Churches have various furnishings throughout their buildings including anything from visual symbols of faith to everyday furniture. Many Baptist churches, for instance, have a pulpit and a baptistery to represent the word of God and the grace of God. They also have Sunday School rooms with simple tables and chairs for common practical use. We have each of these at First Baptist Church of Murfreesboro, and they are all important.
But when I consider my favorite furnishings at our church, my list quickly narrows to two.
There is a wooden cross that hangs in our sanctuary. Placed in 2013, it serves to center our sacred space around the crucified One. While the cross is symmetrical in design and well-centered on the front wall, it’s not fancy. Its plainness is fitting since Christ’s death was nothing pretty. The cross signals that divine strength is revealed in apparent weakness, and divine wisdom is revealed in apparent foolishness. It’s a visual reminder that when it looks like suffering and injustice are winning the day, God is at work redeeming the world.
My other favorite furnishing is a bike rack. I know it sounds unremarkable. Bike racks carry no intrinsic spiritual meaning, nor do they bear much aesthetic value. But this particular bike rack says a lot about our Lord and our congregation.
A few years ago, our church began to host “Coldest Nights,” an emergency shelter for homeless men. Early on, as church members carried food down the stairs to the room where the men ate and slept, they noticed that bicycles were crowding the stairwell. The homeless men in town often ride bicycles because they cannot afford cars, and since they found no safe place to put them outside, they were bringing them inside for the night.
There was legitimate concern on the part of our church members that the bicycles were obstructing the stairs and causing a fire hazard. Yet, instead of causing a stink, or starting a campaign to end the ministry, or posting a sign that says “No Bicycles Allowed,” they got out their toolboxes. One weekend, several of them came to the church and installed a bike rack on the side of the church beside the entrance to the Coldest Nights ministry.
It’s nothing pretty there on the side of the building. But it’s well-used. And it speaks volumes. The bike rack says, “Welcome, homeless neighbors. We want you here. We want you and your belongings to be safe here.”
I think the man who died on the cross would love the bike rack that’s attached to the side of the building. He didn’t seem to be too big on fancy furnishings, but he did say, “I was a stranger, and you invited me in.”
Pastor Noel Schoonmaker
First Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, TN