by W. Clayton Brumby
Oh. Here's a new sign I want to show you. Big, bright and beautiful. It has a place to put messages. I've been reading this one for the last couple of months. It's on my way to work. One week it had: "WE'RE LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD MEMBERS." I think it was a take-off on the Marine's slogan about looking for a few good men. Last week the message was: "A CHURCH ALIVE IS WORTH THE DRIVE." Catchy. But a few messages like this and I'm wondering if they are really concerned about me, or are they just looking to add me to the ever-growing list of who was in their Sunday School last week.
When not doing that, I've found the sign pretty preachy. They use the word "you" a lot, as if the messages don't pertain to them anymore; like they've got it all together. One week it said: "YOU CAN'T GET CAUGHT IN PLACES YOU DON'T GO." And then: "YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN." I don't disagree with either of those statements, but don't they apply to all of us as human beings? I'm not looking to be around people who've "got it all together" and are going to make sure I get it all together. I want to be around people who live in the same world I do, and who struggle with the same things I struggle with. In fact, wasn't that why God became a man? So I could see Him relating to me?
Anyway, there is one last sign I'd like to show you. It's as nice as the last one, but I get the feeling the pastor of this church hasn't forgotten what it's like not to have all the answers. For instance, this sign rarely uses the word "you" like the other church. They almost always use the word "we," like we're all in this together.
Most of the time the messages are just trying to be engaging and have some fun with those of us coming by. Every once in a while, though, they'll zap me with a paraphrased Bible verse to let me know they are part of the solution, and have some answers. But most of the time the messages just get me to think about things I wouldn't normally think about; things from a different perspective.
The real impression I get is that this church cares; they aren't indifferent about me-not like the first few churches we drove by. They are always putting something on their sign with me in mind. The effort they go to makes me feel good, too. They not only change their sign once or twice a week, they also try to say what they say in a way I didn't expect. Last week the message was: "THE ARGUMENT YOU JUST WON WITH YOUR WIFE ISN'T OVER YET." I had to chuckle. I guess the pastor, or whoever changes the sign, knows something about marriage.
Over all, the sign just makes me curious: are the people who go here as real as their sign? I don't have a clue, but it inclines me want to find out. I can't help but think I might get more if I walked in the door. In fact, it almost makes me want to go back to church....
Me? No, I'm not a member anywhere. I was really involved in a youth group once, but, you know kids. I messed up a few times. I wanted to go back, but I didn't think I was made of the "right stuff." Would I consider going back now? Gosh, I don't know. That's pretty scary. If I did, though, I can tell you one thing: this last church is the first church I'd visit. It's the only one that's come close to earning my trust. Maybe you have a point. Maybe I should give it another shot. What are their service times again?
Clayton Brumby is a senior sign consultant for the J. M. Stewart Corp., Sarasota, FL, and is the author of a book, The MISSING Ministry, on church sign outreach. It can be ordered by visiting the firm's Web site at stewartsigns.commissingministry.htm or by calling 888-237-3928.