The following article from today’s Winchester (VA) Star newspaper quotes several of our Grace Brethren pastors regarding the use of church signs:
The message is clear:
Get thee to church
By Teresa Dunham
The Winchester Star
Winchester — Summing up your faith in 48 letters or less isn’t easy.
“It’s a big responsibility,” said Sue Ashley, who changes the sign each week at Congregational Christian Fellowship Church on Middle Road.
She and her husband Don, who are members of the church, constantly find themselves walking a fine line between humor and depth.
“You can get a little too light, and people don’t take your faith seriously,” Don said. “We try not to make a joke out of our faith.”
But — admit it — don’t you remember the funny signs with catchy slogans the most? Here are a few of the memorable ones that have appeared around Winchester over the years:
Don’t wait for the hearse to take you to church …
God’s Favorite Department: Lost and Found …
Eternity: Smoking or Non-smoking???
Be an organ donor. Give your heart to Jesus …
God is the best wireless connection …
Don’t give up. Moses was once a basket case …
Depending on individual tastes, the drive-by sermons could induce a smile, contemplation, an eye-roll, or a full-body cringe.
“You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. If you’re trying to reach the public, you don’t want to repel them with an insulting sign,” Don Ashley said.
Often, he and Sue find their ideas in books such as “Roadside Church Signs Across America” and “Forbidden Fruit II: More Church Signs Across America.”
“We tend to pick out signs that have something to do with the sermon that week,” Don said.
The couple’s combined judgment helps to ensure that the messages are tasteful and thought-provoking.
“Because of the signs, people have come here to worship,” Sue said.
Recently, the Church of Christ at Mountain View, on U.S. 11 at Narrow Lane, touted an especially witty ditty:
Sign Broken. Message Inside.
“We try to do something that’s going to attract people. It’s part of our outreach,” said Dave Wright, church elder of the nondenominational congregation. “That [slogan] actually came from an Internet source.”
These days, Wright said, the church needs to use every possible avenue to reach people. Signs, he believes, are one of the more obvious methods.
Meanwhile, the Rev. Darrel Taylor thinks of the slogans on his church sign as new wrapping paper for an age-old message.
“I’m always in the habit of looking for real-life illustrations,” said Taylor, who preaches at Blue Ridge Grace Brethren Church on Cedar Creek Grade. “I try to give people something to think about.”
The catch-phrases are his way of planting a small seed of truth in people’s minds.
“I used to fill the sign up, but then people couldn’t read it all,” he said.
Pastor Matthew Lohr of Winchester Grace Brethren Church on Greenwood Road said Internet search engines and devotionals can help people find slogans.
“I have a folder of sayings,” Lohr said. “Sometimes it’s just some words of encouragement.”
Most local signs steer clear of political statements, unlike the sign at a nearby West Virginia church that calls abortion “the ultimate child abuse.”
Still, even lighthearted biblical humor can offend people.
“In my 5 1/2 years here, we got one negative letter,” Lohr said. “But at least we got the person to think.”
If the sign creators aren’t sure about the impression that a certain slogan might make, a quick scan of www.crummychurchsigns.com could help.
The site offers a “critical analysis of critically bad church signs” that people may want to avoid using.
A few of the crummy slogans:
Parking for church business only. Violators will be baptized.
Go to church or the devil will get you.
Lord help me be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.
It even includes a few knee-slappers, such as:
What do you call a pastor in Germany? A German shepherd.
Fortunately, it seems that most of the signs featured on www.crummychurchsigns.com are from Tennessee.