Did you read the story about lightning destroying the six story statue of Jesus and burning it to the ground?
This “King of Kings” statue was built at the Solid Rock Evangelical Church in Monroe, Ohio not too far from the Southwest Ohio town I grew up in. Built in 2004 the statue stood 62 feet tall and was 40 feet wide at its base and I’m sure it made an imposing sight for travelers along I-75 who saw it.
The locals called it Touchdown Jesus because its arms were raised to the heavens–but these are die-hard Cincinnati Bengals fans no matter whether their team is winning or losing.
It is easy to make fun of this plastic Jesus. Our mainline churches often are very judgmental about the lengths the evangelicals will go to draw a crowd. It would also be easy to suggest that the lightning and fire that destroyed this icon was somehow revenge from The One it offended most.
But did this gaudy plastic Jesus really offend the King of Kings?
Just like many Bible verses that catch us by surprise the truth behind the impact of this plastic Jesus is that it drew crowds to the church to see what all this was about, just like Jesus drew crowds of the curious as he preached along his way. And many of them stayed and came back and the congregation grew–maybe not because of Touchdown Jesus out front but from what they experienced once they went inside just like the faithful grew and believed as Jesus preached the Good News and they saw His work around them and felt the Holy Spirit at work in them.
OK, OK—you think I’m taking these parallels a little too far?
St. Timothy’s is building a Bell Tower to stand at our front gate and ring in the Good News each Sunday calling the faithful to worship. Our version of Touchdown Jesus is so-o-o Danville! It will be elegant, refined and suitable to the neighborhood. We will be judicious in ringing that bell for fear of irritating the neighbors. Ours is made of steel so as not to offend the King of Kings lest he strike it with lightning and burn it to the ground.
But if our new Bell Tower brings hundreds of new members to our front door to see what is going on inside we will surely also credit it to the Tower just like Solid Rock Church celebrated Touchdown Jesus.
But the truth is the crowds may be attracted to bright shiny towers or outstretched plastic arms once, but if they come back it is because the Holy Spirit touched them by something we said, or something we enabled them to feel, or gave those newcomers a sense of welcome that made them feel at home.
Jesus embraced all he encountered and wrapped his loving arms around them like the Good Shepherd tending the flock and occasionally he showed off with miracles and stunts like endless wine at Cana to get their attention. So maybe God had a hand in using Touchdown Jesus to get them to believe—and now they do.