word, in prayer and with other believers.
For those who have not had their initial overhaul, what we refer to as “being saved”, “converted” or “accepting Jesus”, a redefinition of their lives is needed. Their purpose for living the life they are created to live can be overhauled. The way they engage with others and their reasons for interacting with them will change. As leaders, employees, spouses, parents and friends, they will find a renewed spirit in all they do.
My parents told me that when I was young – as in very young, before going to kindergarten, I would stand on the front seat of the car (those were the days!) and announce the make of each oncoming vehicle: “That’s a Ford; that’s a Hudson.”
If there is a strand in our DNA that relates to automobiles, it is pronounced in mine. If there is a car gene, mine is dominant.
The earliest recollection of my love affair with the automobile was when a member of our family parked his 1948 Ford in our driveway. It was a one-car driveway and we did not have a car, so he nudged that beautiful machine into the vacant space in front of our 800-square-foot home.
The equivalence of dying and going to heaven happened almost immediately when he asked this bug-eyed boy if I would like to sit behind the wheel. I still remember the smell of the mohair, the flashy medallion in the center of the huge steering wheel and the array of gauges on the dashboard. With his permission, I held the wheel and pressed the horn ring and heard a sound that probably disturbed dogs in the next county.
The sight, touch, smell and sound tickled four of my five senses. I was hooked; hopelessly and happily hooked.
The passion continues today in the form of the reality shows that walk us through the restoration or customization of otherwise ordinary or seemingly useless cars.
In the 1950s, my family acquired a 1951 Henry J (look it up on the internet) from some folks who felt sorry for us or who were glad to be rid of the thing. That particular model was notorious for having brakes that would choose random dates to fail. The car had damage on all four sides because we would use the money from the insurance company to pay for vacations and groceries. I learned a little about body repair in junior high school and more about engine repair in high school by making the thing functional. Not beautiful, of course, but functional.
The car left the factory painted a burgundy color. It evolved into a two-tone burgundy and rust. My mother, ever the problem-solver, used a paintbrush and some turquoise paint to transform the rusted, dented machine into a presentable means of transportation – or so she thought. Near the end of her painting, she ran out of paint and went to the hardware store for another can. The paint in the second can was not exactly the same as the first so the back half of the car and the touch-up places on fenders and doors once again made it a two-tone vehicle.
My senior year in high school I was given primary use of this chariot which by then had been painted shoe polish white by a semiprofessional person. The body damage and the makeshift repairs kept it from being the chick magnet teenage boys desire.
Enter the Reality Programs
There are numerous reality programs now that show us the transformations of otherwise nondescript or trashed automobiles. I like all of them. In one hour, some show the work that took months to complete. They chronicle the unexpected damage that was uncovered, the difficulty in finding or recreating missing parts and the different desired outcomes the owners want to see.
Some people want the car restored to its original specifications so it would be a “100-point” restoration and win ribbons at car shows. Others want an outlandish, fully customized machine. These two types of owners will use their cars sparingly and consign them to car shows and museums. Others want “daily drivers” – those are my kind of folks – the owners who appear on Overhaulin’ starring Chip Foose.
I’ve never met him, but he seems like the kind of person I’d like to know. On the show, he never loses his temper or uses offensive language. He patiently listens to what the owners would like to have happen and he has an enviable ability to draw in advance how the finished project will look.
This is where the parallels between Chip and the salvation process begin: the ability to see the potential end from the beginning. Where we see a rusted hulk of an automobile with damaged and missing parts, he sees the beauty and performance of a completed transformation. The car may have been trashed from neglect or abuse; it does not matter to him. He does not look at what it is; he sees what it could be.
Who do you know that is just like you? They have the same DNA, fingerprints and good looks. Nobody, right? Could it be, then, that each of us was created for a specific, unique purpose. Achieving that purpose requires that we walk out the path of the Creator.
The format of the show is often that the car in question is secretly or through some ruse taken into custody by the Overhaulin’ team. Someone in the owner’s family or circle of friends, known as the Insider, has made the arrangements for the crew to accept the project and grab the car.
They have one week to work their magic, and, in most programs, the viewers wonder if they will make it on time. Only hours before the reveal, the car may not have a hood or may not be in running condition. But it is always perfect by the time the owner sees it. Timing is important in restorations: automobiles and people.
How do the owners react when they see the finished work? Smiles. Hugs. Backflips. Tears. Shouts. All accompanied by a sense of “can this be real?”
The process Chip Foose and his team use to make these radical, rapid transformations, closely resembles what salvation or born-again does for the abused, misused, worn out, unattractive and dysfunctional “vehicles” like you and me. Here is how his process compares to what the OVERHAULER wants to do with the people you encounter.
Step One: Assessment. Chip studies the car. At first glance he probably knows more about it than the owner does based on his knowledge and experience, but he still takes time to examine it closely. In his mind he may be thinking, “That’s the 1978 GT model that came with a 350 engine with a four-barrel carburetor and has a history of rusting in the rear wheel wells.” He inventories everything that is wrong, what can be salvaged and what cannot. He decides what needs to be removed, what can be kept with some changes and what is fine just as it is. The OVERHAULER knows us better than we know ourselves. After all, He created us to be what we were at birth, what we could be today as well as what He has in store for us in the future.
- What have you thought God had in store for you in the past?
- How did your understanding of that change? (Did you outgrow it? Did you learn it was not what you imagined it to be?)
- What do you think He might have in store for you next?
Step Two: Objective. The Insider sits with Chip as he asks questions about what the owner would like to have happen with the car. Restoration or customization? What color? What special details? High performance or comfortable ride? Chip takes notes. Not once has an Insider ever answered, “Oh, whatever you want for us is just fine.” The OVERHAULER is asking us what we want. He expects us to be specific since He promised to give us the desires of our hearts. What we long to be, even those far-out and unspoken dreams can become a reality in His hands.
- If God asked you today to specifically ask for anything you want in your life, how would you answer?
- Is there anything in your response that might be contrary to His will for you?
Step Three: The Design. With his remarkable skill, pens and markers, Chip creates a work of art showing how the completed project will look. The Insider and the viewers are wowed. But this is only a two-dimensional look. In his mind, Chip sees much, much more; too much for the average person to understand. The OVERHAULER sees what we could be; not what we are and reveals it to us only as we are able to understand it. He sees “more than we can imagine”, and He patiently works to show us His design.
- Imagine there is a portrait of you in heaven. How would it differ from how you see yourself right now?
Step Four: Disassembly. The car is then completely dismantled. Every piece is removed and examined. If it can be reused, it will be. If it needs to be repaired or reshaped, it will be. If it needs to be replaced, it will be. As the pieces are removed, hidden flaws in the car are revealed. More work will be needed to complete the project than it seemed at first. No problem. The final disassembly is called media blasting. Sand is one of the abrasives that might be used, and walnut shells can be effective as well. Media blasting removes all the paint and any other coatings that might be on the body or frame. The cleanly blasted vehicle is returned to the Overhaulin’ team where even more flaws are revealed. Think of paint as our façade, a covering we use when we expose ourselves to the outside world. Without it, there is no way to hide our innermost weaknesses. The OVERHAULER knows our innermost flaws, of course, and removing the unneeded, unworking and incorrect parts can be a painful beginning of our renovation. Once our façade has been stripped away, we fear that others will see who we really are since the deeper, hidden flaws will be exposed. However, like the wine at the wedding in Cana, the new version will be better; it will be the best.
- What flaws has God removed from you in the past? What was the process He used?
- What are the other flaws you would like to see Him remove?
Step Five: Rebuilding. The new version of the old vehicle is created. Deliberately, patiently and painstakingly, it begins to take on its new appearance and functionality from the inside out. First, the frame or foundation is treated to ensure it will support the new version. The systems like brakes, suspension, steering and cooling are then fine-tuned to optimize what the car can do. Only then the new body, interior, the new paint – the things others see – are added, creating an obviously new appearance. Sometimes overlooked is the license plate that is added to bumper once the overhaul is complete. In large letters is the word, “Foose”. When Chip is satisfied with the completed product, he is proud to put his name on it and let others know this one was the result of his work. The OVERHAULER taught that if we have seen Him, we have seen the Father and that others would see Him through us. At that point, He is proud to have His name associated with us.
- What has God rebuilt in you already?
- By what name do you think He calls you?
Step Six: The Reveal. Overhaulin’ ends with a fast reveal. The owner’s eyes are covered or closed as they are led into the garage and then told to open their eyes. In a flash, there it is. The reactions can be shouts, tears, backflips and hugs. The owner marvels at what the old clunker has become. Difficult to comprehend at first, the shiny and beautiful façade represents a complete renewing of the car from the inside out. Patiently, Chip explains some of the changes that have been made, especially the ones that are not obvious. Of all the people in the room, the one who is the most appreciative is Chip Foose himself. There is quiet joy and satisfaction that by his guidance, this once ugly and dysfunctional machine has become a thing of beauty and power. The OVERHAULER delights in the results. The new person is better than before, better than anyone could have imagined and better equipped for a new purpose.
- Can you recall a time when someone commented on the change in you?
- What are three adjectives you would like to be able to use when describing the new you?
For us, once overhauled, the person in the mirror is more attractive than ever, not only for how we look but for what radiates out of us. The superficial blemishes of bias, judgment, selfishness and other flaws are gone. And so are the deep-seated areas of our lives that have created the flaws and eaten away at our core being. Joy is the best description of what we feel; excitement and anticipation follow closely behind.
Chip Foose runs a business that transforms beasts into beauties. But not all of the beasts come from the show’s approach of going out and finding people with clunkers. Most of his business is the result of people who have finally seen how ugly their situation really is and have acknowledged and accepted their inability to restore it, let alone make it better – beautiful even.
So, who are you? Are you waiting for an someone like the Insider to prompt the Lord to restore you? Mothers pray for their children – could they be an insider?
Or, are you one of those who is tired of the ugliness, malfunctions and unreliability of your life? You realize that you do not have the ability or the resources to make you what you know you could be. There is Someone who can make you more than you can imagine yourself to be.
Were you overhauled before and now find yourself faded, dented and rusting again? Perhaps it is time for your next overhauling.
Back on the road again, the same potholes, detours and obstacles will remain in your path. No doubt you will need a fine-tuning later on. The zeal you felt may wane and delays may discourage you. The OVERHAULER is still in business. He may seek you out again. But experience being the teacher that it is, it is more likely that He will expect you to ASK (Ask, Seek, Knock) for the overhaul.
If it’s time for a spiritual overhaul, there is someone who can do a better job than you can imagine.
Maybe we would understand evangelism better if Jesus had said, “Go into all the world and overhaul the clunkers.”