I have to confess, I love reading stupid church signs. My wife says I can be obnoxious about it because I usually have a snarky comment about them. This probably points to some deeper spiritual issue with which I have yet to deal in my growth in sanctification, and I will probably get over this fascination at some point in the future. But right now I really like reading them.
I remember years ago, when I was serving a church in Kentucky, one of the local congregations, which was doing a very good job of reaching out into the community, put up a sign that read Whatever your question, Jesus is the answer. Now I know theologically what they were trying to say: we all have a God-shaped hole in our souls and only Jesus Christ, God incarnate, can fill it. However, my mind immediately went to the question Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar? Totally irreverent, I know. But how many people came up with even more irreverent questions because of that sign? The world may never know.
Yesterday, as I was coming home from a leadership training event sponsored by my Conference, I passed a sign on the interstate that read: Where will you spend eternity? Jesus has the answer. My first thought to that was, Then why are you asking me? If Jesus has the answer, why don’t you ask him? Again, theologically, the sign makes a point: Jesus Christ will judge the living and the dead. It is a hallmark of the Christian faith.
Both of those signs are based upon solid Christian truth, but if I didn’t already know that truth, how in the world would I ever understand the signs? Like I wrote above, my comments about stupid signs can be snarky, but I know what the signs are trying to say. Imagine what people come up with for responses to them when they don’t know the Christian message behind them.
Since the church is losing ground in the public square in America, perhaps we should use our signs as opportunities not to be cute or trite or judgmental. We’ve done that in the past and it hasn’t worked. Perhaps we should simply use our signs to proclaim good news to people:
Jesus loves you, no matter what.
God wants to hear from you. Just talk.
Christ can save you from yourself.
Jesus overcame injustice. He understands your life.
You are not alone.
God made you. Nothing you have done would surprise him.
In Jesus there is true freedom.