April 2020

Good morning,

Set within the Black Hills of South Dakota on Mount Rushmore is one of America's most celebrated construction projects—the massive granite carvings depicting four of America's greatest presidents; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

And sitting right there with them is a perfect analogy of the local church.

First, the entrepreneur: Doane Robinson was a historian by trade, but a promoter at heart. His dream was to use the natural wonders of South Dakota as an artistic canvas to excite the imaginations of Americans.

Robinson hoped to use the Needles, a 14-mile stretch of massive granite spikes, as a rocky canvas to carve the likenesses of famous leaders who helped shape the nation's westward expansion—Lewis and Clark, Lakota (Sioux) chief Red Cloud, Buffalo Bill Cody and others.

Second, the consulting expert: To construct such a monument, Robinson recruited famed sculptor Gutzon Borglum to survey the Needles for a feasibility study. Upon seeing the twisted pillars, Borglum rejected the idea almost immediately. The eroded granite towers were of poor quality and too thin to support the proposed sculptures.

Add to that, the Lakota nation was not thrilled about defacing part of their historic sacred lands.

Third, the re-imagination: As their caravan was about to leave the area, Borglum spotted a large wall of granite on the southeast side of Mount Rushmore. Seizing the opportunity, he surveyed the mountain, drilled for test samples, mapped out the region and proposed an idea to both local authorities and the Lakota people.

Finally, after much debate, all parties agreed … with one sticky issue—whose image would adorn the mountain?

Ultimately, they decided to create a legacy to the greatness of America, choosing the likenesses of four presidents who best represented the nation's birth, expansion, development and preservation.

Fourth, the heavy lifting: The work began in 1927, and continued for the next 14 years during national depression, outbreak of war, labor shortage, failed equipment and unbearable weather. Borglum recruited 400+ workers to excavate, drill, bulldoze and dynamite over 450,000 tons of rock off the mountain.

Fifth, the gifted artisan: Carving faces in stone is a unique specialty. Therefore, a master carver was required to bring the stone faces to life. That man was Luigi del Bianco, a highly respected craftsman who had the uncanny ability to etch emotion and personality into his rock carvings. Though he was paid $1.50 per hour, his skillset was priceless. He understood the language of the designer and captured it in stone.

Sixth, the unfinished work: In 1941, federal funding—which totaled less than one million dollars—ended and the magnificent carvings on Mount Rushmore ceased. Originally, each president's likeness was to be from the waist up. However, the lack of funds made the monument the largest unfinished art piece in American history.

Seventh, the good news: Mount Rushmore became an instant tourist destination, and continues to attract millions of visitors every year.

Now, the analogy:

The local church

  • …is God's largest and most visible landmark on planet earth.
  • …exists to make known the image of Jesus Christ, the head of the church.
  • …works to resolve conflicted ideas regarding policy and practice.
  • …requires money to fund the work, though there‚Äôs rarely enough of it.
  • …endures through unfavorable conditions.
  • …encounters rock-hard opposition but remains undaunted in its task.
  • …has gifted leaders who recruit faithful workers for the ministry.
  • …employs a visionary pastor who understands the language of the Designer.
  • …reflects the heart, personality and beauty of the Savior.
  • …is an unfinished work.
  • …continues to draw millions to worship every week.

Mount Rushmore will someday pass away, but the fruit of the local church is eternal.

When our Savior returns, or when He calls us home, the image will finally be complete—His and ours. For "when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is."

What a sight that will be!



Ron Walters
Salem Media Group

© Copyright 2020 by Ron Walters

Ron Walters