December 5, 2020

Sign of a Clueless Church

By Chaplain Mike

OK, so I’m out driving in the country today, on my way home from seeing a patient, minding my own business. I come around a corner where a large Baptist church sits. It’s known as a conservative, no nonsense, indeeeeeependent funnnndamental King James ONLY church.

Been there, done that. I’m a million miles away from that culture now. I’ve forgotten what it’s like.

Until I see the church sign.

Of all the verses in the Bible to pick…

And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.

Come again?

You did not put that verse on your church sign, did you?

Wow.

Comments

  1. Which church? Do you have a picture?

  2. Quixotequest says

    Maybe they read the de-, pre- and proscriptions of Scripture as applying concurrently equal to Believers and non-Believers — or at least they prefer Scripture’s application in Linear Space/Time more than Salvational Space/Time.

    Or, they are very comfortable in affirming their certainty in their game-winning hand on the Double Predestination Wheel Of Fortune. *smile*

  3. I cannot stand that whole KJV onlyist notion! Yuk.

    Please elaborate on the sign……….

  4. Yea, that’s pretty bad. Here’s another groan-inducing one currently on a local fundie church:

    “We’re not Dairy Queen, but we have great Sundays.”

    Ugh. Kill me now, it hurts.

  5. As I see it, the problem is not so much that the church is KJV-only, but that it is “independent and fundamental,” though I understand that all these things often are found together.
    Don’t you agree that no church should be “independent,” i.e.g, smug, self-assured, self-satisfied, in need of no one else? “I thank Thee, Lord, that I am not like….” At the very least, get someone else to review your signage decisions.

    • Patrick Lynch says

      That’s not necessarily what “Independent” means though – smug, self-assured, etc. aren’t necessarily hallmarks of independent Baptist churches vs. other ones. In this case, Independent just refers to the fact that they don’t consider themselves a member of, say, the SBC or what-have-you.

    • “At the very least, get someone else to review your signage decisions.”

      That’s funny, Pilar!

  6. A friend of mine, a Southern Baptist pastor, defines “Fundamental” as “No fun, all damn, and not much that’s mental.”

    The liberal.

  7. During our time of canvassing churches for missionary support back in the early 80’s I ran across a church in rural Indiana that had the following on its sign: “We are an Independent ,Fundamental ,Bible-believing, King James Only, Baptist Church.” Knowing that my non-denominational mission board wouldn’t have much chance there, I asked the pastor, “Which of those labels is most important to you?” His reply “Independent.”

    It still makes me weep.

    Bill

  8. Patrick Lynch says

    Actually, I kind of like the sign.

    Not necessarily the best advertising, but they’ve done a pretty good job of making most Christians who read the sign feel uncomfortable about being part of what it, at heart, an unabashedly triumphalist religion, which is kind of neat if you ask me.

    Most of us on here would rather nobody, including ourselves, ever mentioned that verse (1 John 5:19, for those of you who won’t even Google it) ever again. What does that tell us about US?

    • As always, it helps to read the whole chapter. Verse 13 says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

      I think it’s more about assurance for those who believe than about condemnation for those who don’t. It’s a given that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but this takes the sting out.

      Now we’re back to the argument of assurance. Sorry. Church signs only!

      • I don’t object to the verse. It’s God’s Word, after all. But on a church sign? Clueless.

        • Yup.

        • Hi Mike – why is it clueless?

          • Aw, come on, Matthew. You don’t find using a verse like that to advertise your church inappropriate in the least?

          • “We’re saved. You’re not. Burn in hell, sinners!”

          • “God bless me
            And my son John,
            His wife, my wife,
            We four, no more,
            Amen.”

            (Got that from an OT prof while studying the monasticism of the Qumran community.)

          • It’s a missional failure. In the context of the gospel that verse has a powerful message to all about how God is faithful even to us wrecks inside this screwed up world. However, a non-christian who goes by that sign will not understand it in the context of the gospel but only see it is an arrogant proclamation of self-righteousness and smug judgement. If the objective is to push non-christians away then that’s a good verse to throw up, but if that’s the objective then that church has lost its way.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            “Us Sheep! You Goats! Have Fun In Hell! Haw! Haw! Haw!”

        • Quixotequest says

          Clueless. Agreed. Scripture is a narrative and conversation. Even Paul’s epistles, perhaps the most contextualizing yet systematic of all of Christian scripture, were _written_ conversations that had to substitute where verbal conversation was not possible in a largely verbal culture.

          Even given the cohesive, systematic, trans-cultural patterns we seek to glean from the Bible, such patterns are still the sum of differing messages with different tones, given to different groups in differing circumstances. It’s treating the Word like a cudgel instead of a conversation to think the right time for that message is a potentially antagonistic marketing blurb. At least to me. That doesn’t mean I’m uncomfortable with Jesus being the only Way, Truth and Life.

          Someone in our church leadership came up with a “Church Caffeinated” billboard/marketing campaign with the message sandwiched over a big cup of coffee. What does that even mean? Even if they had a clever and fun intent to send an “energetic” or “we’ll keep you awake” message, or whatever, this is Utah. It doesn’t seem like letting our Lord’s gospel be offensive to the World on His terms. For us as a church to thumb our nose at the predominant Mormon non-coffee-drinking-holiness-norm culture is a foolish kind of offensive. Wrong time for an “Us vs. Them” message, in my opinion. And such an unclear, easily misunderstood one at that.

          Now maybe if they had used a picture of a Big Gulp with a Diet Coke logo on the side… (I guess you’d have to be here… *smile*)

        • Gammell- Spot on.

    • I am finding it intriguing that this sign has created a certain kafuffle…..

      I find the signs that say things like;

      “A place for all religions in a contemporary setting, where Jesus is our Saviour not Lord, in the name of love where we can get all our needs met”

      ………to be the most vile.

      • No. No. Matthew. There can’t be a sign like that.

        Really?

        • It reminds me of Hazel Motes, the “preacher” in Flannery O’Connor’s novel Wise Blood.

          He started “The Church Without Christ, where the blind don’t see and the lame don’t walk and what’s dead stays that way.”

      • Matthew, if I had seen a sign like that, I would have posted on it too. Equally clueless…at the other end of the spectrum.

    • With or without Googling, it had to be 1st John (of all the verses to pick from that letter). No objection to the verse here either, but out of context and slapped on a church sign, it’s just going to have people muttering ‘yeah, love you too’ and continuing on their way. That’s where my discomfort with its use is.

  9. A t the other end of the spectrum, here’s a church sign board I saw last year:

    Bethany Baptist
    WE HAVE NO MESSAGE
    Pastor Josh McClintock*

    (*named changed to protect the guy)

  10. I always chuckle at publically-posted slogans that say things like, “Come work for God. Long hours, little pay, but the retirement benefits are out of this world.” Sigh.

    What’s wrong with “You’re welcome to visit”?

    • Quixotequest says

      Many of us in the Body are willing to deal in the culture’s marketing currency of “authenticity” and “brand reliability”: slogans and clever-memor-ability.

    • Dan Allison says

      AMEN TO THAT!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      What’s wrong with “You’re welcome to visit”?

      Not clever enough.

      And after a while thinking up unique clever one-liners to put on the church sign, you sort of burn out and get punchy. These are the results.

    • Haha. Reminds me of one of those Geico commercials, where the marketing guy is trying to come up with something catchy, and the gecko says, “Why not just say [insert spiel here ]? ” There’s a website somewhere where the guy was going looking for church signs. I’ll have to find it. My favorite is this Catholic and Protestant church ‘talking’ to each other via the signs. I really hope the priest and the pastor are friends, or the fun of the whole thing will just die.

      Anyway.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Reminds me of one of those Geico commercials…

        I’ll take the Gecko over the Cavemen or Googly-eyed Stack of Money any day.

  11. The best church sign I believe [with all biase] is my church’s sign;

    “Preach the Word!”

  12. The most cringe-worthy sign I’ve seen recently is “Have a nice worship.” The problems with those four words are almost too many to enumerate, but among them are 1) Is worship something *I* have? 2) Is worship nice? 3) Who has the authority to wish me a nice one, even assuming 1 and 2? 4) Where is God? 5) Did Peter, James, and John, walking away from the Mount of the Transfiguration, say, “I had a nice time. Did you have a nice time?” Aaargh!

    • “Nice” is such a poor word anyway, especially when you consider it’s derivation from the latin “nescire” meaning “not know; be ignorant, unfamiliar,” and how it’s use came into English. Once upon a time, to call someone or something “nice” was a polite put-down, much the same as it still can be today when properly inflected, i.e. sarcastically.

      • My spiritual director likes to caution that when you find yourself thinking that something is a “nice” thing to do, you’d better stop and examine it, and your reasons, carefully. The distinction between nice-kind and nice-foolish can be a very, well, nice one. 😉

  13. Maybe it is sinister-ly calculated. If they make the line in the sand so extreme the only ones left on their side is themselves. Their church thus becomes a seperatist cult.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      My writing partner showed me one of these Independent Baptist KJV1611 Only churches in his part of rural Pennsylvania. Only True Christians in the world (all others being Heretics and Apostates), an entire DOZEN strong, the youngest of them in their Seventies, Utterly Sure in their Righteousness. Hold a big Revival Tent Meeting every year, attended only by the surviving members (which are fewer each year).

      On the way there, we were never out of sight of a church steeple. All these little Independent congregations, each sealed off in their own Righteousness, all preaching only to the converted, all dying of old age.

  14. When, in your country, did the term fundamentalist within Christianity ,become so tarnished?

    It used to be used to simply describe true, biblical aka orthodox Christianity..

    • Patrick Lynch says

      ‘Fundamentalist’ has always been a tarnished concept in America – the communities of the original 13 colonies were, if anything, a theologically diverse and feuding bunch to begin with, and things only got more divisive (and sordid) when the tent revivals started rolling around. For a time in the post-Colonial days, America was even less ‘churched’ than it is today, and arguments against ‘Fundamentalism’ decorated a generalized and rather angry critique against the common conception of Christianity in those days. The fact is though, even though congregationalism and ‘Fundamentalism’ was once a rising star in the US, it only briefly ever eclipsed the mainline Protestant denominations in size and influence around here, and it’s always had its detractors.

      So, to recap, in the eyes of pretty much everyone who isn’t a Fundamentalist, the term has never described “true, biblical aka orthodox Christianity”.

      • Well thats news to me – I have spent considerable time listening to great pastors/theologians from your country who have a different view; one that comes to mind would be Paris Riedhead

    • Dan Allison says

      Actually, the term “fundamentalism” is now code language for a set of doctrines that have little to do with historical, orthodox Christianity — Young Earth Creationism, dispensational eschatology, King James Onlyism, and rabid anti-abortionism, to name only a few — along with a right wing political ideology (crush the workers, bomb the infidels, and imprison the immigrants) that has no basis at all in scripture.

      As a member of a “mainline Protestant” denomination — PCUSA — I think my Christianity is much more truly biblical and “fundamental” than “fundamentalism” as it exists in the USA today.

      The sign should read “If we are nor reaching out to all men and women with the love of Christ and the mercy of the Father, please drive right past us.”

    • If you want a thorough, academic answer to that question, read George Marsden. If you want a more humorous approach to fundamentalism as it is known today, try this: http://www.stufffundieslike.com/

    • “Radical” is supposed to mean the same thing (roughly) as “Fundamental.”

      But it don’t.

    • According to the Moody Handbook of Theology, Twentieth Century Fundamentalism started out with the idea of defending the orthodox basics of the faith from higher criticism and liberal theology. R.A. Torrey gathered articles by several top conservative theologians, intellectual giants, who defended five fundamental points: the virgin birth of Christ, the miracles of Christ, the antoning death of Christ, the bodily resurrection of Christ, and the inspiration of Scripture. These articles were released in a collection called The Fundamentals.

      Later, the idea of separating from popular culture and taking an anti-intellectual stance found its way into Fundamentalism. I believe the orthodox stance became associated with violent activists (like the bombing of abortion clinics and signs that say ‘God hates fags’) mostly through popular media (everybody likes drama in their news).

      Personally, I am a “fundamentalist,” but only in the historical, theological sense. There are no calls for violence or a need to retreat from the world around me. I am saddened that Christian Fundamentalism has developed such a poor reputation when it should be, at its core, a simple refusal to compromise the core beliefs that the vast majority of Christians hold.

  15. Dan Allison says

    The sign should read “Listen to our actions, not our words, for that is our truest witness. If we are not reaching out to all men and women with the love of Christ and the mercy of the Father, drive on by.”

  16. I’ve followed this blog off and on for a while and with this latest post I find myself unable to sit quiet; I’m really curious about why so many of you let fly with a broadside of angry rhetoric whenever the opportunity presents itself. I haven’t read a King James Bible in 25 years…but I don’t find it wrong for a congregation to chose that translation. Antiabortion? One of you sounds like a planned parenthood hack. God have mercy on your soul. Could it be that the fundamentalist movement expresses their views with intolerance for anything to the contrary –isn’t it ironic that so many of you return that volley with more of the same.

    My thought and prayers are with the Spencers this day.

    • Vitriol is unwarranted. But come on, TJ. Any church that posts a sign, supposedly advertising their ministry that says, in essence, “We’re right and the rest of you are going to hell” deserves at least a slap on the wrist.

      • But how is their sign any different than what the author of 1John writes in that same Epistle? Even if they are saying “We’re right and the rest of you are going to hell” (which I think is inferring and eisegeting too much into the sign), that’s still not much different from what the author of 1John writes re: themselves vs. those who went out from them or are children of the devil or are antichrists or are of the world.

        And who’s to say that the purpose of the sign is to “advertise their ministry”? Maybe it’s just to make a statement about their assurance of salvation and the darkness all around them.

        Methinks thou dost protest too much.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I know God is Impressed by Your Utter Righteousness, EricW.

          You Sheep, Me Goat, Haw Haw Haw.

          • That would be “udder righteousness,” HUG. I’m a cow (kosher animal, of course), not a sheep or a goat. It’s b-a-a-a-a-d for you to call me a “sheep.” That really gets my goat.

            You must remember this:

            Bah… Ram… Ewe…
            Bah… Ram… Ewe…
            To your breed, your fleece, your stock be true.
            Sheep be true.
            Bah… Ram… Ewe…

            If you say these words at the Pearly Gates, the Master will welcome you with the “Good and Faithful Servant” line and let you in.

        • “But how is their sign any different than what the author of 1John writes in that same Epistle?”

          The Epistle was addressed to believers, this sign is obviously targeting the “world” (which, based on my experience with IFB’s, would probably include everybody but other IFB’s).

        • 1John is a pastoral letter written to protect a church community from the influences of a heretical, immoral, and unloving Gnostic mission movement posing as genuine Christianity and leading sheep astray. John writes the “black and white” way he does to help his friends distinguish between truth and error parading in sheep’s clothing. He’s protecting his people from a cult, which demands strong, clear language.

      • TJ Wallin says

        CM: It is my sense that believers today work very hard at finding fault with the beliefs and practices of their brothers and sisters in Christ. The fundamentalists rip the evangelicals, the evangelicals disparage the charismatics and pentacostals and on and on it goes. I ask you, does it really matter if a Christian exercises their spiritual service of worship with praise choruses led by a worship leader instead of using the Lutheran or Catholic liturgy? (I told you I was a lurker on this blog)

        The point I am trying to make is, I believe, a legitimate one –the fundamentalist is your brother. Silly sign or not, he (or she) was created in the image of our Lord. I would guess that most of you would stand up for your earthly kin, defend their honor when they are not around and give them the benefit of the doubt from time to time. Should we do no less for our brother in Christ? There isn’t a believer on the planet that will score 100% on heaven’s theology exam. How about we stop the in-fighting and start taking on the world? I’m not suggesting that we don’t rebuke someone from time to time but it’s been over the top for a long long time. The demonic realm laughs at our discord –never interfere with your enemy when he is in the process of destorying himself.

    • TJ, I grew up in IFB culture, and believe me this sect has is very harmful to so many people.

      • Some call it cult-like, and some just call it “cult.” I think there are sincere believers there, but it’s hard to grow in a culture that emphasizes the outward appearance over issues of the heart.

    • I think TJ brings up a point worthy of discussion, though. I make the rounds to several other Christian blogs and have noticed (quite frequently actually) that discussions often turn into Christians being hyper-critical of other Christians, sometimes to extremes I doubt they would go with non-believers. It makes me disappointed in my fellow believers sometimes. Why is it we treat fellow Christians with less respect than we would treat a non-believer?

      • The greatest criticism of any movement often comes from within the ranks. I believe that this is related to a love for the particular movement. When people love a religion, a set of teachings, or an ideology, they hate to see errant ideas/behavior pervert the very essence of what they value so greatly. Let me be clear, I’m not defending caustic criticism; however, healthy criticism should be expected if people truly value the teachings of Jesus and then see them re-created into the antithesis of their essence (in this case by IFB’s).

      • Why do we assume that, just because they attend some version of a Baptist church, they are Christians? I have a pastor who differentiate between those who profess some sort of religionism as opposed to following Christ. Maybe they are Christians, maybe they are not. As CS Lewis implied: There may be some surprises in heaven.

  17. We have one of those here in Joplin. I think the sign said:

    “Have you told somebody about Jesus or are you like a blank sign, Worthless.

    Did you hear that Christian. If you failed to tell somebody about Jesus then you are worthless.”

    Signs like this drive me crazy! 🙁

  18. The Anabaptist streak in American Christianity is very disturbing, especially in Baptist circles. They should have just posted Job 38:11, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther.”

    • What Anabaptist streak? From my understanding of Anabaptists, aside from adult baptism, IFB’s are not similar at all to true Anabaptists (e.g. Mennonites, Amish). The central teaching of contemporary Anabaptists is non-violence. You won’t find that in the teaching of Independent, Fundamental Baptists.

      • Right you are humanoid….you will see signs of the opposite in fact. Things such as “trees of righteousness being watered by the blood of patriots” or something to that effect. Thank God I can’t quote that fully and accurately. Fundamentalists are on grand display at these tea party gathering, and you can spot them by their signs. Obscure scriptures damning them all who don’t believe as they.

      • Thank you for clearing that up. I’ll just say one thing ; “Nickel Mines, PA”.

    • Speaking as one with ties to the Mennonite church, I reply, “if only American Christianity had an Anabaptist streak”.

      regards,
      #John

  19. Question: Regarding your churches with wonderful signs……..

    Do they practice church discipline?

    http://narrowseventhirteen.blogspot.com/2010/03/loving-thing-to-do.html

  20. Jo Ann Peterson says

    Love it. Wow is right.

  21. textjunkie says

    I had kind of a zen moment reading that verse in isolation, though. Probably not the intended message of the folks who posted it, but the repeated “ands” linked it for me.

    And we know that we are of God (yay!)
    And we know the whole world lieth in wickedness.

    Where my brain slipped was that WE are part of the whole world, and thus we who are part of the whole world are both of God AND lie in wickedness. And what does that say about the rest of the world, and the grace of God and its ability to redeem what lies in wickedness?

    At which point God’s grace started to shine through the cracks and I had to ruin it by reading up on the rest of 1 John 19 or whatever it is…

  22. As advertising goes, it is perfect. They are saying who they are and where they are at. No mushy, Jesus-loves-everyone Christian is going to waste a minute of their time with this church. They are going to attract those who are going to fit in perfectly with other like minded members of their remnant. They probably won’t have a lot of arguments over what their “mission statement” is going to be about. “The Bible alone – and only our way.” We ought to thank them for being upfront.

  23. To Matthew Johnston: what country do you live in?

    To those of you who get a kick out of church signs, this blog may entertain you:
    http://crummychurchsigns.blogspot.com/2007/07/all-in-favor.html

    In regard to being critical of fellow Christians: my understanding of reading Paul’s letters to the churches was that we are to “judge” fellow Christians in terms of whether or not they are teaching/following the Gospel, but we are NOT to judge non-Christians . This is quite opposite of what many people do, I think. When you think of the way Jesus lived and talked, it was always the religious authorites of the time he was criticizing and he was eating and drinking with “sinners.”

    A guy named John Frye (he has published books too) has a blog at http://www.jesustheradicalpastor.com/jeus-at-the-margins-part-5-45-caliber-bread and has done a five part piece about Jesus eating bread with “marginal” people. Excellent writing! He reminds me of Michael Spencer. (I haven’t read his books though.) Part 5 was just put up and Parts 1 through 4 can be found along the right hand menu.

  24. Unfortunately, Joel has stopped posting signs at http://www.crummychurchsigns.blogspot.com/

  25. Favorite sign I saw recently in the mountains of NC – top said “Jesus is Coming Back” as the message title. Underneath it said “Sunday at 11 am.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      First Church of Hal Lindsay, coming right up.

    • One of my favorites down here in the Carolinas was “Git ‘er done for Christ!”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        One I remember seeing as a kid read “Far from God? Who Moved?”

        I think a LOT of clueless church signage comes from having to come up with a new saying for the sign every week or two. After a while you run out of the good ones and all that’s left are the lame ones.

        If any of you have The Simpsons as a guilty pleasure, they get a LOT of mileage out of the clueless/lame church sign; every outside shot of Springfield Community Church has a different (usually clueless and lame) phrase on the sign.

    • LOL!

  26. Hey, why not just have a sign that says, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” That oughta be a real draw.

    BTW, several yrs ago a church had a sign that actually said, “Adulterer to be exposed this Sunday.”
    I kid you not. A friend of mine had been thinking about going there. Needless to say, that sign helped her decide. 🙂 I just wonder how many people showed up that weekend.

  27. A previous pastor wrote a letter to the editor in the local paper arguing that that he should be able to put the following on a sign:

    Leviticus 20:13 – “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death…”

    As Chaplain Mike alluded to earlier, a message on a sign is not a conversation. Sometimes it can be a conversation starter, in other cases, it is a conversation ender.

    I cringed when I read it, because it communicated that the people who went to that church (myself included) believe that gays should be taken out and shot. This is no way to start a dialogue with people.

    • Not far from here, on I-44 just east of Carthage, MO, there is a series of billboards, one of which says exactly that (if I remember correctly), and another which describes the similar fate of adulterers and divorcees. I doubt that many travellers on that busy highway stop on Sunday mornings to visit the church that posted them, but then again, I doubt that church would be all that welcoming of them anyway.

      First John does say what that church sign says (the one to which Chaplain Mike referred) but it also says more. The problem with church signs is they don’t tell the whole story, but then again, that church chose what part of the story it wanted the world to know!

      I think church signs are a waste of time and money – useless at best, offensive at worse, and generally nauseating.

      • So, how’s Precious Moments doing these days?

        And… how are the Webb City Praying Hands faring?

  28. Best church sign I think I have ever seen.

    “It’s (Not Always) a Wonderful Life – Come join the discussion starting July 12th.”

    Or something along those lines.

    Seemed to me that that was a sign that people might catch people’s interest.

  29. There is a message of hope in the verse. In the proper context, there is even a message of redemption. Without context, it smacks of exclusivity and dualism (i.e. the material world is evil; the spiritual is good; culture is evil, except where it has been “redeemed” with churchy packaging and lingo). To be charitable, whoever chose the verse had the bigger picture in mind.

    I say, give them bonus points for not using one of those painfully brainless cliches, like “Exposure to the Son prevents burning”.

    There is an ELCA Lutheran church in town which displays quotes from saints, like Francis de Sales, on their sign. They always make me think; they always point to the depths of the faith. Guess I should pay more attention to driving.

    • Thats ironic, given that St. Francis de Sales spent a considerable amount of time working to convert Protestants back to Catholicism.

  30. Somewhere local (about 25 minutes away from me) is a small church whose regular painted sign says (or said) “Premillenial, Fundamental, and Indenpendent” [sic]. Yes, that’s right. Not your typical marquee typo, but permanently painted “Indenpendent”.

    Hmmm… What was that someone said about not much for anything “mental”?

    • “Premillienial” was also misspelled, but they’ll have 1,000 years to contemplate where that second ‘n’ went.

  31. I have on my wall a photograph of a church whose permanent sign says:
    “Strangers expected.”

    Not bad!

  32. To paraphrase Paul, If you think you have a clue, be careful that you don’t become clueless. I say that simply because I have made that mistake many, many times. I have heard interpretations of scripture which just didn’t sound right, but I didn’t have another opinion with which to challenge it, and no one else seemed bothered. I have been so frustrated at times with the apparent lack of self-criticism among churches and Christians that I thought it was my job to play the prophet. The answer was not not pretty.

    I don’t think anyone intends to be clueless. I think fear in particular drives us to irrational thinking and behavior. People sometimes don’t know why they do the things they do. Some call it a “blind spot”. Hubris can also lead to a lack of self-examination. The “enlightened” popularized the guillotine. So, the circle closes, from being clueless, to becoming aware, then becoming a prophet, then an isolated “expert”, to once again becoming clueless.

    We are all there. We all have our blind spots. We are all clueless. We all have that smudge of breakfast on our faces that amuses everyone, and we don’t have a clue that it is there. The shameful thing is to say nothing – letting people go on in a clueless state. The question is how to shine light on those blind spots. And when someone says, “hey, you have something on your face”, we should pray for the humility to wipe off that smudge without feeling slighted or wrongfully criticized or desiring to shoot the messenger. It’s a tall order. The whole passive-aggressive nature of evangelical culture makes such a free exchange of constructive criticism nearly impossible.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And the reason they’re called “blind spots” is you’re not conscious of them. If you were, they wouldn’t be blind spots.

      I’m reminded of how the Confederate States had a blind spot regarding their “Peculiar Institution”, and how both North and South swam in a sea of what we now recognize as raw racism. (According to Gould, White Supremacy was considered a Fundamental Law of Nature throughout the First World well into the 20th Century.) How much of what is “normal” in our own time will be looked upon by future generations with similar disgust and disbelief as to “How could they do THAT? How could they NOT see it?”

      PS DumbOx — my handle here is derived from a pic I did regarding the French Revolution and the Enlightened of the Age of Reason. Another time and place with its own Blind Spots — perfectly obvious to us, totally invisible to them.

      • “How much of what is ‘normal’ in our own time will be looked upon by future generations with similar disgust and disbelief as to ‘How could they do THAT? How could they NOT see it?'” – Amen.

        Interesting note on your namesake. I do find bitter-sweet humor in the blindness of the enlightenment. A lot of people were slaughtered in the name of enlightenment. Some mark the end of modernism with the fall of the Berlin Wall; if communism is considered a product of the enlightenment (through Kant by way of Hegel and Marx), then amount of blood spilled by the “enlightened” is staggering.

  33. Theologically true, but inappropriate for a signage. However, I suspect that some people who post here just don’t like the statement period. Of course, that is because some of you don’t take everything in Scripture as fully inspired and authoritative.

    • I could say Amen to that but I wont………………………

      hang on I just did.

    • It’s theologically true that Muslims, Bhuddists, Mormons and anyone else who doesn’t believe in Jesus will come under God’s judgment, but putting that on your church sign isn’t a good way to start a conversation about the salvation offered in Christ! It has more to do with being wise as serpents and harmless as doves, or as Paul said, ‘all things to all people that I might win some’ (and he didn’t mean moral or theological compromises), than whether the statement is theologically true (which, of course, it is). And, as has been noted in some of these comments, putting that statement on a church sign certainly doesn’t demonstrate the kind of humility that comes from being ‘poor in spirit’.

  34. The opposite extreme is probably be the “churchmarketingstinks” website. I have always had a real problem with church marketing, and pastors being transformed into marketing directors, and neighborhoods being subdivided into target demographics. But there is a grain of truth to consider. Churches do need to think about what their mission is (to attract predestined, saved, sanctified, holy rollers or to seek and save the lost). They need to consider what is the best way to accomplish the mission and set priorities to those activities. Then, they need to consider how to effectively communicate that mission to the neighborhood. That might help refine what actually gets posted on the marque.

    I have always agreed in principle with being “purpose-driven”, but I hate the term. If we are gospel-driven (or gospel-transformed?), then the purpose should naturally follow.

    • SearchingAnglican says

      Have you seen the missiology discussions that have been taking place on Jared Wilson’s blog (along a few others), based on weekly questions posed by Ed Stetzer? If you haven’t, you might be interested in following the discussions.

      I think you’re spot-on in your analysis, by the way. I always appreciate your insights.

  35. There was a sign at a church near where I once lived that said, “Stop, drop and roll doesn’t work in hell.”

  36. Just having read Martyn Llloyd-Jones’ sermon on I John 5:19 I can’t find much fault with the sign….now all the legalism many KJVO fundamentalist churches tack onto being of God….that’s a whole other issue.

  37. Maybe they should have used Matthew 27:5 (from the King James version, of course) for their sign: “And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”

    At least it would appeal to the emo crowd, and there’s no ambiguity. 😉

  38. Man, I wish I had seen this blog a bit earlier, I’m a bit late to the party. Collecting obnoxious church signs that I have *seen myself* is a bit of a hobby. Here are some classics from my list (again, I have seen these with my own eyes, I couldn’t make this stuff up):

    Guns don’t kill, people do, stupid

    God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve

    Church Salad – Lettuce Pray

    God doesn’t send people to hell, he just honors their choice

    To err is human, but don’t overdo it.

    Try Jesus. If you don’t like him, the devil will always take you back!

    Heaven is a Cool Place

    Avoid burning – use Son block.

    • 1 Cor. 1:21 says that ‘God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.’ I never cease to marvel that some think it says that ‘God was pleased through foolish preaching and the foolisness of preachers to save those who believe.’