Parker Dane used a great illustration yesterday in speaking on the church yesterday – the Eiffel Tower. The World’s Fair was coming to Paris in 1889 so the city commission Alexander Gustave Eiffel to build a temporary ‘monument’ to serve as the entrance to the Fair.
From the beginning, the monument had its critics. The art culture of Paris hated it. Many civic leaders called it a pox on the beautiful city. The city of Paris was petitioned to block the building of the tower.
The truth of the matter was that commission didn’t really have any other options. So to save face they only promised Eiffel 1.5 million francs to build it. Eiffel had estimated it would cost 6.5 million francs. The Commission never imagined that Eiffel would put up his own money to build the monument. To further protect his investment, Eiffel asked for a 20 year contract to recoup his investment from entrance fees.
Over 120 years later, the Tower is THE landmark of Paris. It is the most visited monument in the world boasting over 250 million visitors.
And it still has its critics as well. Most Parisians tolerate the structure seeing as a tourist trap distracting from the true beauty of Paris.
The parallels to the Church are eerie. The builder of the Church put up His own currency as well – His blood. The Church is THE landmark of Christ, standing in history as the most influential ‘organization’ ever. Of course that influence is marred with both moments of brilliance and grace as well as seasons of darkness and hate. She has her champions but also her critics.
There are those who will never accept or enjoy the Eiffel Tower. It was too hideous of a mark on Paris. There are those who feel the same way about the Church.
And let’s face it – some of the hatred is well deserved. From the grand failure of The Crusades and Inquisition to the small places of local congregations that still haven’t figured out Jesus’ words in John 13:35.
It’s hard for me to look at the Eiffel Tower as anything but magnificent. It’s been on my bucket list since a child. I can’t imagine anyone wanting that structure gone, removed. It is a stunning, amazing structure – as far as I can tell.
I feel the same way about the Church. It’s a stunning, amazing organism. The difference is I still believe that after having spent the larger portion of my life on staff at churches and working in para-church organizations. Shocking, I know.
I’ve seen and experienced the pettiness of jealousy and rumor. I’ve sat across the table from people who’ve questioned my love of Jesus and the very salvation of my soul. I’ve been called horrible, despicable things to my face and behind my back. I’ve been misjudged, misquoted, misrepresented and misunderstood. I’ve been disrespected and disregarded. I bear the scars of the imperfect Church. I’m no longer surprised at the stupidity or the senselessness of the behavior of some of those who claim to be followers of Jesus.
But I also see that glorious, invisible, body of Christ that responds to their leader Jesus by pushing back the darkness with light and love – His light and love. The Church that is in Pakistan and Iran and China. That stands in the gap in orphanages and brothels and trash dumps around the globe. The church that helps people heal their marriages and homes, helps them find their purpose in life. That brings God’s story to middle schools and high schools and college campuses. That invades the darkest of places with light and hope. That brings a prodigal home, that changes lives and histories.
You can’t miss that Church either.
I’m reminded of another illustration. I was in 6th grade band when my poor band teacher attempted the impossible – teaching us Mozart. In a word, it was a train wreck. I remember thinking – I don’t get how this guy’s music has lasted all these years. It’s terrible.
Then I got to high school and my girlfriend had season tickets to the Denver Symphony. Guess what was playing? Mozart. I was stunned. What we did to his music in middle school – there should be laws.
Then in November of 2004, Amy and I get to spend a weekend in Prague. We go to the Opera House and the Prague Symphony was playing that night. Guess what they were playing?? Mozart. Best ever.
Point? When the Church is obeying Jesus, it’s trying to play Mozart. It isn’t easy. And sometimes it sounds like a 6th grade band. Horrendous. But every member of the Denver and Prague Symphonies played in middle school band at some point. They were terrible at some point doing criminal things to Mozart’s music. But they eventually got it right. And when they got it right, there was nothing else like it in the world.
Here’s to getting it right.