“Trust Christ or Burn!”

I can’t say I was surprised to see this message proudly displayed on the illuminated church sign on a back road in Kentucky. I find it disappointing, but certainly not surprising.

It was rather ironic that another church sign only a quarter of a mile away read, “On fire for Jesus.” I think these two congregations might work together in the future for a more consistent use of metaphors.

I tweeted a picture of the first sign with a note of my disapproval. I received a few varied responses. One response came in the form of  a question, “Is this love?” I responded by comparing  this sort of methodology to a doctor telling you have a terminal illness through scribbling it on a memo note, or by shouting it through a megaphone. The weight of the message places a great responsibility on the messenger.

But sometimes truth can be obscured in its delivery. While I’m not condemning all forms of “billboard” evangelism, I do think signs like this make me stop and ask, “Is this a loving way to point people to Christ?” If we are not careful we will use shock methods to make us feel more faithful in our evangelism only to numb ourselves to the fact that we don’t actually have any significant relationships with real lost people.

I do believe the options are really as simple as the church sign proclaimed. However, I think its message communicates a self-righteous condemnation more than it presents the gospel. As Pastor Tim Keller aptly said, “Nobody actually learns that ‘God loves you’ by being told. They have to be shown.” The great love of a gracious God is not best transmitted through memos or megaphones but through sincere, transparent, and committed relationships.

Church signs are no substitute for living truth in loving community.