In Medford, Oregon we have an iconic statue positioned on one of the busiest streets in the city. It is not a statue of a war hero or notable historic figure. It is a 29-foot-tall crow-like bird constructed over 50 years ago to draw the attention of passersby to what was then an Army/Navy store. Over the years the Blackbird Shopping Center has expanded to become the equivalent of a guy’s toy store selling everything from hardware, sporting goods, hunting and fishing gear, and many other items. It is my go-to store when I want some solo guy time.
The bird statue gets comically dressed in holiday attire as the seasons change or to advertise a city-wide event. It has become an endearing image to many of us. Years ago, a group of concerned citizens thought the statue detracted from a proper city image and tried to get it removed. The citizenry would have nothing to do with such a request. It now stands as part of city history.
What makes the Black Bird statue stand out is its awkward appearance in a world that thinks a proper and shiny presence is what draws people’s attention. Some business owners spend a great deal of money to hire advertisers to brand their business with yet another overly familiar slick logo that never approaches the visibility that a 29-foot-tall statue of a bird can generate.
The statue reminds me of what an effective ministry looks like. It is positioned along the gritty streets of life where failing marriages need repair or where someone who is crashing emotionally is so broken, that they can no longer hold it together, or where a failed leader finds hope of restoration. When human need and the power of God meet it becomes a beautifully awkward image seen nowhere else on Earth.
The Church does her best work when she offers hope and restoration no matter how messy or challenging the process appears. Some of our best work as followers of Christ happens when we no longer give a hoot about “excellence” or ministry image. Our best work happens when we just want to see people healed and made whole no matter how strange or messy that ministry might appear to those who pass by.