What does your church sign say about you? Why did your church pick those colors? That font? That name? That marque? That slogan?
Why do you have a sign? Why do you have a name?
In the churches of Christ, capitalization and syntax speak volumes about who you are as a people. There’s Church of Christ – church of Christ – a church of Christ – The Church of Christ at…
You get the picture.
I’ve read a couple books recently by Neil Postman. His two most famous books are Amusing Ourselves to Death and Technopoly. In these books, which deal with how media and society interact, he plays off of a mantra used by Marshall McLuhan, “The medium is the message.” Postman tweaks it slightly, though. He insists that, “The medium is the metaphor.”
Applied at large in culture this can clearly been seen as the evolution of technology and the evolution (or devolution) of society parallel each other. From the printing press to the telegraph to the television to the computer, each new technology is but a metaphor of the culture in which that technology has developed and taken root.
The book, for instance, is a metaphor of a culture that is primarily word-driven. Public discourse was largely academic, systematic, linear, and reasonable. Information was mostly localized because information could only travel as fast as your quickest train. Rationality and scientific thought were the guiding principles of society at large.
Then came the television. Now society is primarily image-driven. And whereas written words play off your rational mind, images focus around your emotions and feelings. Information is no longer localized – we can watch live what is happening on the ground half-way around the world. Instant gratification is the name of the game.
There are more examples, and Postman does a much better job explaining it that I do. But it made me think – if the medium is the metaphor, how does that apply to the way we do church?
Signs are but another technology. It is just another medium through which we communicate a message. But if the medium is the metaphor, what do our church signs say about us?
They simply say, “Here we are! Now you come to us.” It takes the responsibility off of us as the people to go out, talk to people, and take the church to them. Instead, we can simply say, “Yeah, you’ve probably seen our sign off the main highway.”
Signs also distinguish one thing from another. Don’t get me wrong, signs are a very helpful technology. They let us know that this building is a bank, not a hospital. They let us know that this bottle is poison, not grape juice. Without signs, the only way to really tell what something is would be to experience it for yourself.
Your church sign does the exact same thing. Your sign distinguishes you. It separates. It divides. It draws lines in the sand for you. It delineates your beliefs and creeds – written or unwritten. It let’s people know that you are not Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, etc. God forbid our church should ever be confused with another church.
Your church sign also tells people who you are and what you stand for so that they don’t have to experience it for themselves. Your sign says “The Church of Christ” – definite article and capital C. That tells me that you probably don’t use instruments, you won’t have a woman preacher, you take communion every Sunday, you think you are not a denomination, and you probably think you are the one true church and the only ones going to heaven.
What your sign can’t tell me is anything about your heart. Your sign is mute when it comes to God’s love for me. I will never be able to experience you as my church family just by reading your sign. It says nothing about my value, my purpose, or my Savior.
If the medium is the metaphor, what does your church sign actually say about your church?