I Saw The Sign
Crummy church signs: it’s nothing new. There are entire websites devoted to them.
Now I really don’t want this to be a whinge-fest or a hyper-critical church-bagging blog post. But I just wonder sometimes, “Why, why, why, why, why?”
So what got me going was one particular local church (which shall remain nameless) with the sign:
We can’t minimise your tax but we can minimise your sin!
Now I dunno what you think about that, but here are my thoughts about a sign like this:
1. What does it actually mean?
- If ‘minimising sin’ = forgiveness, then it’s not true and not analogous to reducing taxes (unless it’s a matter of someone paying your tax in your place). Forgiveness of sins = a complete wiping out of sin, not a minimising of it.
- If the alternative meaning is taken, then ‘minimising sin’ = making us sin less. The analogy with taxes holds better, but what kind of theology is that? Is the one thing we want to communicate to the world: ‘Hey, come to church, ‘coz we can make you sin less and be more moral!’? If that’s the message, then let’s tear down the sign! It’s moralism and salvation by works. (While I’m on that, I reckon many church signs tend towards moralism. Just take another local church’s sign: ‘Seven days without prayer makes one weak’. Okay, nice pun, but again, what are we communicating to the outsider? You must pray, ‘coz otherwise you’re gonna be weak. Feel guilty yet?)
2. What’s the actual purpose of it?
- Attract newcomers? Not sure if a sign like that actually piques anyone’s interest. Gen-X and Yers would probably run for the hills in embarrassment.
- Sell an image? Only if the image is, ‘Hey, we’re trying to be funny and clever but aren’t really.’
- Bring people back to church? That might work if they feel particularly sinful and want a dose of moralism. Of course the problem is that by putting sin in the context of a witty tax-time remark actually trivialises sin and so may work against this.
Now at my church, I have to think about what to put on our signs as well. And I gotta admit, it’s not easy. Our current sign is pretty lame. It just advertises the tagline of our sermon series, ‘Epic Life’. It’s not great, but at least it’s not misleading, too cringe-worthy (I hope), or needs changing week-by-week. (Also it doesn’t use that many ‘Ns’. Ours is an interchangeable lettering sign. We’re always short of that letter for some reason.) However, my principle is: less is more. Better not to say anything than say the wrong thing.
So please, churches, sign-people, let’s minimise the cringe-factor and think well and hard about our signage.