The church signs around town have been catching my attention lately. You know the kind - those one-sentence messages that encourage drivers to come by on Sunday or that advertise the personality and beliefs of the congregation within. Folks down South are a church-going people, and our hometown and bon bon headquarters of Wilmington, NC is no exception. A quick search in an online phone directory yielded 915 results for “churches or places of worship” in the Wilmington area. Not bad for a city with a population of about 110,000 people. But, attendance slows down a bit in the summer, and that’s when preachers, ministers, priests, and deacons up the ante with the outrageousness of their church sign advertising. Some of the messages are witty and charming; many are kitschy and corny; and a few are just downright ridiculous and tacky.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Not every church down here sports drive-by sermon advertising. With so many places of worship, there is something for everyone - from the dignified stately historic churches with bell towers that define our downtown skyline to the neon-lit boxes in strip malls. For years, there was a church that sat right next to a used car lot. The car lot is gone now, but the church is still there. Another ironic favorite is the church next to the adult entertainment establishment. Their clever preacher put the following message on his church billboard: "Jesus is watching you!" I wonder how many men do u-turns after reading that message...
The two signs that caught my eye recently were: "Wal-Mart isn't the only saving place!" and "Looking for a lifeguard? Ours walks on water." This got me to wondering whether our local men and women of the cloth make these things up themselves, or if there is a reference guide for religious billboards. A little online research revealed not one, but twelve reference guides for God’s disciples of drive-by sermons. Titles included: Forbidden Fruit Creates Many Jams, Signs for These Times, and The Proverbial Marquee: Words to Drive by. Some are even conveniently arranged by categories such as: Eternal Damnation, God-on-the-go, Guilt, Funny, and Thought-Provoking.
Well, my thoughts were certainly provoked, and I couldn’t resist picking out a few gems to share with you. I have put them in my own categories:
God with a Capitalistic G
God is like Coca-Cola; he’s the real thing.
Try our Sundays. They are better than Baskin-Robbins.
Under same management for over 2,000 years
Wacky and Downright Tacky
Don’t give up; Moses was once a basket case too!
Jesus died for "myspace" in heaven!
The banana that leaves the bunch gets peeled.
Body Piercing Saved My Life (No Kidding: while driving home from a singing telegram in Sunset Beach a few weeks ago, I recently saw this message in bumper sticker form on the back of someone’s car. It wasn’t the message, but the accompanying illustration that was most disturbing!)
Seven days without prayer makes one weak.
Those who throw dirt, lose ground.
The Ten Commandments are not multiple choice.
Don't wait for 6 strong men to take you to church.
If you’re too open minded your brains will fall out (which was clearly what had happened to the person who made this one up!)
WARNING: Exposure to the Son may prevent burning!
Try Jesus. If you don't like him the devil will always take you back.
The best vitamin for a Christian is B1.
But my all-time favorite is the one I wish I would see more often on those crazy church billboards: Sign broke; message inside.