Monday, August 4, 2014

THE Mission Street Church

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to speak at a church in the Chicago metro area (Christ Church, Oakbrook, Ill.).  We live about 1 hour north of LAX (Los Angeles Metropolitan International Airport), but driving in traffic, and during rush hour, can be challenging, so I took a taxi cab to the airport.  Also, I love counting the number of limousines that are driving from the Bel Air foothills into the city.  As always, I was fully amazed at the deep and unrivaled life-wisdom of taxi cab drivers.  My driver on this occasion was no exception.  This was his wisdom chestnut:

Southern California is the only freeway system in the world that prefixes all of it's freeways and highways with the word - "The".  For example, if someone gives you directions from one place to the other in Southern California they might say; "You take 'The 101' to 'The 210' to 'The 405' to 'The 110'.  I realized what my cab driver was saying was, in fact, very true.  For example, when I lived in Salt Lake City growing up we didn't say, take 'The I-80' - we just said, take 'I-80'.  When I lived in Minnesota to go to college, we didn't say take 'The 35' we would just say, 'drive on I-35W'.  Then I asked my sagacious cab driver why it was that Southern Californians put a "The" in front of their freeway systems, and he had an equally sagacious answer.  "It's because freeways, highways, interstate roads are the center of our entire lives down here.  These are the oldest freeways in the country (The Old Pasadena Highway still exists and was the first ever built).  Freeways are the centerpiece, the emblem, the talisman of our entire livelihood."  Honestly, I hadn't heard the word talisman since my days at college.  I asked him where he got his education, he said, "Law degree from UCLA".   "Ugh," I thought to myself, law degrees are now a prerequisite for driving cabs….

After I began to think about it, I thought about the fact that it isn't just freeway systems in Southern California that give the "THE" prefix to important cultural icons.  Every city does this with the main symbol of that community.  In New York City, for example, you have not just, "Empire State Building" but "The Empire State Building".  In San Francisco you have not just "Golden Gate Bridge" but "The Golden Gate Bridge".  In Ann Arbor Michigan where UMICH plays football in one of the largest stadiums in the United States you have not just "Big House" but "The Big House."  And so on and so on.  In fact, if you are trying to learn a new culture, somewhere in the world, find that thing that they put the word "The" in front of and chances are it is it's…talisman!?!? (main thing).

Unfortunately I did not have this deep nugget of wisdom when I was thinking about the name for our new church - Mission Street Church (by the way, check out our new logo at the top of the page).  And now, having thought about it, and applying the wisdom of my tax cab driver friend, we should probably make sure to put a "The" in front of the name - THE Mission Street Church.  When naming the church I did, however, have an intuitive sense that we needed to name our church after something geographic and cultural that took a central space and place in the minds and the hearts of the people who live here.  Rick Warren had that idea when he called his church - Saddleback Church, based on the mountain range that flanked his church campus.  Mission Street, as I have said before, was the original name of the El Camino Real, now "The 101".  Missions, at one time ran all the way up and down the coast of California, built in the 1600's by Spanish missionaries who were sent by the Catholic church in Spain to bring Christianity to the native Indians of the coast of California.  On Oct. 26 we will launch - THE Mission Street Church - at the Edwards Movie Theater on - THE 101.

I suppose we could have called our church "The 101 Church" but that name was already taken by another church in town.  My taxi cab drivers well esteemed point seems to have been equally well proved...

All For Now,

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