Friday, October 20, 2006


John Mayer has a haunting song, I stole the title for this blogging entry. Check out the first lines:

"Is there anyone who ever remembers
changing their mind from the paint on a sign?"


I drive around St. Louis, more a couple years ago than now. But I see the big giant green JESUS billboard. I drive around Marshall Missouri last weekend and see lots of mini-JESUS billboards in people's yards, like campaign supporter signs.

I just can't help but think these are kind of silly. I think Mayer sang it better than I could ever say it. Are "lost" drivers (sorry for the pun, I really didn't plan it like that) going to look at that sign and think: GOD HAS FINALLY GIVEN ME A SIGN! OH JESUS, YOU ARE MY PERSONAL LORD AND SAVIOR!!!!!! Doubtful. Maybe i'm being cynical, maybe God can speak through a pretty obtuse sign, but I think he can do lots more with you and me. I think we're kind of fooling ourselves with our little (or big) signs. It's just one more billboard.

I'm not even gonna get started on the LAME signs that churches put up out front. Yes Dad, i'm talking to you. Yes, EUMC i'm talking to us. Ok, I guess I AM gonna get started. Let's sample some shall we?

"Don't make me come down there"

"That 'love thy neighbor thing'...I meant it"

"Our Sundays are better than Baskin Robbins"
(at least this isn't attributed directly to God)

These are just the ones off the top of my head at 2 freaking 30 in the morning. The worst part is i've actually been roped into putting the letters up for some of those signs. Who really thinks that we're attracting anyone with these things? Whats worse, i'm afraid of the type of person who would be so enamored with some cheeky slogan that they'd feel so inclined and intruiged to associate with the proprietors of the sign.

I'm probably blowing things out of proportion here, but hey, this is a blog. Hopefully i'll at least make somebody mad enough to comment. These signs are so representative of the church just not getting it. We get these stupid things from some book or website and put em' up on our marquees, bullatins, whatever. I'm not sure we REALLY think people outside of Christianity like them. Once again, I can't imagine any person i've ever met reading that sign, and then feeling a desire to get in touch with the source of such wit.

I'd compare it to an OXYCLEAN commercial. The ad is so ridiculous it's almost self-parody. I would never consider buying anything Billy Mays endorsed, he's simply to enthusiastic about too many products. However, Billy Mays does have one impressive beard, which will be soon saluted believe me. Back to the point, our signs are just one more adventure in futility.

But lets go a step further. Just like the church advertises itself in a way that reflects commerce, do we "sell" the same message? Do we confuse faith with belief? Are we trying to get people to buy into a set of rules?

How many of us out there would agree that the church puts more emphasis on right BELIEF or correct DOCTRINE as opposed to right PRACTICE or right RELATIONSHIPS?

Take communion for example. An outward sign of an inward act- remembering Christ. But take a cross section of how the church treats it: rules over who can administer it, beliefs over transubstantiation (I hope you're all impressed), what elements are used (wine vs. juice, wafers vs. bread), how the elements are administerd (the mini-cup, the bre-broken bread, the "rip n' dip"/intinction, the common cup), what is said, how it is blessed, and WHO CAN TAKE IT.

Holy crap. Thats like a communion royal rumble.

See what I mean? What could this look like to an "outsider" somebody who is "unchurched"? 'Man, those church folks sure think all sorts of things about communion. Is it really that difficult?' What do we hold more important? The relationship that communion embodies, or all the nitty gritt details steeped in tradition about how we do it...what we BELIEVE about it?

This had been churning in my mind for a little while. I recently started "Out of the Question...Into the Mystery" by Leonard Sweet and his first couple chapters are what I have blatently stolen from. Although he hasn't talked much about communion, or John Mayer, or JESUS BILLBOARDS...that was all me baby.

Alright, I hope some of this makes sense. I just think that the church has gone astray by using methods that don't really work, being out of touch with ourselves and who we're called to serve, and getting our priorities out of order.

Listen to that John Mayer song, it's a good one. It's pretty tough to write a deep song thats also really catchy while being pretty transparent. You know, not using lots of enigmatic imagry...he's just sayin what he thinks.

"Everyone how they think it outta be."
-John Mayer


Dusty Leggs said...

you know that little countdown I am running on my blog? the one that says 3 days until I announce something cool? Check back, this will be a part of it!

Very good stuff. I have been thinking about doing a book of photographs with these signs on them for awhile. The book would be titled "Why The Wold Hates Christianity"

Dad said...

Hi Adam,

Interesting comments on church signs that you wrote at 2 a.m. That's probably why the rant is sooooo long and incoherant. Which one of the ten subjects did you want to actually comment on?

You put a lot of energy into a worthless topic and a lot of emotion as well. What if you put that much energy and emotion into making disciples and serving the poor? Never major on minors, son. It will be the ruin of you.

And just so you know, when you were born, I put your name on the church sign for all the world to see. I was and continue to be so proud of you. It was the best sign I've ever seen!

So, lighten up, dude. A sign is no big deal. Remember, develop a least a few topics on which you have absolutely no opinion. Signs should be one of them.

Love, Dad

Adam Caldwell said...


"That's probably why the rant is sooooo long and incoherant."

Classic Pappa Mustoe

you had it comin' though...I have to say that I do hate those signs as well and would make an argument that it just might be a major issue...I gotch your back bro, but I'm still rollin' on the floor.

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Andy B. said...

Hey Adam,
This is SO not a worthless topic. When I read this, I didn't think you were writing about signs, but rather about the reputation/image/perception of the church in the world. Suffice it to say, that reputation is pretty low, and a lot of that is because people try to boil down our mystic relationship with God in Christ Jesus to a pithy bumper sticker or cutesy-tootsy church sign. I can't tell you the number of conversations I have had with honest, seeking, "unchurched" people who have avoided church for precisely the reasons that you write about.
So I say to you, Adam Mustoe, keep your eyes on the prize and press on! Write more posts at 2:30 a.m. if that's what it takes. This is good stuff, and more people need to be saying it (even if it befuddles people in our Dads' generation)

Adam said...

holy schnikies, a discussion!

for those of you who haven't met my dad...he's going to punish me for this blog entry by making me chop wood in the basement next time I visit. which will balance the fact that i'll probably ask him for money or something.

as for putting my birth announcement up on the church sign, shame on you for using the church's property for your own greedy pride. woe to you for stealing God's glory for your own.
did mary and joseph put baby Jesus' name out on the manger sign? i think not.

if "a sign is no big deal" then stop puttin cheesy crap up there.


Dad said...

Hi Adam,

As for Mary & Joseph and Jesusesssss name on a sign: He had his own FREAKIN STAR!!!!!!

Love always,


Dad said...

Hi Adam,

Just another thought. Who, besides Andy B., uses a word like "befuddles?" And just so you know, his dad is MUCH older than me!

Again, much love,