This is the Blog Debut of my new car - Lucy True Bug. She's a Volkswagen Convertible Bug, born in Germany in 2009.
I literally drove her off the show room floor at Dover Volkswagen / Subaru last Thursday. Isn't she a beauty?
Her color is "white gold" with black interior and, as you can see, she has red seats and a red 'rag top' with a red cover for her top.
She also came with a 'windshield' - that black mesh thingy you see in the back seat. It helps to keep things like groceries safe in the back seat while you drive with the top down. It also helps to keep your hair in place - a very important feature for some people.
My other Bug was most assuredly not a "clunker". Indeed, I got $300 less than Blue Book value for her. She only had 64,242 miles and was in great shape for a five year old car.
I just have a really wonderful car salesman - "The Honorable Cecil Lake" - who has become a friend over the past four years. I bought my last bug from him.
Every time I brought my car in for servicing, Cecil was always there. He would come upstairs to the waiting room. He'd buy me a cup of coffee. We'd talk about his family - his wife and two beautiful kids. How life in general was going. How our favorite sports teams were doing. What was going on in the world of politics.
He demonstrated, over and over again, that he was interested in me, even when he wasn't trying to make a sale.
I was not intending to make this purchase. Cecil called me early last week to say that he had a young woman, a sophomore in college, who really, really wanted a used car to take back to school. And, she wanted a VW convertible bug.
"How can I make this work for you both?" he asked.
We talked. We crunched numbers. He was willing to make less of a commission in order to make the deal work for us both.
He not only made two sales, but now he has two loyal customers who wouldn't think of buying a car from anyone else. And, we'll tell our friends.
So, today I officially begin my vacation. A few problems with the air conditioning system at Llangollen, our wee cottage on Rehoboth Bay, is preventing me from heading down there today, but as soon as everything is fixed, Lucy True Bug and I will make our way to our little piece of Paradise.
She comes with a satellite radio with a free subscription for six months, so I'm just figuring my way around those channels. I can also now plug my iPod right into the jack on the console, so no more fooling around with the radio dial as the frequency changes as I drive.
She also comes with a five year warranty, roadside assistance, and the first three service visits (at 10, 20 and 30,000 miles) are free. And, and and 0% interest for a 36 month loan. 5.7% for a longer term loan.
Were I an 'official' resident of Delaware, I would have saved a whole whack of money on sales tax, registration and insurance. Alas, life in the Northeast Corridor has its serious drawbacks, the traffic on the Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway notwithstanding.
There's a lesson or two to be learned from my man, Cecil - yes, a car salesmsan. About relationships. About trust. About negotiating. About keeping the ultimate goal in mind. And, for Cecil, that ultimate goal is not necessarily 'making the sale' or 'closing the deal'.
The 'bottom line' doesn't even have a dollar sign.
Ultimately, for Cecil, it's all about 'customer satisfaction.'
A car is a car. A VW is a particular brand of a car and a convertible bug is a specific brand of that brand for which there is a particular consumer base.
You can make the connections between a car, or any other commodity and evangelism in the church.
The point is that I think I - we all - have some things to learn from Cecil about keeping the ultimate goal - the mission - in mind.
Go ahead. Wrinkle your noses at the term 'customer satisfaction'. Just consider for a moment what it is that keeps you going to church - or, for some of you, keeps you away from church.
You'll need to do a little secular to religious language translation before you get to my point.
Brand = the uniqueness and particularities of the church's manifestation as a Body of Christ which is part of the whole.
Market share = the particular 'audience' of your congregation.
Communication = liturgy and music
Public relations = pastoral care, Christian formation, Outreach, etc.
Marketing = evangelism (newsletters, web page, church signs, 'face time').
Customer satisfaction = deepening our faith in God and Christ Jesus and the ways in which that faith, that spirituality, is expressed.
No, I'm not advocating for a 'consumer based' church. Yes, I think we can get carried away with the application of the secular to the spiritual. I recoil from the 'hard sell, glitsy expressions of religion every bit as much as you do.
St. Paul reminds us that the church is in the world but not of the world. Too often we forget that if the church is in the world, some of the world is going to be in the church. Not everything in the world is bad.
What I'm saying is that we can do what we can do to keep the bad stuff of the world out of the church.
What I'm saying is that we can work harder to bring some of the good stuff of the world into the church.
What I am saying is that we can learn a thing or two from - yes, even a car salesmen like - Cecil, who has obviously brought the best of what he's learned in church into the work he does in the world.
There, I think I've said it all. Perhaps I've said to much.
This is me in the spotlight, practicing my religion. AND most assuredly getting ready to go on vacation.
Just me and Lucy True Bug. Together forever.
Or, at least, until Cecil offers me another sweet deal I can't refuse.
P.S. I am deeply indebted to two of my parishioners, John Bennett (a retired executive for Master Card/ Visa) and Vern Oakley (President of TRIBE Productions, an independent film production company) for teaching me how to translate from the secular to the religious. Hey, can't blame a girl for giving a little free air time to two of my own.)