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The Little Engine that Couldn’t

Those who know me know that I should not be making any analogies based on cars or how they operate, but this is basic enough that even I can boldly make this assertion.

In my vast research *clearing throat*, I have found that a vehicle needs four basic parts in order to fulfill its intended purpose of motion:

  • the car (including tires, lights, brakes, etc.),
  • an engine,
  • fuel,
  • and a driver.

Told you it was basic. Anyway, in this analogy I want to submit that

  • Car=structure or organization
  • Engine=the vision
  • Fuel=the right person or people
  • Driver=God

We know a car without an engine is not good for anything (except maybe a redneck lawn decoration). It may make Bubba down the street jealous, but you ain’t going nowhere. And obviously an engine by itself has little use or value outside on its own.

You have to have the right engine.

I’m pretty sure if I took the engine from a giant Dodge pickup and tried to put it into a Prius, I would have a hard time making a go of it.

The same is true for a vision (even one imparted by God). Without the proper structure in place, you won’t be able to fulfill it no matter how hard you work. This is true personally and corporately.

If you have a vision bigger than your current structure, either the vision will ultimately change to accommodate the structure or the structure will change in service to the vision. They have to be matched or it all eventually grinds to a halt.

It’s a sad thing to see tremendous vision in a place without the structure to carry it fully out; likewise, it’s disappointing when a beautiful organization becomes the goal and the vision to love and reach is miniscule.

But that’s not all! You need fuel. I say the “right person or right people” for a reason. If you have a vision for helping kids, stopping sex trafficking, or anything like that, I’m the right person. Sign me up! If your vision includes doing taxes for people who can’t afford help, I’m sorry–I will be fairly useless.

That would be like putting rocket fuel in Moped (or vice versa).

God uses our passions, desires, resources, and abilities to further a vision within the right structure (again personally or corporately in a church community). Without people connected to fuel what’s happening, the vision and structure become essentially meaningless.

Even then, when you have vision, structure, and people in place, you need a driver. You’re not the driver. Pastor’s not the driver. Eldership or deacons aren’t the driver. In order for movement that creates eternal impact, God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–has to be the only driver.

The plans and acts of man can appear to do much, but it’s nothing compared to when God directs and steps on the gas. You’ll see unexpected things, places, and people. God’s full of surprises.

So is it about structure? Yes. Is it about vision? Yes. Is about people? Yes. Can one area compensate for prolonged lack in another area? I don’t think so.

The good news, however, is we know a God who loves His people and willingly directs them according to His design. He loves this world more than we could ever know, and He wants you to succeed.

We just get to trust Him.

How about you? What are your thoughts on this?


  1. I really love your analogy here, Jason. It’s perfect for us to understand all the facets that need to be in place before God can actually “drive” us to fulfill His purpose.

    • And He certainly wants to fulfill that purpose! Thanks so much, Martha.

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