FIRST-PERSON: Pointing upward
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- For half a century, the faithful parishioners of First Church of Christ in Unionville, Ct., had missed their steeple.
First built in 1885, it had loomed above the town's center but suffered deterioration and was torn down. Church members wanted to replace the steeple, but the project was too expensive.
Then came Verizon Wireless. When the company needed to build a cellphone tower in Unionville, locals worried about the landscape. So the phone company rebuilt the steeple out of steel and fiberglass so radio waves could bounce from antennas hidden inside the structure. Some of the church members hesitated, but agreed with the project. "We thought it would be nice to have a steeple again," said one attender. (1)
Centuries ago, it was London's Sir Christopher Wren, an architect, who fine-tuned the image of the steeple. To Wren, a steeple was the finger of God pointing upward.
I love steeples for that reason. In enduring fashion, they point toward the heavens and direct the eye upward to our risen Savior. And that's the wonderful message of the church.
People, trends and methods may come and go, but one thing endures: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is exalted in the heavens, and the earth is His footstool.
In "Explore the Bible," Dr. J. Sidlow Baxter wrote, "Our Lord's message was Himself. He did not come merely to preach a Gospel. He Himself is that Gospel. He did not come merely to give bread; He said, 'I am the bread.' He did not come merely to shed light; He said, 'I am the light.' He did not come merely to show the door; He said, 'I am the door.' He did not come merely to name a shepherd; He said, 'I am the shepherd.' He did not come merely to point the way; He said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life.'"(2)
But today we're facing a danger in the church world and beyond. Between politics, business, sports and entertainment, everything is dominated by a few "stars" who become blockbusters in their own times and legends in their own minds.
There will always be gifted communicators of the Gospel; we thank God for that. Therefore, it's not surprising that certain churches or ministries become well-known because of their pastors, preachers or leaders. But the church is not about celebrities and success.
There are no Christian superstars, and the church is no place for "the cult of the celebrity." It's all about Jesus. Our message points upward, our eyes turn toward the heavens, and we gladly cast our crowns at His feet, knowing that He will not share His glory with another (Isaiah 42:8).
My job as a pastor isn't to solve every problem with an endless series of how-to sermons. Though I want my sermons to be practical and applicable, my primary job is to teach the Bible as it's written and to introduce people to Him. The church is not about our problems, but His power. It's not about our needs, but His grace. The Bible says, "To Him be glory in the church" (Ephesians 3:21).
How to be a human steeple
Let me suggest some practical ways you can be a human steeple, pointing people toward Christ.
-- Pray for your pastor and staff, support them and encourage them. But don't expect them to be perfect.
-- Don't worry about the style of music. It's not prepared, played or sung for you, but for Him. Our job is to focus on the words and sing them with all our heart.
-- Be happy in church. No church is perfect. Every congregation is filled with people of varying levels of maturity, coming from different backgrounds, having different personalities and opinions. As much as possible, be at peace with your fellow believers (Romans 12:18).
-- Finally, find a humble place of service. The best cure for pride is asking God to show you an obscure way to serve Him without notice or fanfare.
The great thing about steeples is that they quietly point upward through every season, directing people to God. A solid church is like that too. We lift our eyes toward the heavens, toward the Lord. May we be steeple-like, always pointing souls upward to our enthroned and exalted Savior.
(1) Christina Woodside, "Those Charming Steeples Aren't So Quaint Anymore," The New York Times, July 29, 2001, Sec.14CN, p. 1.
(2) J. Sidlow Baxter, "Explore the Book,” vol. 5 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1960), p. 308.