We had a very unique gathering yesterday at the fellowship I am part of. We had “church in the round”, so to speak. Everyone who was there was invited to become an active participant in what God was saying and doing rather than just listening to one person speak. This was very exciting for me personally as I have always believed that format should be a significant portion of our fellowship gatherings. Silly me!
One of the references that was brought up repeatedly related to NASCAR racing and drafting in the context of community. The symbolism was not lost on me at all as I have been an avid (rabid?) NASCAR fan for 10 years now. I know many are not familiar with NASCAR racing, however, so I thought I’d try to give some explanation of drafting and how it may pertain to community. As I explain drafting I hope you will see some parallels on how this pertains to the church, different issues we have faced and how we have and can overcome.
In the 80’s NASCAR teams started to make great strides to produce the fastest cars possible because obviously having the fastest car goes a long way to winning races. There were not nearly as many regulations at that time so engineers and engine builders could be truly innovative toward fabricating a powerful engine and a fast race car. And this they did, achieving speeds in the mid to late 80’s of over 212 mph, which was Bill Elliott’s qualifying speed at Talladega in 1987. However, These speeds also produced some of the most horrific crashes the racing world had ever seen. One of the principle problems was that raw speed during qualifying – when a car was on track all by itself – was not a significant problem. Raw speed when there are 50 other cars on the track was a different matter. What the folks throughout NASCAR discovered is that it is hard to maneuver a car at high speed around another car going much slower (not all teams had the resources to produce a 212 mph car). Also, a group of high speed cars running near each other would affect each other and if the handling on one of the cars was off, just the aerodynamic interaction between cars could cause a loss of control resulting in an accident. And by accident I mean cars flying through the air, even into the grandstands! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wySxP-tWZQU
NASCAR’s solution was to install restrictor plates on all the cars. Restrictor plates limit the amount of air intake into the carburetor, thus slowing the cars down. By next year the qualifying speed at Talladega Superspeedway dropped below 200 mph and it remains there to this day.
But now all the competitive advantage many teams had was eliminated, bunching up the cars on the track so that they ran in big packs. No one could get out front and stretch out a lead. Having to look elsewhere for their competitive advantage, teams discovered and perfected the concept of drafting. Drivers learned that if they tucked up behind another car that they would benefit from the negative air pressure the lead car created at its back bumper. But the lead car also benefited because the trailing car would be able to push the lead car, increasing both their speeds. It was a symbiotic relationship – both cars benefited. Even further, any car that linked up behind a pair of drafting cars would be drawn into the draft and be able to run at the same speeds as the lead cars. The results was a pack of 40 cars just a couple feet off each others’ bumpers going close to 200 mph! Truly innovative drivers like Dale Earnhardt figured out the nuances of air low and car reaction in the draft and could almost pass at will, weaving in and out of the pack.
This type of racing, called restrictor plate racing, has been a part of NASCAR since 1987. There have been other rules, car design changes and such that have added nuances to the drafting format which I may discuss at a later time but the original concept still applies: in order for you to be competitive at all you must be able to draft and be a part of the pack.
The church must learn this concept if it is to not only move forward in these times but also to avoid huge wrecks that injure and kill both driver and fan. Here are some truths about drafting that are necessary to understand in order for the church to grow and function properly.
1. Any two cars in draft formation BENEFIT EQUALLY from that relationship. Many think the lead car does all the work and the trailing car gets all the benefit. If that were true, the lead car would be able to go 200+mph all by itself. What the lead car does is invite another car to follow it so that both benefit. Two cars in tandem can go 10-15 mph faster than either car by itself. So it is in the church. If you want to see your life and ministry progress, get behind someone who can lead and you will find that you both benefit. Here’s another aspect of this concept: sometimes a leader doesn’t know they are a leader until someone gets behind them and “pushes”!
2. In a tandem draft, some cars are better at “pulling” (being the lead car) and some are better at “pushing” (being the trailing car). For whatever reason, drivers find out through trial and error when they should lead and when they should follow. From my observation there is really no rhyme or reason to who pairs better with who. A Chevy from Team 1 may pull better paired with a Ford from Team 2 and push better when paired with a Toyota from Team 3. You would think all the cars from the same team would be equally able to work with one another in any type of arrangement but it doesn’t work like that. You may find you “pull” better when ministering with one person but you “push” better with another. And that person may not be a part of your team!
3. Tandem drafting is rare because everyone on the track links to form one huge pack where all the cars benefit. It is a normal occurrence to see 40+ cars in a drafting pack going 200 mph nose to tail. Nerve wracking? You bet, but no driver backs out of the draft over nerves. To do so is to forfeit any chance of winning. Even small underfunded teams are right there in the middle of the pack with the super teams! This is a picture of the universal church. Everyone is connected, maximizing men and machine.
4. You must find your place in the draft! To lose the draft is defeat! You have drafting partners all around you. The key is to align yourself with at least one car you can “pull” or “push”, where the relationship is mutually beneficial. In a typical restrictor plate race much of the first half of the race is all about this one concept: drivers want to find and align themselves with drafting partners so at the end of the race they can link up to form a winning combination.
There are many more details to drafting that will be beneficial for the church to grasp and activate but for now I believe its all about learning the basics of drafting and finding a suitable drafting partner. When you do you’ll find yourself accelerating into your future while bringing a whole lotta people along with you.