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1 Corinthians Church Sign Messages (coming soon)

2 Corinthians Church Sign Messages (coming soon)


Some Church Sign Principles

One of the best ways that a church can interact with its community is via its church sign (aka the church marquee). Often they are movable type, often they are lighted, often they are the only way passersby know anything about the church. Often the only understanding your neighbors have of your church comes from the church sign. That is why it is extremely important to take it seriously.

Despite its importance, in my opinion it seems that churches misunderstand and misuse the power of the church sign. Often church sign messages are so trite that they are just plain annoying. Sometimes they are way too harsh. Sometimes they are clouded by "churchese" lingo that only other church-people understand. Sometimes they are just confusing.

I've been our church's "sign guy" for over seven years and we've been blessed with countless people who first "heard" about our church through the church sign. It's one of the most common reasons people first visit our church (our website is the MOST common reason people hear about us; you can read my article on Good Church Web Design here). Some of our most committed, core people decided to first visit years ago because of our church sign.

But like many other church-sign-message-creators, I know what it's like having to come up with a message each week. I've had to come up with our church's message over 350 times. I know what it's like to go through the classic bouncing around steps that sign creators struggle with--hunting across the internet, buying church sign message books, flipping through Daily Bread Devotionals. Eventually, I pitched all that stuff and began just looking through the Bible. Having been doing this so long, as being that I am a pastor and have seen the tangible fruits of this ministry, I've developed some pretty concise thoughts on what churches should be doing with their church sign. What follows is my "Philosophy of Church Sign Messages"--I sincerely hope it blesses you and strengthens you in serving our Lord as you serve your community.

Know the Purpose
The most important point to understand about the church sign is its purpose. The church sign serves as a running dialog between the church and its neighbors. Since many of these neighbors drive by the church sign every day, a good church sign develops something akin to shepherding or discipleship. Each time your neighbors drive past your church, they will instinctively read your sign and take in its message. Over time, they will build an impression of who you are and what you're about. So with this daily exhange with your neighbors, what should you communicate?

Put Up God's Word - Because it Fulfills the Great Commission
To me there is only one answer and it's obvious: God's Truth. Now I have some biblical reasons for this. First, when you read Christ's final words to the apostles, Jesus laid out the master plan of what were to be doing in Matthew 28:19-20. His familiar commands was to: "Go into all the world making disciples..." That word "making disciples" is just a single verb in Greek that means "to disciple." Therefore, Christ's final commands were to disciple the nations.

In light of this as the final mandate from our Lord, I'm often surprised at how rarely I see churches posting God's Word. What a perfect venue to teach scripture to this hungry world. And yet churches seem to love posting cute messages that don't say anything of value. Compare the value of messages like "A sharp tongue will cut your own throat" and "Forbidden Fruits Makes Message Jams" with this one from scripture: "Jesus Is The Radiance of God's Glory - Hebrews 1:3". Which one honors God more? Which conforms to Matthew 28:19-20 more? Scripture just has beautiful weight that the cute/coy messages don't have.
God's Word has enough profound and sublime truths in it that we don't need to make up our own cute/coy messages. 

So if you are planning to disciple the nations, your marquee should contain the information God wants to convey to the world. The church sign messages should primarily be the words of scripture that apply to the general public. You should be putting up portions of the Bible that teach your neighbors about God. My hope and goal for our church sign is that because of our messages, the residents in our community have a more refined, indepth knowledge of the Lord just by virtue of driving by your church daily for years.

Put Up God's Word - Because it is the Means God Uses to Regenerate Souls
So once again, I believe that nearly all messages need to be directly tied to scripture. There is another important reason for this. If you look up James 1:28 and 1 Peter 1:28, you'll see that it's the Word of God that brings about regeneration of the soul. God wants us to be about disseminating His truth. Therefore, I seek to make my signs as close to scripture as possible. That way, if the person were to really take it to heart, they'd be taking the actual words of God to heart.

Put Up God's Word - Because it Teaches People Where to Go in Scripture
When I post scripture, I also like to bring the community verse-by-verse through the books of the Bible. This doesn't mean I cover every verse, but I do work through entire books from start to finish. This is why I have those other links at the top of this article--they are lists of passages designed for church signs that sequentially work through individual books of the Bible.

I know it's a bit of a long shot, but I do believe that there will be some people who will notice that I keep tying messages to specific books of the Bible. My hope is that after several weeks/months, they will actually have an idea of what the Bible book is about. I'd be thrilled to hear that someone's interest in Romans or Hebrews or John was piqued by our signs so that they actually broke open their Bible and read for themselves.

Along these same lines, I know first hand that many unbelievers (and some believers too!) view the Bible as a really thick book and they have no idea of what it contains. They may have heard that it has some great stuff in it, but for the life of them, they have no idea where to find it. Putting up God's Word tells them that the Bible has the real answers/truth their is looking for.

Therefore, another primary goal I have is to post the gems of scripture so that people can see for themselves that God's Word is full of rich and glorious truths. I am very selective on what verses I post. There's no sense in posting difficult, inscrutable verses that only confirm people's wrong view of God's irrelevance. For instance, recently I embarked upon taking our community through the Gospel of John. It didn't take me long to realize that so many of the truths we cherish as believers just don't make sense when boiled down to a church sign. I ended up having to pass over many/most of the best passages. Which brings me to my second point: 

Don't Post Fire and Brimstone
If we are discipling the nations, let's think through the normal process of discipleship. As a pastor, when I meet with someone to disciple, I  start with where they are at and then use God's truths to bring them to the next level. The same applies to church signs. Let's not find the most inflammatory verses to post--we don't do this in normal conversation or ministry, likewise let's not do this with our church sign either.

For this reason, I strongly suggest not putting up verses like "Repent or Ye Shall Likewise Perish." Certainly that is true, and certainly its what people need to hear and understand. Yet throwing this in the face of your commuting neighbors fails the basic discipleship principle of shepherding where you lovingly lead people along towards the Lord. Even when Christ said those "Repent" words, the whole culture was ready and primed for the coming of the Messiah. John the Baptist had been laying down the foundation of repentance for years. So when Jesus said "Repent!" it was in the context of the whole culture expecting His arrival. At this point, we need to realize we're working in communities where they don't even believe God exists, let alone that they need to repent of breaking His laws. But if we spend years putting up biblical principles, over time their hearts will be plucked by the Holy Spirit telling them that yet again, they are not following principles from His Word.

So the church sign message needs to strike that balance of not being overly harsh and "gotcha" but still giving the truths the world needs to hear. This is where my "through a book of the Bible" method really comes into play. If I am working through a book of the Bible, seeking out nuggets that are spoken to all people, I will often find truths that are comforting, encouraging, etc. Occasionally, I'll find truths that are strong and weighty. If I have already established a rapport with my neighbors, these "harsh" messages will be within a book that has many other truths as well. I trust that our neighbors will say, "wow, that's a strong message" but then say, "But then again, it's from that Roman's book and their messages are often very encouraging and meaningful to me. Maybe that harsh message is something I need to consider just as much as the encouraging ones!" So a strong message has to be in the midst of a long conversation where the reader has learned to trust the church's voice. However, if all I do is post "Turn or Burn" messages, the community ends up tuning out our church as being full of cranks.

Don't Be Trite, Coy or Kooky
This brings me to another important point-- the church needs to have a coherent/cohesive message. Generally, the most common mistake I see with church signs is a lack of a coherent "voice" or message with the community. I would imagine that many of these churches have wonderfully dedicated volunteers trying to come up with something to say. They might find some cool saying, or some coy catchphrase, or some gotcha saying, or something the pastor wants--the end result is that if it sounds good it gets posted. This may bring relief to the person having to come up with a new sign message all the time, but the voice ends ups being more schizophrenic than comforting as they fold in a morass of hopeful, trite, harsh, boring, and confusing messages. 

The most egregious example would be a message that I've seen more than once: "Forbidden Fruit Creates Messy Jam." That's coy and cute, but horrendous for a church sign. What in the world does that communicate to your neighbors? I can only imagine what it tells people: For the hard rocker, it just says your too trite to be trusted. For the wayward profligate, it says that you won't accept them. And in general it just says you're strange.

The same goes for wording such as "Join us for our CH_ _ CH--what's Missing, U R" Ugh. Why would I want to go to some place that's so unstable that they require me, a complete stranger, to fill in what's missing? Aren't they complete in Christ?

I wish I could call up these churches and explain to them that the world is not looking for cute, coy messages. At our church, we often have people tell us that they first decided to come to our church because of our church sign. I believe one of the reasons is because we don't use coy little phrases.
Now, I'm sure that the average passerby doesn't think this deeply about these kinds of signs which further reinforces my point--using trite messages actually teaches people to just to ignore your church. Rather than be ignored, I want people to read our church sign every week in hopes of gaining wisdom, teaching, inspiration, etc. I want them to begin thinking of us as a place they can readily find truth about God.

So going back to my main premise, good church sign messages distill God's word into a manageable portion that universally speaks God's necessary truth to unbelievers. For instance, right now our church sign says, "Come to God to Find Grace and Mercy - Hebrews 4:6". Compare that message with a local church's sign that also currently reads "Life has no pain that heaven can't heal." Our message cites chapter and verse (they almost always do) and it's a truth that can actually change a person's life. If they heed that message, they would be coming to God for grace and mercy. Now the other church sign could be good in theory, and it's not the worst I've seen by a long shot (there is also a church that currently says "The Gospel of the Wizard of Oz" -- I have no idea what that's about). But anyway, in the former case, I'd never post it because:

1) it doesn't really make sense
2) it offers a platitude for very real problems using a phraseology that I just don't think unbelievers can understand
3) it's not directly tied to scripture
4) it seems to be saying (to me at least) that death is better than life (while that is technically true, our immediate high school communities have had about 8 suicides in the past two years, so I'm not looking to bolster that idea in our area).

Don't Scold
Going on, I think the church should NOT scold the community or making political statements. We're to be about the Gospel, and while politics is important, our mission is to be the pillar and ground of truth in the world, not the pillar and ground of political controversy. Likewise, until the Lord regenerates a person, they will likely have horrendous political views and why make that a barrier to them coming to Christ? When they surrender to Him, their views on many issues will change, so leave that the the work of the Holy Spirit and not the church sign.

Invite People to Your Events
Another common message that I have on our church sign is essentially: Join Us! I often put up things we're doing to invite people. While it would be nice if people actually came, that is not my primary purpose. The reality is that people don't usually just walk into a strange church for an event. But constantly posting the events at the church tells the community that there is life in our church and that we actually WANT them to join in this life. Likewise constantly inviting people communicates that we genuinely will welcome them when they finally decide to come. I believe we've had visitors who decided to stop in to our church directly because we invited them from the church sign. 

Change The Message Frequently
Lastly, church sign messages should change frequently, preferably weekly (which is what we do). If we are truly discipling the community, then each week is a new opportunity to impart God's word to the world. Likewise, a weekly change communicates that your church is crisp, professional, trustworthy and that you've got your act together. Churches that leave the same message up for 3,4,5,6 weeks at a shot just says "Ho, hum, no worries, I'm just looking to fill this space, pay no attention, I don't really care if you read this or not anyway, just go about your business and we'll all be fine, thank you."

Feel Free to Use Our Church Sign Messages
So all this is to say that I have posted at the top of this page many church sign messages that we have used. Keep in mind that these are my "rough draft" messages. My process is to prayerfully work through a book and jot down some ideas (which are these) and then from here I give the messages to our sign volunteers who post them every week. It would be too much time for me to recreate my monthly lists that we actually post, and with so many "Join Us" messages, it wouldn't be helpful anyway. So these are my rough ideas, though usually they go up just as they are first conceived. There are a handful of messages that I've listed here that didn't actually make it to the marquee, but I include them because perhaps they would be useful in your situation.

Thanks for reading, I'd love to hear your feed back and ideas. If you have some messages that you'd like me to post, email them to me and if they make the cut, I'll give you credit.

All for God's Glory!

Last modified on Friday, 12 April 2013 21:02
Russ Brewer

Russ Brewer

Rescued from the domain of darkness, transferred to the kingdom of the Son. Undershepherd of Grace. Husband of Corinne. Father of three. Chew-toy to Zeke...

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More in this category: « Part VIII - Know God's Word