Yesterday I wrote about how if we are not careful faithfulness can become an idol. Low and behold I go to The Cincinnati Enquirer website this morning to get my local news fix and I see “First Glimpse: Hug Me Jesus” which is part of the ongoing saga of the ginormous statue of Jesus built by Solid Rock Church of Monroe, OH.
If you are not familiar with this saga let me sum it up for you. Solid Rock sits right off of I-75. They became famous because in 2005 they built a 62ft. high statue of Jesus with his arms stretched out, appearing to rise up baptism-style out of a pond. I’m sure they meant it as a testimony to the glory of God, and to be a witness to the world around them. However a funny thing has happened concerning the witness.
People haven’t taken the statue very seriously. Basically it became the state’s biggest eyesore as the local community complained about it, and people gave it nicknames like “Touchdown Jesus” and “Big Butter Jesus.” People would stop on the highway and take pictures ridiculing it. Comedian Heywood Banks even wrote a parody song. Just Google one of the nicknames mentioned in my previous sentence and chuckle at the array of images that come up.
Then another chapter was added when in 2010 during a storm lightning struck the statue and burned it to the ground. Was it a freak accident, sign of God’s displeasure, or attack of Satan? That answer obviously depends on who you ask. But Solid Rock will not be deterred. They are now full steam ahead with building “Hug Me Jesus,” which will rise 52 feet off the highway.
I won’t cast dispersions on the good people of Solid Rock Church. I have actually visited there and know some of the members. As far as I can tell they are fine people and doing the best they can to serve Jesus. I do think in their hearts they believe they are representing the Christian faith with the rebuilding of this statue. What I will say to the good people of Solid Rock is to consider the following story.
When I was pastoring the church I led from 2000-07 (River of Life) was very missional. What I mean by this term is we worked overtime to balance the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel. This led to a congregation that formed where 70% of the people were unchurched before becoming a part of our membership.
I remember one young lady, Mary (not her real name) and I were talking after service one Sunday. At the time she was living with her boyfriend and was just in the beginning stages of trying to figure out what it means to be a follower of Christ. Both her and her boyfriend experienced a spiritual renewal at our church, resulting in baptisms, marriage, and becoming mature followers of the Lord.
She talked about one particular church she visited that left a bad taste in her mouth. She went to a Christmas production and the church had a massive display of poinsettias. Because she was a florist she knew just how much such a display cost. She said she couldn’t even focus on the performance because all she could think about was how much money the church wasted on flowers, and it left her a bit disillusioned.
I can’t tell you how many of those types of stories I heard as we led people to the Lord. People who ended up with us really were trying to find Christ before we arrived on the scene, but things that churches were doing as a “witness” actually were a stumbling block to them. Unintentionally their efforts just delayed the whole salvation process.
I proceed cautiously in condemning any church, as I try my best to follow Philippians 1:18 which states “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” I just ask that we think deeply about how we chose to demonstrate the gospel.
My appeal to the body of Christ is simple. Before deciding on the types of things we spend money on to be a witness, perhaps we should check in with those we are trying to reach.