I couldn’t say no, though I did try at least four times. But our host was insistent I was going to get behind the wheel of his $90,000 Tesla Model S car, and hit the streets of Palo Alto in Silicon Valley. As I slipped into the leather seats and powered up the system, its vast touch screen display showed me maps with traffic updates, a rear view camera and more information about the torque, weight distribution and a whole host of updates I didn’t know even existed.
Pressing the ignition button, and pulling away in silence was a disconcerting experience, as was the fact the acceleration was perfectly smooth and seemingly unending. I ran out of road before I ran out of the opportunity to accelerate. Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 by a group of engineers who wanted to prove that electric cars could be better than gasoline-powered cars.They are huge in California and what they produced in people was something powerful I wished I could bottle. At the very least I can pass on here what I learned in what I would like to call the Tesla Test, with four quick questions for the Church.
1. Is there a refusal to accept the status quo?
You can’t help but admire Tesla’s vision. In a nation dominated by gas guzzlers (two of the cars I travelled in during my brief visit to California had 5.4 litre engines), Tesla decided to launch the world’s first electric sports car: the Tesla Roadster. In an electric vehicle market dominated by affordable commuter models, Tesla aimed at the high end luxury car market. Elon Musk, the company’s bold CEO, explained that he was competing with “150 years and trillions of dollars spent on gasoline cars.” For most of us, that level of challenge to the status quo and that number of hurdles to cross would have quickly sunk us and our enthusiasm. But for Musk the challenge seemed to energise him.
I would love to see this never-say-die spirit in our churches. A go-get-it attitude that does not settle for accepted norms, but aims to change the culture. We have been given a picture of the future of humanity in the Bible, the coming Kingdom of God, which should propel us forwards with even greater confidence than Musk could ever muster. It is not too late for a disruptive innovation in the way that the Church relates to our culture, or the way the gospel is communicated. It’s time for some kingdom dreamers to start making dreams a reality.