One thing I noticed very quickly after moving to the CSRA in 2006, was the large number of churches in our area. Some of them have grabbed my attention with clever messages on their outdoor signs as I’ve driven by. Perhaps, they have gotten your attention as well. I did a quick internet search and grabbed some samples of the kind of messages I’m talking about:
Seven Days without prayer makes one weak
Don’t make me come down there- God
Jesus loves you and your tattoos
Wanted: Singers inchoir within
What part of “Thou shall not” don’t you understand?
Sin burn is protected by sunburn
Tweet others as you would like to be tweeted
I believe in the axiom “Communication is the message received.” As I read these messages, I find myself wondering whom they are intended for and how they are received by drive-by readers like me? I wonder how much thought is given to what is being posted and how the response is being measured? Maybe I am just overthinking the whole thing?
This train of thought brought back to mind a brief encounter I had with the police when I was 21. I was serving 4 other college-aged students, spending the summer visiting a different church each week. Each day during these visits, we would lead Bible studies and group activities for youth and provide family activities each evening. Occasionally, a church would ask us to share some music and inspiration at a local institution. It was midday and we had just completed one of those programs. I was driving our car through downtown in a medium-sized city in Michigan. (This was MANY years before GPS).
Before continuing, I need to paint a picture for you of the one-of-a-kind vehicle I was driving. It was a LARGE four-door 1965 (I think) vintage Oldsmobile we called Oscar (no, I don’t recall why) with a luggage rack on top. It was the kind of car that was built with a trunk, large enough to accommodate a picnic table with 6 people sitting around it. The other unique feature of this massive dark green machine was the way we customized it by adding bumper stickers to each fender, each door, and along the back bumper. The stickers proclaimed messages like “One Way Jesus” and “Jesus Loves you.” “John 3:16 tells it like it is” and “Christ is the answer.” One even said, “In case of rapture this car will be empty.”
Being in an unfamiliar place, I inadvertently turned in the wrong direction on a one-way street. It only took me a few moments to realize I was headed the wrong way as I faced oncoming traffic. Simultaneously, a police officer saw my plight. He immediately activated his bright blue flashing lights to help ensure I got out of the way of those using the road correctly. As he got out of his squad car and started walking toward our vehicle, I watched him in my rear-view mirror. He was taking his time, reading each of the bumper sticker messages stuck prominently to our car. When he got to my window, my heart was racing as I wondered what the punishment might be for my driving infraction.
Once he confirmed that my license and car registration was current, he simply said “You’d think with all of the one-way stickers on the car, you’d be able to see the ones on the street!” After being convinced that no malice was intended, he bid me a good day and returned to his car. With my sweaty hands gripping the wheel, we were once again on our way. Now, heading in the right direction.
I think there are many times in our lives when we want to share our faith with others and yet feel inadequate. Incredibly, God meets our often-feeble efforts and still chooses to use us to share the good news of Jesus.
My 8th grade Sunday School teacher put it this way- “You are the only Gospel some people will ever read.” It’s a great reminder as we share our daily lives and faith with others.