The excitement over this spectacular project hit a fever pitch in July of 2007, when ground was broken and the massive foundation was being dug. The foundation extends more than eighty feet deep into the ground, the sort of undertaking required to support such an enormous tower. More than two years ago the excavators started removing dirt by the truckload, leaving a spectacularly huge hole in the ground to make way for a ginormous concrete pour.
Today, two and a half years later, there's nothing at the site but a spectacularly huge hole in the ground. Oh, and a small fence to keep people from falling in.
What happened? From the start this project had problems securing funding, and really never should have begun. They never even got to the point of hiring contractors for anything other than the foundation - nobody who could handle something of this scope was willing to commit to such an unfunded and poorly-conceived project. But they pressed ahead and started the foundation work, dug a big hole, poured some concrete, and just figured they'd raise the rest of the money as they went. That didn't work so well, and the site's been dormant since May of 2008. Then that little housing/economic/credit crisis hit, and suddenly lending $2.4 billion to build mega-expensive high rise condos in a city that's already oversaturated with crazy-expensive high rise condos seems like an even worse idea. So the project is now essentially dead, and everyone who's done any work for it is suing to get whatever they can from the funds previously raised.
I worked at several sites nearby, close enough to see the Spire site from higher floors. When riding the lifts up the side of the building, it's fairly common for someone to point out the big hole in the ground with a sarcastic quip about how great and wonderful the Spire is, and how it's blessed everyone who's associated with it. At other sites around the city, it's become a laughingstock, a sort of mutual joke that no matter how bad things are at this site, at least we're not working the Spire. The project was poorly conceived and started without adequate preparations, and now it's become a source of derision and mockery, and a disaster for everyone who bought into it.
I couldn't help but think of the Spire this morning as I read this in Luke 14: For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
The Spire project began foolishly, and the cost so far has been tens of millions of dollars wasted, countless hours of time wasted, and a big, mockable hole in the ground. Those who pressed on with this short-sighted silliness are ridiculed, and rightly so. But the disaster they've left in their wake is infinitesimal compared to the disaster Jesus warns about - people who make a start of following him, then quit.
One of the worst products of the American church has been an easy-believism which fails to take the demands of Jesus in the gospel seriously. Jesus condemns this unserious view of his call to discipleship, and declares those who make a profession of faith but don't follow through to be a disaster worthy of mockery. Yet so much of popular American evangelicalism seems geared towards producing and encouraging such spurious confessions. Our evangelism produces 'decisions' which affect no change in the person; we proudly proclaim that "five hundred people received Christ!" at an event, yet a month later only a handful are anywhere near a gathering of God's people. We speak of people who "are Christians but not living anything like it", and encourage people that their salvation is secure based on what they said at one time in the distant past, even as their years of subsequent living deny Christ with every word and deed. (Obviously I hold to the fully-biblical doctrine of eternal security, but utterly denounce the bastardized version of it which removes from it any notion of sanctification or perseverance.) Those who began without counting the cost and turned back are encouraged as if they are going to heaven rather than called to repentance and real, persevering, disciple-making faith.
I'll close by asking you to compare the message of the easy-believe church with the demands Jesus places on all who would follow him. This is not for a super-special level of disciple beyond the regular believers; this is the bare-level commitment of all who would be saved. Here's what Jesus had to say:
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.