Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lessons Tested With Fire

Before the smoke cleared--literally--people were giving their commentary of the "Solid Rock Statue" burning up. Some people were saddened by the event, stating they felt bad for a church that was truly trying to face such a set-back. Others saw it as a humorous story, even seeing it as a confirmation that God is trivial, for why would He burn down a statue of Himself, if He really existed. Conversely, some saw it as a crystal clear indication of God's judgment (yet, they never seem to address why God would allow it to exist for eight years before burning it down).

But many of these comments remind me of Luke 13:1-9, we spend all our time speculating "why" it happened, and entering that debate, we miss the most critical step, asking "what" I should learn from the event. The following is a short list of things I've been processing since the statue burned down:

Theological Practice Matters--It's interesting to me that many people want to question the church's use of money (more on that below), and charge of idolatry (a charge the church denies by saying they truly worship Jesus, not the statue), but do not address a crystal clear issue regarding their theology. This issue is seen in nearly every article that includes a response from Solid Rock. Most of the quotes from Solid Rock come from Reverend Darlene Bishop. Why does this matter? Isn't this simply an issue of preference or interpretation? Consider the following well-written quote from T4G's Affirmations and Denials:

We affirm that the Scripture reveals a pattern of complementary order between men and women, and that this order is itself a testimony to the Gospel, even as it is the gift of our Creator and Redeemer. We also affirm that all Christians are called to service within the body of Christ, and that God has given to both men and women important and strategic roles within the home, the church, and the society. We further affirm that the teaching office of the church is assigned only to those men who are called of God in fulfillment of the biblical teachings and that men are to lead in their homes as husbands and fathers who fear and love God.

We deny that the distinction of roles between men and women revealed in the Bible is evidence of mere cultural conditioning or a manifestation of male oppression or prejudice against women. We also deny that this biblical distinction of roles excludes women from meaningful ministry in Christ’s kingdom. We further deny that any church can confuse these issues
without damaging its witness to the Gospel.
(Article XVI, emphasis added)
I understand that the media will distort and omit quotations regarding the gospel from pastors, so I know it can be hard to assess a witness through the papers, but unfortunately I have not heard a quote from Solid Rock that lays out the gospel. When PETA made an offer to finance the rebuilding, the response was, "We’re not interested. We raise cattle. We never build a statue with stipulations that we would have to advertise for PETA."

Lesson for Me
I'm reminded that it is easy to be complementarian in theology but not practice. As a man, I am tempted to neglect my role of headship and passively take a back seat. Instead, Scripture reminds me that for the sake of the gospel witness (especially to the children in my home), I need to make sure the gospel is kept clear by keeping our roles in proper order.

Preaching is Still Primary In defense of Solid Rock building the statue, many speculated that it was simply their way to be a witness. However, we must remember that no one can be saved without preaching:
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!"--Romans 10:14-15
Simply looking at the statue can leave you with plenty of questions. Why is Jesus in water? Why is the cross smaller than Him? Is this a picture of Him after the crucifixion or before? What of His ascension? Why does this matter? The statue cannot speak. It leaves you with questions that create gaps, that keep you from being able to place faith in Christ. The message must be spoken.

Lesson for Me Nothing can supplant preaching. Remember the great buzz generated by The Passion movie? I heard several preachers suggest that it was going to help usher in revival. I can honestly say I saw no discernible difference in conversions or sanctification after the movie was produced. Why? Because preaching is still essential. Yet, we remain easily tempted into thinking various methods, models and programs will be what God uses to build His church. Often, those programs can be the application of truths presented from the pulpit, but they cannot replace the pulpit. Mark Dever says, "What you win them with, you win them to." We don't want to seek to draw people in with distractions from the Word of God, but with the Word of God itself.
Critiquing Spending Habits is Dangerous Much of the outrage I read regarded the finances necessary for reconstruction. That money could be given to missions! That money could be given to the poor! Of course, if you do not believe it is wise to build the statue, then the cost seems all the more staggering. However, I haven't seen any church or individual step forward and offer themselves for public financial scrutiny.

Lesson for Me Nothing makes you rethink your spending habits like visiting a third world country. To be honest, meeting with these Haitian pastors this week and seeing their great needs does make me question the wisdom of building a giant statue. I also heard a latino pastor rebuke Haitian and Dominican pastors for a history of not reaching other people groups. He laid out the great need of reaching the unreached, again making it hard to imagine using steel, wood and styrofoam to build a statue rather than a church building. However, I miss the point if I don't immediately begin to evaluate my own personal budget and our church's. I am praying that the day comes that over 50% of our family budget and 50% of our church budget could go toward the proclamation of the gospel. Yet, even if that day comes, my could still be subject to scrutiny. While I can encourage others to spend wisely, for the sake of my own soul, I must remember that my spending habits can always be refined.

Ultimately, the statue serves as a reminder that all our lives will face fire.
Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident ; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.--1 Corinthians 3:12-15
And when we face that fire, it will be too late to consider reconstruction.


Eric Smith said...

I found it ironic to hear those mocking state that it was funny to them as to 'why God didn't take out the Hustler billboard across the street instead?' Which reminded me that God did not spare his only Son in the first place so that those deserving punishment could go free.

Other than that, accidents happen - we live in a a fallen world. It should be noted on the financial front that Solid Rock actually has given millions to missions/poor and needy. I'm not justifying their expenditure for a statue - just saying.

Darby Livingston said...

I agree with your points. However, I've been amazed, but not surprised, at the number of giddy and self-righteous comments all over the web since the statue burned. If Christians were half as concerned about the proper use of finances in their own household as they apparently are at the use of this church's finances, then world missions would already be funded until Christ returns. I'm far more saddened by the response from brothers and sisters in Christ than the erecting or burning of the silly statue.