Why Do Church Signs Bother Me?

For the record, Rachel Held Evans beat me to the punch on my previous post: http://rachelheldevans.com/15-reasons-i-returned-church. I guess that is why she is a Kingmaker in the blogosphere, and I’m just a Court Jester.

Nevertheless…

I was riding down the road the other day and noticed one of those oh-so-popular church signs that congregations love to post by the roadside. It said, “GPS – God’s Positioning System.” The acronym was familiar. It matched. All the words fit.

But then I thought about it. And I had to ask: What does it MEAN?

Maybe it’s a sermon series. Maybe it’s saying that the church is where you have to go to find God’s direction. Maybe they just couldn’t think of anything else, so they picked some words that matched a popular acronym. My money is on the latter.

I regularly get emails or facebook messages proclaiming the humor of these “catchy” church signs. I’m not a big fan of these, I must admit. I find them a bit cheesy and corny, and I’m not sure that many un-churched people get them or even care about them.

-“ASAP: Always Say A Prayer”

-“God Answers Knee-Mail”

-“Friend Jesus by Using Faith-book—The Bible”

Okay, those are fairly harmless. I admit that I give the “eyeroll” when I see those, and suspect that non-believers do the same. (You know, that cynical side comes out at times). But still, they are harmless.

Or perhaps even helpful. Followers of Christ who do not suffer from the disease of cynicism might glean some encouragement and a laugh or two from these.
But there are some that could be much more damaging, insulting, and even infuriating. They make me mad, so who knows how un-churched people might react?

One in particular caused the hair on my neck to stand up:

-“I don’t want you to go to (insert church name here) Church today. Signed, Satan.”

Perhaps this is a cynical edge once again, but perhaps not. If the sign said “church” instead of a specific church, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But the billboard implies that only those who are influenced by Satan would choose not to go to that specific church.

-“Fire Insurance: Coverage for Eternity. Details Inside.”

-“Eternity: Smoking or Non-smoking?”

-“Hell Is Always Un-cool.”

What is the point of this? Do churches really think that the threat of hell is the best way to gain the interest of those who do not believe? What if they don’t even believe in Hell, much less Jesus Christ as Lord?

The church sign is often the first thing that people notice about a church. “Cute” and “catchy” probably won’t draw in new members, but at least it won’t run them off. Hitting people with the threat of hell runs that risk.

I’m a believer and I wouldn’t go into the shadow of a church with one of these signs.

Here’s the thing about church signs: Other CHRISTIANS like them, but they don’t offer much of a message to those that don’t know Christ or didn’t grow up in church. And there’s the problem. The most public display of the church is geared towards “church” people. What does that say about us?  Maybe that we are a little self-absorbed?

Far too often, the people of Christ consider what WE like, what WE think, what WE find interesting. Maybe it’s time to turn that around and think first about how non-believers perceive us.

It may not help to fill the pews, but it certainly couldn’t hurt. And we might end up sending a more Christ-centered message in the process.

Certainly, no church intends to scare off un-churched people with a church sign, but we sometimes throw words out there without considering how they will be perceived.  And if the perception is created, then it really doesn’t matter if it matches the original intent.

Perhaps we need to think about those perceptions BEFORE we post something on a sign.

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