A western North Carolina bi-vocational pastor has spent countless hours crafting a unique, illustrative tool for teaching the Bible. Terry Cheek, pastor of Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Marion, built a scale model of the Old Testament Tabernacle.
“The theology of the Bible is illustrated in the Tabernacle,” he said.
McDowell News photo by Mike Conley
Terry Cheek, seen here with his wife, Lori, uses the Tabernacle model to teach evangelism and discipleship at his church, Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Marion.
The Tabernacle was the mobile center of worship that God instructed Moses to build for the children of Israel. It was considered to be God’s presence among His people. The Israelites used it through their wilderness wandering. It is described in detail in the Book of Exodus and other parts of the Bible.
“Over 40 chapters in the Bible are devoted to it,” said Cheek. “This goes back 3,500 years, approximately. When Moses was on Mount Sinai, he got the image of the Tabernacle.”
“And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them,” reads the Book of Exodus. “According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.”
The Tabernacle was a place where sacrificial offerings were presented to God by the chief priest. In the innermost section was the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was housed.
Exodus 25:22 says, “And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.”
This portable, tent-like structure was transported by the Israelites on their journey through the desert wilderness, and they took it with them when they conquered the promised land of Canaan. Joshua had it placed at Shiloh, where it remained for more than 300 years. The Tabernacle was eventually replaced by King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem as the dwelling-place of God.
This model of the Tabernacle began 10 years ago as a result of Cheek’s studies at Covington Bible College in Chattanooga, Tenn.
“When I was in seminary, I had to have a subject for a doctoral dissertation,” he said.
Cheek began to think about the Tabernacle and how it shows the typology of Christ. He thought this would make a great subject for his dissertation and a model of the Tabernacle would help him illustrate its important lessons.
He began researching the Tabernacle, learning what it looked like based on the Bible’s descriptions. At the same time, he wrote his doctoral dissertation, which ended up having more than 57,200 words.
“I was doing this simultaneously,” he said. “I got an A for all of that.”
Cheek graduated from the seminary in 2008. The model sat around for a few years.
“Recently I was thinking, what would make a good teaching tool for discipleship in the church?” said Cheek. “Lori mentioned the tabernacle. I thought about how the three points of salvation, sanctification and service would make a good springboard for an illustrated model for discipleship and the Great Commission in the local church.
“My wife and I got out the model, made it presentable and after working on the message, we decided to present it to the church.”
Lori made cloth covers for the model. Cheek said Lori has contributed a lot to this project and helps him transport it. It is 54 inches long and 34 inches wide.
He also has some acacia wood, which is repeatedly mentioned in the Book of Exodus when describing the construction of the Tabernacle. In the King James Version, it is called shittim wood. His sample of this wood comes from the Sinai area, where the Tabernacle was built 3,500 years ago.
Through this model, Cheek is able to not only talk about what the Tabernacle meant to the Israelites, but also how it is symbolic of what Jesus did for us through His life and sacrifice. It is extremely useful for children’s sermons, Bible studies, revivals and Vacation Bible School lessons.
“There’s nothing allegorical about it,” he said. “It’s all very sincere. I find it very helpful.”
For example, the Tabernacle had only one entrance, which was a narrow gate. For Cheek, this helps him illustrate an important lesson about coming to God.
“When you come through that gate, you know that Jesus is that straight and narrow gate,” he said.
“I feel the Old Testament typology of Christ doesn’t receive the attention today that it got a generation ago. It’s so rich with the theology of scripture. There is so much the local church can learn from it today.”
Cheek said the Tabernacle illustrates salvation through the animal sacrifice and how it relates to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ. The furnishings and the layout of the Tabernacle are pictures of sanctification and the priesthood.
“Then in the book of Hebrews, we understand that now we are the priesthood of Christ. This relates to our testimony, the Great Commission and the call of discipleship.”
In June, Cheek presented his model of the Tabernacle to the congregation at Calvary Missionary Baptist Church for the first time and preached on its meaning. The Sunday morning message is available on his website, theinspiringword.org.
“I am really excited to see the response,” he said.
He also showed his model on Christian TV station WGGS in Greenville, S.C.
He and Lori appeared on Niteline, a primetime variety program that features gospel music, biblical teaching, practical helps for Christians and prayer and counseling by trained phone workers, according to the station’s website.
Cheek said the station heard about him and his model and wanted to put it on the evening show. That opened other doors, including a presentation at Washington Baptist Church in Greer, S.C.
“It is amazing what God’s Word has revealed through this study,” said Cheek. “Lori and I now see God using the Tabernacle model as a ministry of discipleship to the local church and evangelism to the community through the local church.”
Cheek has served for 12 years as an electronics technician for N.C.’s Marion Correctional Institution.
Contact him at [email protected] or call (828) 460-6120. His website is theinspiringword.org.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Conley is a staff writer for McDowell News, where this story originally appeared. K. Allan Blume, Biblical Recorder editor, contributed to this story.)