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I wanted to flip them off.

September 14, 2007

That is just me being really honest. I drive by these billboards and that is just what I think. When I drive to Tulsa I pass countless billboards for churches. Right in there with all the really important stuff like radio stations and restaurants. I’m waiting for the one that will offer specials or a drive-thru.

You want to know what I really think? I think that since we don’t spend much time looking like Jesus we have to figure out other ways to get the word out. Have you helped those in need this week, no but we did put up a brand new billboard on the interstate for the poor to see.

They are at least a $1000 a month for a minimum of $12,000. We do our entire Back to School Mission with school supplies, backpacks, underwear, socks, glasses etc. for around $7,000. Why can’t we recognize a wiser investment of resources?

I don’t know, maybe you are at a billboard church and you can explain to me all the good the billboard does, how it looks just like Jesus, because I really want to know. I want to be put in my place. I want to drive by not grumbling with a desire to extend my middle finger, I want to drive by and say gee who would have thought that a big sign on a stick really shows people the love of Christ.

I don’t know who started this craze but I wish it would stop. It seems to me that churches are in a keeping up with the Jones kind of thing where they don’t want to be outdone by the Baptists down the street. You see I think they do those for their own members. I drive by grumbling and they drive by smiling saying isn’t our billboard nice. And I thought following Christ meant loving the least of these turns out it means having a billboard with the applicable web address.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim Sexton permalink
    September 14, 2007 9:06 pm

    My daughter drives by a huge church in Memphis, one that has a huge campus fronted by three monstrous crosses. The locals refer to it as “Six Flags over Jesus”…

    The time comes to mind when Jesus was asked by his disciples about feeding a crowd. His response… “You feed them.” It was also his challenge to Peter at breakfast one morning by the sea… “Feed my sheep”.

    One of the dangerous traps we can fall into is seeing our way to attending to the physical needs of people without moving on to the next step with them. The crowd followed Jesus after being feed, seeking him out the next day to be fed again. Christ, realizing their motivation, sought to feed them spiritually instead of literally.

    I am grateful for you, your blog, and your sense of community as you seek to help the poor. In your efforts, don’t forget that they need spiritual tending as well… otherwise the $7000 is just as much a waste of God’s blessings as a $12000 sign, if neither brings people to a relationship with God.

    Godless social service programs can help people out that are less fortunate, so there must be more to it than feeding and tending the physical. They either go hand in hand, or it is a real waste of an opportunity to reach and teach.

    I hope this comes across as intended… forget the signs, rather look to opportunity that is in front of you when people come to have their physical needs met. As Jesus would himself urge… ‘you feed them.’

    Jimbo

  2. September 14, 2007 11:04 pm

    Jim,

    I know what you are saying. Certainly the church didn’t only focus on needs but it certainly didn’t ignore them, in fact they were called to task for doing just that. I agree it is both but if I look over my landscape I’m not seeing balance.

    I don’t think Barnabas sold his land to purchase ad space. That was money given to meet needs. We need ad space today because we no longer do what we should. What frustrates me is the fact that instead of trying to do more we purchase billboards.

    I agree to meet physical needs only is a mistake but that mistake doesn’t allow us to ignore the needs of the widow and orphans.

    I agree with James in 2:14+ and the irony is the text used by some to say faith is more than mental assent in context is about helping the poor and those in need.

    “The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter.” Acts 10:5

    “After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings.” Acts 24:17

    The irony of this text is it is smack in the middle of Paul following Jewish customs of the time.

    “For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” Galatians 2:8-10

    What I run into is this idea you do your thing, help people out and try to share Christ and we will do our thing. I just don’t see how that works.

    I understand that wasn’t your point but why would we assume that to point people to helping the poor means we don’t offer them salvation? I understand that the social gospel came around a number of years ago but I am too young to know what that was about.

    Thanks for your comments Jim, I understand, you can see this really gets me.

  3. Jim Sexton permalink
    September 15, 2007 12:53 am

    Thanks for understanding… I am only trying to say that we have a job to do, and reaching the lost can be done in many ways, just as long as we are reaching the lost.

    Jesus showed us in many ways, that we needed to tend to the needs of people, physical and spiritual. In fact, it seems to me that his ministry was to tell people about his father’s plan… it was more often than not that he took care to heal, feed, or whatever because that was what opened the door.

    Jimbo

  4. September 15, 2007 3:38 pm

    Jim,

    I respect the work you are doing and I appreciate you sharing your POV, I just disagree. I don’t think it is optional. I don’t think it was just some technique to get people to see that he was the Messiah. If getting people to say Jesus is the Messiah is the only goal then the prosperity gospel is getting it done all over the world.

    I personally believe that it shows the very character of God when we help those in need and as followers of Jesus we should be following the example. I don’t personally think that if Jesus came back today he would get rid of helping the poor and needy and instead put up a billboard saying come meet me and here my good news. If he did do that I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t tell those who gathered to go help those in need.

    Yes he was trying to get people to see that he was the King and he was bringing a different type of Kingdom but to say it is optional what that kingdom is about to me is wrong.

    Hear the word of the LORD,
    you rulers of Sodom!
    Give ear to the teaching of our God,
    you people of Gomorrah!
    “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
    says the LORD;
    I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
    and the fat of well-fed beasts;
    I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
    or of lambs, or of goats.
    “When you come to appear before me,
    who has required of you
    this trampling of my courts?
    Bring no more vain offerings;
    incense is an abomination to me.
    New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
    I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
    Your new moons and your appointed feasts
    my soul hates;
    they have become a burden to me;
    I am weary of bearing them.
    When you spread out your hands,
    I will hide my eyes from you;
    even though you make many prayers,
    I will not listen;
    your hands are full of blood.
    Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
    cease to do evil,
    learn to do good;
    seek justice,
    correct oppression;
    bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow’s cause.

    Isaiah 1:12-17

    Again, yes we are to bring people to Christ, not just help them physically, but my goal is to get people in Christ to be selfless and giving to the least of these. My emphasis has less to do with those in need and more to do with those who are saved, getting them to be Christ because I know that even though I offer all we help the message of Christ some will not believe. I don’t believe that fact makes it optional.

    “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42

    “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

    “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

    “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
    “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:34-46

    In the end it isn’t even about how many come to Christ it is whether or not we look like Jesus. Many people don’t understand that.

  5. Jim Sexton permalink
    September 15, 2007 3:58 pm

    Actually we don’t disagree… I’m not sure how you read my responses and got the idea that I think it is optional, it isn’t. The problem I see, dealing with needier people than I ever realized existed, is that so many church outreach programs here in Cherokee don’t bother to go the next step. They feel as though the feeding and clothing of the poor is all they are called to do, and to me that is a misunderstanding of what Jesus himself showed us to do.

    The two MUST go hand in hand, otherwise we have missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime. What Christ did wasn’t a technique, it was genuine and compassionate. He didn’t go through the motions, he was showing us the way to reach out.

    When I teach, I attempt to do it the way Jesus himself did, using common everyday stuff to make his points with my lessons. We have people here that make pottery, weave baskets, or other traditional skills. I try to use examples from their everyday lives to illustrate a point that they can grasp. It isn’t a technique as much as it is following the teaching methods of Jesus.

    To be sure, I think the sign was a waste of money in the same way you did. I was only trying to point out that giving out stuff (clothes, food, bookbags for school) without also reaching out spiritually is just as big a waste of opportunity. Sure, people get stuff on the one hand and only get a sign to read on the other, but we still fail them if we don’t reach them with something more substantial than physical needs.

    We really don’t disagree… it isn’t an option. We are here to be to the world what Christ was, in all ways.

    Jimbo

  6. September 15, 2007 5:24 pm

    Jim, I hear what you are saying, we planted a Spanish language church for that very reason, we could give them clothes and medical care but couldn’t give them spiritual aid.

    Many people in our fellowship come from our helping them when they were in need.

    I do see something very different in a billboard and giving no matter the outcome.

  7. September 17, 2007 3:01 am

    Darin,
    I agree.
    I the money that can be spent on helping the homeless, the poor, the addicted, those who need Jesus. Non-Christians are going to be driving down the highway and say, “Wow, did you just we that cool, billboard, I think I will go to Church today.” Non-Christians don’t think that way. Church-hopper’s think that way. But, really how many ministers, elders want church hoppers in their churches. I do think we should make our selfselves know to the commuinity by making a difference in the community. Reaching out. Demonstrating God’s love and grace to the neighborhood that surrounds the church. As Christians we are the Billboard. We are to show Christ to others by the way we live our lives and demonstrate our love and grace to those around us to the community that surrounds the Church because non-Christians aren’t just going to decide one morning to go.

    That is why I think Jesus says in Matthew 28:18-ff tells His disciples, “Go and make disciples”.

  8. September 17, 2007 3:48 pm

    We are billboards.

    Preach it preacherman.

  9. Josh permalink
    December 3, 2007 8:42 pm

    Big Picture– How do I justify $24 K per year on billboards- Simple-the message creates 16,000 views per day or 5.4M impressions per year. We deliver an ecumenical yet biblically based reminder to the city to Love Their Neighbor, Love God, and honor God’s teachings- To go out and TO DO for their follow man. It is a nudge to move a person along their spiritual journey; it is a reminder to tend to their own spiritual development and it is a reminder to write the check to programs and churches like yours who do wash feet and feed the poor. It is the fuel that moves the flywheel of benevolent activity.

    Using billboards as a religious medium embraces worldly wisdom in the teaching of what the world thinks is divine foolishness. We are human, we do not all look or act like Jesus but some of us try. We all need to be reminded- We spend 1M annually on a church building and paid staff that serves maybe 25K worship visits per year- 200K of that budget goes to direct benevolent programs like schools and needy children, and education and music and worship and foreign mission- 100K or 10% of a budget to remind people 5 million times to love one another is money well spent, especially if they get the message and start acting a little more like Jesus.

    As you might guess I am a business man, versed in numbers, advertising and ROI. I also came late to Christianity. And am trying to get more money for this type of public messaging. I was un-churched for 40 years and used to think—“what a waste of money– spending God’s money to advertise church, what a bunch of loonies”. Here is reality- It is a very good way to reach the un-churched because the message actually gets delivered. They won’t invite you to ride in their car and will most likely decline your invitation to church, but a properly delivered message can be planted like a seed; with prayer and guidance and time and touch, it just might grow into someone who looks like Jesus

  10. December 3, 2007 11:45 pm

    Josh,

    Thanks for stopping in. I’m curious how you went from someone away from God with a negative opinion of billboards and church to a believer using billboards. Care to share more because it sounds like your opinion of them as someone away from God was that they were a waist?

    I do believe in getting the message out. I spent ten years in advertising and used billboards for clients. Personally we use the PR road to get our message out. It takes more work at times but I believe it has greater long term impact.

  11. January 8, 2008 7:53 pm

    My faith journey is a long story suffice to say at 40 or so I began to see the light. Billlboards- I still have a negative opinion of billboards- ugly- detracting etc–but—- they can be used very effectively to post a message that is uninterrupted repeatable and can be seen by all–there are may ways to get the word out- it is just a matter of leveraging what the world has to offer– I belive in embracing technoology and print and billboard etc– what everr it takes with in reason- church peopple flock together for the mmost part- and are shy about reaching oout and getting their hands dirty- billboards and email and websites make it easier to reach out- email and blogs make it easier to embrace and develop rappport and community-my corporate website is above- my email you have- I am working to fund a billboard to website traffice builder that will initiate dialogue between pastors and the public- I’lll keep you posted

  12. tcsarchitect permalink
    November 13, 2008 6:58 pm

    Darin,
    I just noticed a comment you made asking for an opinion. (I for some reason don’t get email when someone comments. I must have missed this one you made back in September.) I am guessing this is the post you were talking about.

    As you know better than me Marketing is a fascinating thing. You are probably aware of the site churchmarketingsucks. I don’t want to condemn them…Just like having Starbucks in the building may draw some people, the billboard “might”. I doesn’t seem a good use of resources…but shallow, rich people need Jesus too.

    But having said that…I’m good with you filpping them off if you feel better.

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