If we were to mention mission and Aston Martin in the same sentence, you might wonder if we had started to think more James Bond than John Newton. Yet CMS pioneer and petrolhead Adam Gompertz explains how he discovered that God could use his passion for classic cars in his mission call.
Have both cars and God always played an important part in your life?
Yes they have – although often I have thought that there would be a conflict between the two.
I have always loved cars since I was a little lad, especially Aston Martins. It was a small black and white photograph of a 1977 V8 Vantage that ignited that passion, which only got stronger after a ride in a V8 from a family friend. For me it’s been about their design, the craftsmanship involved and their history and heritage.
Prior to going to theological college I worked in car design – so training for ordination was quite a change! Sometimes it is difficult reconciling the love of cars with God without letting them be an idol. It has taken my whole lifetime to come round to see the passion itself might have been God-given and something to be used in being part of building his kingdom.
When you went to theological college and began training for ordination, was pioneering something that you thought would be part of your call?
I never thought I would be pioneer material – I think I had an idea in my head that I would prefer the traditional vicar’s role. It was not until I was at theological college that I began to get a sense that pioneer mission work was what God was calling me to.
Certainly before college I thought pioneer work was for other people, not me. But through reading and studying, and having my eyes opened as to how God might want to use my passion for cars, I started to think that maybe pioneer work was something to consider. I remember confiding in my tutor about feeling grief at having left car design to come to theological college, and her telling me, “God does not do waste”.
I am now seeing that realised through the various areas of ministry I’m involved in under the name “REVS” – events, a Sunday gathering, art and reflections on social media, all themed around classic cars.
What is special about being a pioneer?
I love the creativity that being a pioneer allows to do things differently, to think outside of the box: things like running a classic car breakfast club.
As a designer you have to be creative, and that is also part of being a pioneer. I love the idea of brainstorming what I can do to enter the context of the classic car scene – of thinking outside the box. The very fact that a bloke with a clergy collar is at big classic car shows is a surprise enough for some people.
And how did being part of pioneer mission leadership training at CMS help you to take the next step in that mission call?
I had heard about the CMS pioneer course when I started my curacy, but it was only in the last 18 months that I had explored joining it. I think I was still trying to get my head around the idea of being a pioneer – I am not young or dynamic, and whoever heard of classic car based ministry?
That was exactly why I needed to come and study here – to have my eyes opened, to hear others saying similar things I was saying about the future of the church, to develop my learning, to dream and to be inspired by all kinds of projects that are taking place. Having been here a year, I am more convinced than ever that REVS is part of my calling to full time ministry, and that classic car lovers need to know that God loves them.
When I came here I found a home – people who understood me, who were asking the same questions about how to reach people in different contexts. I love the fact that CMS is a safe place to ask challenging questions, and a place to dream – that is the other thing I love about being here.
So do cars and mission go together?
I think cars and mission can fit very well. I am often challenged by how we need to reframe the message of the gospel, without changing that message. So much of church language and culture is foreign to people outside its walls, so we need to explore different ways of telling the story of Jesus.
Car-related themes of restoration, design and creation can all help to do that. The theme of restoration works brilliantly, as I get to hear some stories of people whose lives have been damaged.
I think it is so important, though, to love these people without the “Christian agenda” – to not see them as targets for evangelism, but as people made and loved by God and as people we are called to love, as God loves them.
You have brought together various strands of the ministry you are involved in under the banner of REVS – can you tell us a bit more about what that involves and your dreams for it?
REVS started as an annual car show held at the church where I was curate, as a way of engaging with people in the area who loved cars but had no church background or compulsion to go to church. It was a way of relationship-building, and it grew each year we ran it.
Our last annual show was called REVS 2018: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made – and it was an opportunity to explore what it means for us, as humanity, to be made in that way, as well as the cars that people brought.
But once a year is not sustainable when you are talking about building relationships, so we started a once-a-month “cars and coffee” event at a local cafe here in Shropshire. We call this the Sunday Service Station – with the idea that, just as a service station is a stop on a journey, so we are a stop on the journey of life. A place to grab food, a place for community to happen and a place where we offer a listening ear and even prayer. We don’t preach at people – we simply listen and care, and if they just want to talk about their car, then we can do that too.
REVS also has a growing social media profile, especially through “Doodle a Day” – a daily post of some car artwork with an accompanying reflection. Aimed at people of all faiths and none, I describe it like Radio 4’s Thought for the Day but with added petrol! It seems to reach people who I never thought would be interested, and we are exploring currently the possibility of publishing a book of doodles and reflections.
I think the future of REVS is about small groups, about setting up similar service stations across a wider area. We are already talking about a second one further down in Lichfield Diocese.
I would love to buy an old garage to turn into a cafe and workshop – a place where car culture and Jesus culture can mix through things like movie nights, art exhibitions and a small group venue. We could host different car clubs, we could support people as they learn how to restore an old car, especially those who might not have had the best start in life. REVS is about restoration – God’s restoration of people. That would really have to be God’s will, as we have no money, and currently no expertise in such a project!
And how has your love for and involvement with Aston Martin developed alongside that?
I have always loved Aston Martins, always loved drawing them. I have just become their official artist in residence, which will mean being at various events, motorsport meetings and model launches to capture something of the company and where it’s heading in the future.
I have been showcasing some of the art I produce on social media, and it caught the eye of the CEO, Dr Andy Palmer. I also started sending him the Doodle a Day posts. He invited me to their factory in Warwickshire to have a sketching day, and from there I was asked to consider being their artist in residence. After a chat with my bishop, it did not take me very long to say yes.
REVS Art had spent a very good weekend away with Aston Martin at the Goodwood Festival of Speed earlier in July, where highlights included sketching the new DBS Superleggera, a ride up the hill in the wonderful DB11 AMR and the chance to meet many people who simply loved the brand and their cars. I will be joining them at some major events coming up in the near future.
You’ve mentioned that REVS is very much still developing – and it seems to be a distinctive of people innovating in mission that they experiment and try something new to see if it works. What would you say to someone who is struggling to see how their passion could be part of God’s mission?
Pray, and don’t ignore the passion you have. Take time to explore how you could possibly use it for being a part of building God’s kingdom. It doesn’t matter how crazy it might be; pray and think. Look and see if others are doing anything similar, and join in. Be brave and take a risk. Some people will not understand, others will get it straight away. Get a group of people to support you as you explore the idea further, think about speaking to people here at CMS, and know that God does not do waste!
The Call in Action: EXPLORE
If you feel as if you might have a dream that doesn’t quite fit in the box, or want to explore pioneer training with Church Mission Society, go to pioneer.churchmissionsociety.org