Roy Exum: Chattanooga’s Three New Crosses

Sunday, August 11, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

As three gigantic crosses – symbols of Christianity – now loom large over The Crossing Church on Standifer Gap Road and fulfill what has been a 10-year dream for the followers of the former East Ridge Church of God, I don’t believe it is anybody’s business to tell pastor Terry Harris or his ruling elders how to worship their God.

Rev. Harris said in a WRCB television interview, “It's certainly not about nothing to do with drawing attention to us. We really want it to be to lift Him up," says Rev. Harris. “(We feel) this is an investment in the Kingdom of God for people that will drive these roads for who knows how many years to come and see this and be reminded that there was a man named Jesus, Who died for their sins so they could have hope."

The cost of the project, that features one cross 125 feet high and two others that are 100 feet high on either side, has been reported to be $700,000. Over 3,500 hours were required to craft the steel and 230 cubic yards of concrete anchor the crosses, which church officials believe will be viewed by 75,000 vehicles traveling on I-75 and Highway 153.

The project has been criticized by some, pointing out the money could have funded many philanthropic projects but Rev. Harris has an easy answer. “Anybody can sit in the back seat and tell the guy trying to drive the vehicle how to do it. It's easy to do,”  he calmly told reporters, “Probably, they don't know us. They don't know that we, every week, are involved with helping people to the tune, every year, of hundreds of thousands of dollars."

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There are other churches that have fallen prey to “second guessing” lately. Just days ago a tentative deal was reached in Atlanta when Mayor Kasim Reed announced a $19.5 million deal to buy the historic Friendship Baptist Church in order to put together a land parcel large enough to build a new billion-dollar stadium for the city’s Atlanta Falcons.

Friendship Baptist was the first black church ever built in Atlanta. Some decry the move, saying Atlanta puts football over God, but Friendship Baptist’s congregation has approved the sale, and will, in turn, build a new church that will better meet its needs. But the church’s history must never be forgotten.

Just months after the Civil War ended, a discarded railroad box car was found in Chattanooga and, after being taken to Atlanta, became the first meeting house for Friendship Baptist in 1866. Pastors and others even taught school in the old box car during the week – worshipping on Sunday – during the first years before a beautiful church was built on Mitchell Street and has served many generations in the Atlanta community.

* * *

In Texas mega-pastor Bishop I.V. Hilliard of the New Light Christian Church has really stirred up the air by asking his followers to fund new rotor blades for his ministry’s helicopter. "Our Aviation Department has an opportunity that will save the ministry well over $50K if we will move on it right away,” the Bishop wrote in an email.

“My Aviation Manager stated that while repairing our helicopter they discovered that if we upgrade our blades today, it will save thousands in the days to come," he explained. “As I pondered and looked at the situation, I heard that still small voice of the Holy Spirit say 'tell your special partners who have special transportation needs' and their obedience will release favor for their needs and desires. I got excited and set down to write you!" Bishop Hilliard continued.

"I believe with all my heart this message is for you and your doing something today is the key to releasing this favor on your transportation situation! Send me the transportation need or dream you have by completing the online petition -- when you sow a $52.00 transportation favor seed believing in 52 days or 52 weeks you will experience breakthrough favor!"

As you might suspect, the idea was not well received by some and the Bishop defended his request for new blades with a verse from Luke 6:38 in his Amplified Bible: “Give, and [gifts] will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will they pour into [the pouch formed by] the bosom [of your robe and used as a bag]. For with the measure you deal out [with the measure you use when you confer benefits on others], it will be measured back to you," he wrote.

* * *

Dr. Mark Barclay, a televangelist from Midland, Mich., who touts himself as the “Preacher of Righteousness,” is also asking his supporters for airplane help. He has mailed letters seeking $79,000 to repaint a Citation III 650 luxury jet he bought last year. It seems the paint is chipping.

Dr. Barclay claims the aircraft is “the Lord’s jet” and cited the Bible’s book of Matthew, chapter 6 verses 19-21: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Dr. Barclay wrote, "We are faced with one of two decisions. We can spot-paint the aircraft (which is about one-third the cost of painting the entire aircraft), but we would need to continue to do that on an ongoing basis. Or we can paint the entire aircraft which costs about $79,000.”

The Michigan preacher urged his flock to "Please pray about any part God would have you do, for actually the airplane does belong to Him and not me and is used for His ministry and not personal use. There are reasons why ministries like mine MUST have an aircraft. I believe it is important for me to explain that the aircraft is far from a luxury item for me. Honestly, if there were any other way to fulfill my assignment, I would choose it!" he wrote.

"If 80 people, ministries, or companies sow $1000, it will be taken care of. Some are not capable of doing that, I understand, but many can do much more. As we are led by the Spirit, I believe we will take care of this," he noted.

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