After the ICOC Fire: Let's Make New Mistakes

Wednesday, 11 July 2007 19:00

Seventh in a series reflecting on the firestorm that occurred in our family of churches and told as a parable of the Great Chicago Fire and lessons from Scripture. To read the entire series of articles, see After the Fire.


Let's Make New Mistakes

After the ICOC Fire Chicago expo Manufactures bldg color 1893

This print features the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building at the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893. George B. Post served as architect for this building, which at 787 x 1,687 feet was the largest enclosed building ever constructed.

Chicago must have been an interesting place after the great fire of 1871. Surely some people decried the evils of building a city in the first place. Many probably scurried off to the countryside declaring large cities not to be God's will. Others chose what they considered safer cities.

But several amazing things happened in Chicago. Instead of shrinking from the carnage, the ravaged city decided to rebuild with more costly, fireproof materials. As the visionaries drew plans, architects and builders flooded to the city that now posed as a clean canvas. The devastation provided opportunity for those who learned from it. They rolled up their sleeves and began to build. As a result of the courage and foresight of these pioneers, many consider Chicago the birthplace of the modern skyscraper.
By 1892-93, a mere two decades after the fire, Chicago hosted the World's Columbian Exhibition in honor of Columbus' Discovery of the Americas. This means the entire city had not only been rebuilt, but it was selected to host the world celebration featuring architecture from around the globe and "the largest enclosed building ever constructed." (See illustration above.)
What God has given us is far more precious than a beautiful skyline or a temporary World's Fair. God views all disciples as his eternal "household built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." -- Ephesians 2:20-22 (NIV)
"You realize, don't you, that you are the temple of God, and God himself is present in you? No one will get by with vandalizing God's temple, you can be sure of that. God's temple is sacred, and you, remember, are the temple." -- 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (Message)

God works through his Spirit in men and women to build his church, a living temple not made by hands.  My personal opinion is that in most cases our fellowship of churches has been purified by the fire.  Most of the wood, hay and straw has been burned.  Some of the gold, silver and precious stones were tarnished in the process and need polishing.  What is left is a group of churches who dearly love God and are wondering, "When are we going to start again to change the world for God?"  What I hear from many of our members is that they are ready to build again with the newfound lessons we have learned. 

While it is improving daily, still too many leaders are more fearful than faithful.  Some have given up on building anything great out of fear that another disaster will happen.  The truth is that disasters have always happened throughout history and they will continue to happen as long as we live in this fallen world.  The grace is that God will use our meager efforts and even our mistakes to accomplish his will if we let him.  Isn't that the story of the Bible?

It is true that some churches have thrown out the baby with the bath water, renouncing basic truths that helped them become Christians and regretting their sacrifices for God.  But they are a very small minority. 

It is also true that what we need now is to see churches of disciples cleaning out the deadwood of the fire and seeing the opportunity of God using us to build our part of his kingdom in our city with purified hearts, motives and methods. Denouncing the wrong way to build is not a substitute for building correctly. 

Just an observation here.  Many who didn't like the way our churches were structured have felt empowered to try their hand at building their way.  We cannot blame the past forever.  There is one truth every adult has to come to grips with:  sooner or later I am responsible for reaping what I have sown.  In the past few years, one of the tendencies that has been very strong among us is to build independently of one another in overreaction to being too dependent on each other and receiving too much direction.  Surely the best way is a combination of outside input and local leadership responsibility. Isn't that what makes a mature, secure person and a mature, secure church?

We have certainly made plenty of mistakes.  Let's learn from the past, but let's not make the biggest mistake of all – just treading water for God. 

After the ICOC Fire chicago new 2What if the Chicago people had been content to maintain a monument to the Great Fire? 

Our new motto can be "Let's make new mistakes."  The truth is that we are mere humans.  But the grace is that God works through humble men and women who are in motion.  "Each one should be careful how he builds," assumes we are building.  (1 Corinthians 3:10) 

I am sure that after the Chicago disaster, it took many people time to see the good in fire again.  One good winter probably convinced them. But others rolled up their sleeves and built human structures that still cause us to marvel.  By the power and grace of God, we can do better than that to honor Him.

Grace and truth,
Roger Lamb
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To read the entire series of articles, see After the Fire

Read 5712 times Last modified on Wednesday, 26 March 2014 14:46