Last Sunday I had the privilege of speaking in a church in north central Kansas. I got up early and drove three hours to make the engagement.
I drove through seemingly countless towns as I meandered along windy roads of the beautiful Flint Hills. No matter how small, each community offered a broad menu of churches.
I decided to conduct an informal experiment. I assumed the role of a “regular guy” and began observing the rural church scene with unchurched eyes. I pretended to be a regular-unchurched-guy. Of particular interest were the church signs and the messages they contained.
I was curious what impression uninitiated folk (like I was pretending to be) picked up by reading the messages churches of all flavors hang on their signs for all the world to see. What conclusions about Christianity might people make from this one impression?
Granted, I might not be the best candidate to conduct such an experiment. After all, I’m a long ways from being unchurched. I’ve spent almost all of my 50-plus years involved in church. Many would call me a “professional” church person, not a regular guy.
But I gave it my best. I even took a different route home to expand my test field.
Many churches got an “A” for cleverness. There were seemingly unlimited variations in how they packaged their message. Other churches needed new paint and update their signs more than once in 50 years.
Overall, here’s one regular-unchurched-guy’s impression of the main message of the church.
Churches apparently want the rest of the world know they are right.
While the slogans were often catchy and thought-provoking, the content typically amounted to dressed up moralism.
Not that this is all-bad. Not by any means. Lord knows our culture needs a moral compass.
But after several hours of this diet, I couldn’t help thinking that these churches and the Christians who make them apparently think they have things figured out. There was at least a tinge of arrogance that seeped through. They apparently have a leg up on regular-unchurched-guys like me.
After a couple of days of pondering the findings of my experiment, another thought surfaced.
What if we in the church world took a different approach?
What if we made our church signs say, “You are loved,” rather than, “We are right”?
This regular-unchurched-guy would find that much more compelling.