The interwebs and local media were abuzz today concerning the Jesus statue in front of the Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio (while the official name of the statue is "King of Kings," most locals refer to it as either "Touchdown Jesus" or "Butter Jesus"). A violent storm ripped through the area last night and lightening struck the statue. Apparently the material of the statue wasn't fireproof and the lightening strike ignited it. It burned to the ground. Whenever discussing anything Jesus related, there's bound to be controversy. The statue itself, considered by most to be an eyesore since its construction in 2004, has been the subject of scorn, so its burning was greeted with gladness by many.
Personally (shocker), the statue was not my taste. But I can understand why a church like Solid Rock wanted a large Jesus monument along the highway: they're the kind of congregation that believes such bold statements define faithfulness to God; locals will remember that, long before the Jesus statue, Solid Rock was best known for their extremely bright digital highway sign. There are numerous churches that subscribe to what I call a "flaunt-your-faith" attitude (if you've ever seen some churches in the south that erect huge crosses, you understand what I mean). What I'm saying is this: while I could never comprehend being part of a church who would construct such a statue, I understand the thinking that leads them to building it.
This brings me to has really been bothering me today. My Facebook monitoring has revealed a ton of cynicism by Christian folk who believe this lightning strike was just desserts: essentially, lightening striking the statue, while not necessarily being the judgement of God, was saving us from having to observe this visual vomit. More than this gratification its demise has brought us, we justify this disgust is as follows: Solid Rock Church wasted thousands of dollars on this statue, money that could have been better used by feeding the poor or ministering to the neglected.* While I do agree with this view, we must make sure that there aren't any two-by-four's obscuring our vision.
Ask yourself this: what is your church spending large amounts of money on that could be better spent either on the poor or ministry? Does your congregation own thousands of dollars of technical equipment (intelligent lights, high-defintion projectors/cameras)? Does your church offer free coffee to thousands of people every week? Does you fellowship finance huge children's programs that come with a huge price tag? If so, your church really isn't different than what Solid Rock is doing.
Ouch, eh? But it's the truth.
The Scriptures offer churches latitude in how we should accomplish our mission and, over thousands of years, people continue to view this differently. We spend our funds in ways that help us to fulfill the Great Commission Jesus issued in Matthew 28. Some churches invest in property and buildings, others invest in staff, still others invest in outreach. Churches tend to justify these lavish expenses with the idea that there is no cost too great to win a lost soul for Jesus. But if we are willing to adopt this posture for our own church, then we ought not be too judgmental on how others seek to accomplish this goal.
Even though I thought the Jesus statue was ugly, I have actually met people who decided to attend Solid Rock because of it. Like it or not, it accomplished its purpose, as does top-notch technology, rocking kids' programs, or free coffee.
This is the burden of church leadership, especially in a small church like Echo. I'm continually concerned that we're being good stewards with the tithes of our congregation. It makes me paranoid. I believe that one of the reasons that our congregation has been effective is that we continue to be frugal with our resources (example: we continue to rent our facility which enables us to give almost 20% of our offering to missions). All church leaders need to struggle with this: are we investing kingdom funds into areas that truly need it, or are we using them to perform services that expand our own kingdoms.
So when you decide to look down your nose and scoff at the bizarre burning Jesus on Interstate 75, ask yourself whether or not there's a similar statue in your church parking lot.
And since I've already gone there, why not get really introspective: are there any Butter Jesus' in your personal life?
*Does that mentality remind you of something biblical, say this?