I may have shocked people at Council meeting Tuesday night when I told them that I wouldn’t have spent money on a church sign and that in general they don’t do a lot of good. I stand by my statement. Church signs are good at letting the community know the church is active and when events occur. Not a lot else. Pithy sayings might give someone a chuckle or illicit a nod from another Christian, but most often they only result in eye rolls.
No one is going to come to church because of a sign. If it ever worked that way, it doesn’t now.
So what will?
Relationships. I have always been told “You may be the only Bible someone ever reads!” Scary thought. Let’s modify it. “You may be the only church sign someone ever sees.” Certainly that is the only sign they will draw any attention. People are not going to respond to a sign, especially not one that is somehow condemning. They will respond to seeing the members of that church out at work in the community. Living their lives and making connections. That is harder in a church whose membership is spread out, but it doesn’t change the fact that people are looking for communities. Churches are no longer accepted without reservation. Christians have done far to much ill in the world for that to be the case. A loving and welcoming community, on the other hand, proves itself.
Relevance is also needed. Maybe this could be communicated somehow by a church sign, but I think it would be difficult. Churches must be meaningful and relevant without sacrificing their foundational beliefs and principals. Although reviewing those from time to time might not hurt. Relevancy comes from relationships that understand where people are, who they are, what they need, and what they want. Of course that requires a commitment to work to become relevant. We can acknowledge that something was good and meaningful for us in the past and also acknowledged that it is not what is best suited for others today. People need to see we are willing to meet them where they are. Jesus did it. Paul did it. We can do it.
Revelation. Now its seems I have gotten weird for the sake of alliteration, but bear with me. God revealing Himself to humans in history and ultimately in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is the foundation of our faith. Holding on to that is what gives us purpose, power, and most authenticity. We seek revelation through a struggle, yes struggle, with God’s Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit and an awareness of the history of faith. We must not abandon that struggle, nor should we hide it. This is what gives the church value. So much of what the church has been in the past can be done by something else today. This cannot. We must embrace God’s revelation of Himself in Christ and his ongoing revelation of Himself in the Holy Spirit or we have nothing to offer.
Relationships. Relevance. Revelation. These are the things that will draw people to a church. These are not communicated by an electric sign. They are communicated by the lives of the members of the church.
You are the sign.