The month of January has been really exciting here at the corner of Second and Poplar. The really big equipment came rolling in and the steeple on the new sanctuary was put together piece by piece and set amongst the skyline of Downtown Memphis. I have found my self particularly excited by this feat of architectural, engineering, and construction efforts. I also was surprised by the overwhelming sense of joy I have felt seeing the steeple installed. So, I’ve decided to reflect here about why I have been so excited about this steeple.
1. It’s really cool to watch! Nothing brings our my inner kid more than big machinery picking up heavy objects and placing them in high places. I have honestly not gotten a whole lot done in the office this week. I have chosen to offer my “Pastoral Supervision” to the steeple project outside much of the week. I’m sure the people with Chris Woods Construction were really happy about that.
2. It is a unique architectural mark of churches. The city scape of Downtown Memphis is full of so many beautiful and grandiose architectural buildings and structures. In fact directly after the steeple was placed, I rode the elevator to the top of the Pyramid to see how it looks in the midst of downtown. It is unmistakable now that in the middle of all the buildings at the corner of Second and Poplar that a community of people are worshiping and serving our Creator and Lord! I pray it will become a unique beacon drawing people to come and join us as we fulfill our calling as disciples of Jesus.
3. It reminds us the cross is to be lifted high. As you stand on the sidewalk in front and look up to the steeple, all the lines and angles guide your eyes upward to the cross and then towards the heavens. We should be reminded that our calling is the same as that of the steeple. In a simple way this tells the simple message of the gospel. We all stand together beneath the cross that was lifted high holding our savior as He died for our sins. Because of the victory of His resurrection, we have access to the dwelling place of our Father in the heavens. Like the cross on the steeple, our lives and faith should guide people’s vision beyond the ordinary, upwards to the cross, and then to the dwelling place of God.
4. It shows we are committed to ministry in Downtown Memphis. God is blessing us with something that is extremely unique for a downtown church in any city. There just aren’t many new steeples being erected in the skyline of any downtown city anymore. As we build this sanctuary and people see this steeple from the Memphis bridge, I hope they see clearly we believe in what God is doing in Downtown Memphis and we are committed to serving Him here for many more generations to come.
5. It reminds us that God is a God of Resurrection. The life of a church and the lives of individuals are such that there are many times where circumstances bring us to points where it seems defeat is imminent. It would have been easy for the people of First Church to feel defeated on October 6th, 2006 when the old steeple fell in the fire. I expect many outsiders were confident that would be the death knell of this historic church. It has taken many years but we are now beginning to see the visible fruits of a resurrection of ministry and mission at First Church. I truly believe there is no more strategic location in the city of Memphis for a dynamic future of mission and ministry.
While it is exciting to see God is guiding us through this process of rebuilding the Sanctuary, I am confident that the future of ministry at First Church depends on what happens once we open. Will we sit back and hope this new sanctuary draws in people to worship with us or will we take this opportunity to reach out to our neighbors, our co-workers, and anyone God has connected us with to invite them to come and become a part of our community? Will we be willing to let go of some of our preferences of “how we do things” to make our community more inviting and relevant to a new generation of people seeking a worshiping community? Will we be more excited about what God is doing and will do at First Church than what He has done over all these years? One thing I am confident of is that if we continue to be faithful to the leading of God, the future of First Church is full of hope and promise.
Grace and Peace,
Andy, Senior Pastor