Thursday, June 26, 2008

If You Guilt Them, They Will Come...

There is a rather large forest fire that has been burning for about a month not too far from here...you can see and smell the smoke in the air on most days. I took this picture this morning of a local baptist church (I took out the names of the church and pastor). This church, located on the second busiest road in town, is well-known for having signs like these all the time. My guess is probably about 5000 people see this sign every day during the summer months.

From what I know of this church, this sign is part of what they would call "evangelism"...

Two questions:

1) How many people who don't know God are going to read this sign and maybe think to themselves, "I need to get my life right with God?" 2) How many people who don't know God are going to read this sign and maybe want to come visit this church hoping to hear some "good news"?

Two more questions:

1) How many people who don't know God are going to read this sign and maybe think something bad about God? 2) How many people who don't know God are going to read this sign and maybe think something bad about the people of this church (or any church for that matter)?

We removed the word "baptist" from our church name and sign a few years ago, in large part, because of baptist churches like this one. There's a good reason people think the way they do about baptists, churches, Christians, and ultimately God.

Last question:

How often do my words and actions communicate,
to people who don't know God, the same thing this church sign communicates?

My guess is, people would give church, Christians and God the benefit of the doubt regarding signs like this one IF they didn't already know a real Christian or two who believed that the message on this sign was good evangelism...

Nate

24 comments:

TerryKM said...

Awesome post Nathan!

Jackie said...

Unfortunately, I think church marquees should be outlawed unless churches promise to only put church info and/or scripture on them! We see this type of marqee WAY too often around our parts in the midwest. I think they are a huge turnoff to christians and nonchristians alike. Good post.

Pat said...

Hahaha

I like that sign.

TerryKM said...

@ Jackie. . .I'd have to agree that churches should limit their marquee to events and church info sort of stuff. But, rather than make it a law it would be nice for churches to WAKE UP and learn a little something about being relevant. Sadly, as Nathan said, they probably think they are reaching people and being relevant through their sign.

Jackie said...

Absolutely terrykm! The worst are the ones that put supposed "quotes" from God on them. Who are we to put words in God's mouth? And often times (like the billboard campaign from a few years back), they are things that God would NEVER say because they don't reflect his true character. He is a just God who does not delight in our wrong-doings.

Rob Lovell said...

Good post- Church cliches always make me cringe, and ditto on the removing Baptist from the churches name, we didn't want the association with ifbxr's either.-
Rob Lovell
New Beginnings Church
Saginaw, Mi

Paul J. said...

I drive past a church almost every day, their sign says "Preaching The Doctrines Of Grace". I always wonder what non-believers think when they read it...

Rick Lawrenson said...

Evangelism is all about "target". Exactly who is it we're trying to reach with whatever efforts we use?

I've asked to be shot if our church ever puts out a sign with cute sayings.

Why? They may be cute to the initiated and irrelevant, but to those our church seeks to reach they're a joke and likely a turn-off.

"Doctrines of grace" is saying, "We're more Calvinistic than the rest". Putting that on a sign probably means something to the local pastors, but to no one else.

I've got a better idea than the signs. At $4/gallon for gas, let's buy up old surplus school buses and entice kids with a piece of bubble gum to ride to church on them.

How much better for churches/Christians to be known in their communities for what they do than what they say.

Apple said...

That sign has been posted for at least 2-3 weeks now, if its still up. So take your questimate and multiple that by a sign that's been up for 3 weeks...then imagine how many people have seen it...or don't, it might make you sick.

Jessica B. said...

now, I don't want anyone to start thinking that I think these are a GOOD idea but I do have one thought in their defense.

I think that esp. in the Bible Belt churches just disappear into the background. They are everywhere and people just sorta stop looking at them. I like the idea that people are trying to do something to make themselves noticeable. Something to remind people that they exist- like those terrible commercials that you hate but everyone knows exactly which one you are talking about?

But take this with a grain of salt because I live in a city where a local World Overcomers church has a 72 foot statue of liberty holding a cross. A marquee isn't all that terrifying to me :)

MilePost13 said...

Defend away, but a marquee is a marquee...people are going to either see it or not see it, no matter what you put on it. I can think of a dozen things off the top of my head they could have put on their sign that wouldn't offend, confuse or disgust people....nothing that might actually attract people (outside of "free beer and nachos", but at least it wouldn't repulse them...

And, you bring up a great point...when did our (the church) competition become other churches? Seems to me, our competition is sleep, the beach, football, apathy, etc....

It's one thing to make yourself noticeable, it's another to stick out like a sore thumb.

Andy Lawrenson said...

My thoughts....

These signs prove an excellent point as to why churches have become irrelevant and confused. Signs like these don't reach those without Christ. Signs like these tickle the fancy of church members. The purpose of the sign is for the church in most cases.

"chuckle, chuckle. Great message on the sign preacher. See you at the business meeting."

Hey here is a novel idea, why not let our lives be the message instead of a goofy (I'm editing here) marquee sign.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the sign can be offensive. I do think however, that we of the contemporary bent and I include myself here, sometimes can be harsh on more traditional churches. I was reminded at a conference once that traditional churches still meet the needs of quite a number of people, and that they too reach lost people. Maybe not as many, and maybe not the same type of people, but for the most part we are on the same team. I very much don't like the bashing I take from family members and "friends" for attending a very progressive, relevant church ~C3. And I don't like it when the traditional church takes a hit from the "hip," contemporary brethren. I'm not pronouncing judgment on your post or on the comments, just adding my two cents. I just want us all to play nice and be careful how we talk about each other. Again, please don't take this as a criticism; I think too much of you and your opinions.

MilePost13 said...

I'm not arguing with the last comment...

You won't ever see me bashing another church for doing things differently...unless that church is doing something incredibly stupid (and even then, I'll try not to call them out by name).

You're right, we are all on the same team, which is why we need to hold each other accountable when we do things that shoot ourselves in the foot. If I had any realistic hope that this sign was going to reach anyone, I'd keep my mouth shut...

Rick Lawrenson said...

I don't think the knock here is against "traditional churches". For most of my life I was part of traditional churches but never one that put up sayings on signs that were insensitive or irrelevant.

It's not tradition that obscures the Gospel as much as it is failure to engage the culture as it is, not as we would like it to be.

Ann said...

The church that my husband and I attend is currently raising funds to purchase an electronic sign. Those things are expensive and I personally feel there are better ways the money could be spent for outreach and evangelism but never the less the sign is what the pastor wants. Last Sunday our pastor was talking about this exact thing except he was talking about how awesome witty sayings will be. People will laugh and then decide they should check out our church. I just don't see it.

Jessica B. said...

One other thought...

I do understand why things like this sign rub people the wrong way- it is pretty dumb.

The other thing that I think we have to be careful of is that we should remember what they are doing is not sinful. If the gospel is being preached and the church is being run by men who are seeking God's will... to me it seems like we are underestimating the power of the Holy Spirit to say these churches can't be relevant. They may not be as relevant to as many people, but people are looking for different things.

And it seems like most of the time the reason someone comes to or joins a church it is because someone invites them- if people are passionate about the place they worship it will come through and people will want to come- cheesy sign or not.

MilePost13 said...

"we should remember what they are doing is not sinful"

Actually, in my last comment, I tried to very carefully but clearly say that I believe it is "sinful" for this church to post this kind of stuff on their sign...because this blog is not a place for debate, I won't argue with you...just know that I disagree with your assumption here.

Jessica B. said...

I think it is irresponsible/insensitive/ misguided, but I can't really see how it is blatantly sinful.
There are people who think playing drums in church is sinful and people who think women wearing pants is sinful.

I have a friend of our family who would think that that sign was really "funny"- I don't agree but he would get a kick out of it. He loves corny jokes- his pastor always goes out of his way to find a really corny joke each Sunday.

To me that sign falls under personal preference- like music or dress.

Jessica B. said...

Oh, I really am not trying to "argue" with you- I know tone is hard to gauge on the internet.

I don't take it personally that we disagree on that issue- I was just trying to show you my perspective. :)

We are all on the same team!

MilePost13 said...

ok, Jessica...

Rick Lawrenson said...

So if we're told by Jesus to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves; if our cute sayings or insensitive sayings on our signs turn someone away from hearing the Good News, how is that not sinful?

Jessica B. said...

I really don't want to be engaged in some big debate about this... I don't think it really think it is worth a huge argument.

My point is this- there are Christian people who think that stuff is funny. There are Christian people who are looking for corny, campy, "small-town" type churches. Granted, not a ton of people but there are some-and I know some of them personally.

There are lots of things that can turn a person away from church/God.
Some people are offended by the apparent affluence of churches- they would never darken the door of a mega-church or one with a faux-Starbucks.

There are people who are turned off by a church that sings old-timey hymns- but that doesn't make it sinful. I LOVE old-timey hymns- I am only 28 but bring on the old Baptist hymnal... I would never go to a church where all the music was contemporary. But that doesn't make it sinful.

There are people that would be turned off by a sign that says "God is Good" but that doesn't make it sinful.

I am certainly not some authority on anything, I really don't really want to come off as some preachy, judgmental type. I am not huge on lumping people into spiritual gift categories, but I do have a bent towards mercy. I just can't help but feel empathy for how hurt someone could be if they felt like something they were doing was turning people against God. I feel quite certain this was not this church's intent.
So please forgive me if it comes off as me arguing with whatever you have to say...

MilePost13 said...

Ok, Jessica.

I'm shutting the comments down on this one...you're just not understanding what the issue is, and there's no point in continuing this conversation.

Thanks for contributing.