Here’s Your Sign

Then it will be, if they do not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign, that they may believe the message of the latter sign (Exodus 4:8 NKJV.)

This past week my church updated the sign in front of the building and the one on the road, removing the former pastor’s name and replacing it with mine. Changing the sign makes everything feel more… official. This reminded me of church signs I’ve noticed over the years and various things that make them interesting – to me anyway.

One thing I notice is the way different churches announce who their pastor is. In my case, vinyl adhesive press on letters did the trick. In days gone by, the name was often painted at the bottom of the sign, below the church’s name, slogan, and worship times. When a new pastor arrived on the field, you had to call a painter to come and make the change. Many churches found the changes came more frequently than convenience allowed. Some stopped placing the pastor’s name on the main sign. Instead, they attached a hook-and-eye chain link at the bottom, with the pastor’s name placed on a small board or placard. Unhooking the departed pastor was much easier that way. One church I saw had simply spray-painted black over the pastor’s name. I would love to know if there was a story there.

At one point, the changeable marquee signs came into fashion. The variety of slogans on these signs are interesting. Some churches feel compelled to warn sinners; “Hell is no joke! Turn or burn! Get right or get left!” Others are meant to be strictly informative; “Holy Ghost Revival April 5-10.” Still other congregations want to be appealing and inviting to seekers; “A loving congregation,” or “Restoring the broken,” or “The church where everybody is somebody.” (Well, I can’t argue with that.)  In recent years, the signs trend more toward pithy quips and puns. “It’s all about that grace, no trouble” or “Sign broken, message inside.” Of course, at some point letters will get lost or the message will require more vowels than usual, forcing the sloganeer to creatively turn a red 3 backwards for an E and use a 5 for that last S.

I’ve thought about the philosophy behind a church sign on the highway. In many rural communities the road into town, from either direction, has at least one church sign. Of course, there are usually more than one. The Baptist church, Methodist church, Church of Christ, and others like to welcome visitors and passers by, inviting them to worship with their particular congregation.  I pondered this in light of other highway signs, such as the one for Dairy Queen, First State Bank, or Haygood’s Farm Implement Store. I always wonder if a family passing through town on a trip might respond to those signs. “Hey, Maybelle, let’s stop here for the day. We can go to church at New Harmony Baptist. You know, their preacher is Les Payne! Says so right there on the sign. Then we can eat lunch at the Dixie Dog. Let’s stay at the Trail Dust Inn tonight and open a savings account at the bank tomorrow. Grandma can wait another day.”

The newest rendition of the church sign is the super bright LED jumbo screen. Mega-church campuses on major freeways can blind millions of motorists a year with the gospel, hastening them toward their eternal destiny, so the last thing they see on earth is a professional head shot of their dynamic hipster pastor and his trophy wife. (Okay, the Holy Spirit convicted me of slight judgementalism and snarkyness on that last quip, but still…). 

In scripture, there are manifold instances where God used a sign to direct people’s attention to Him. Sometimes people paid attention, and sometimes they did not. Jesus said a wicked generation seeks only a sign. A church sign can often be informative and helpful, but more importantly the way we live points others toward (or away from) a relationship with God. If your life was reduced to a church sign, what would it say?


Published in: on February 25, 2020 at 11:13 am  Comments (2)  

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  1. I Cor. 1: 29-31 ESV

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