Recently we decided to add a digital notice board to the outside of our church building. Some might feel this is an extravagance, and many churches would not have the resources (or desire) to spend money on signage, but a road study revealed that around 11 million cars pass our site every year. So it seemed a good idea to let people know when we meet and invite them to join us. One shouldn’t need an angelic revelation to discover the time of a church service.
We have also determined that cheesy Christian slogans will be banned from our shiny new electronic gizmo. Over the years, I’ve spotted quite a few of these horrific manifestations. “If you think it’s hot here, just wait” chortled one sign during a particularly toasty heatwave. That’s right up there with: “Eternity. Smoking or Non-smoking?”
Of course, some of this awfulness is well intentioned, but hits the wrong tone. “Come in for a faith lift” sounds like an invitation to a surgical procedure that might just leave you with a lisp.
God is actually into signs. His occasional provision of supernatural signs and wonders are proof of that. When spiritual fireworks are ignited, they are designed not to cheer up, or even excite believers, but to turn the heads and hearts of lost people and help them come home.
But surely God’s ultimate signage is us. Some suggest that those who are searching for God should not look at his Church, but rather at Jesus, which is difficult, as Jesus is currently invisible to the mortal eye.
God’s intention has always been that a bewildered world should be able to look at his people and catch a glimpse of his likeness. Israel was called to be a beacon; a light to the nations. And the Church is the community proclaimed to be the light of the world.
We’re not called to rant at others about the way they should live, but rather show the world the pathway to Jesus by the way that we live. That high calling can be overwhelming because we are, at best, a broken sign, with our faults and flaws and fussing.
Years ago, I spotted another church sign that declared: “If Jesus is not Lord of all, He’s not Lord at all.” This might sound right enough, but it can be utterly debilitating.
As one still on the kingdom journey, I know that my every thought, motive and action does not yet sit under Jesus’ lordship, no matter how hard I try. If you think differently of yourself, I can recommend a good counsellor.
But even though the light that we hold often flickers, our high calling is to live provocative lives that cause people to question their own choices; We must be a people who are always ready to give the reason for the hope that we have (see 1 Peter 3:15).
And we’re called to be authentic too. Often Christians are accused of hypocrisy, because our lives don’t fully match our message. That’s unfair, because we’re the first ones to admit we’re sinners in need of a saviour. We don’t position ourselves as those who have arrived, but rather we invite others to join us in our walk with Christ. We can be open about our brokenness, doubts and struggles, because we follow the one who is not only the way, but also the truth and the life (John 14:6).
Speaking of honesty, today I spotted a sign outside a church that is definitely committed to truth: “Come here this Sunday and hear our pastor. He’s not very good, but he’s quick.”
Perhaps that’s a bit too authentic.