I drove a lot of “heartland” miles over the last couple of months. It got me to thinking about how we as Christians communicate the message of the Gospel. Driving highway miles, I got to see a lot of billboards, homemade signs and other more professionally done signs and posters that tried to share the love of Jesus with the highway travelers. As I drove along, I tried to view those many signs through the eyes of an unbeliever, for whom they are intended.
Frankly, it is not that difficult for me, as I have only been a believer in Jesus since around 1991. I can remember a time when I didn’t believe in Jesus, and I can certainly remember how I reacted to well-intentioned efforts to share the Gospel and especially church signs and some of those same highway signs. I would encourage you to try to do the same as you come into contact with those messages. I’d be interested in knowing how you react to them, and I think we can learn something from such an exercise.
As I drove along, I saw most of those messages as largely ineffective. Of course, I don’t seek to criticize those who spend a lot of money to buy a billboard, or those who out of love for others put signs on their farm properties for others to contemplate. (I do wryly wonder at those who paint “holy graffiti” like “Trust Jesus” on highway overpasses.) And I certainly am not denying the power of the Holy Spirit to convict someone, even from a humanly ineffective sign (much like a tract). However, I do think we should try to be as effective as humanly possible, relying on the Spirit too!
Some of the more effective signs I saw were direct messages against the prolific pornography industry that is on our nation’s highways. They were often posted right next to the X-rated places and I think they would get someone to think about the destructive nature of pornography, and perhaps cause someone to pass by something they might otherwise indulge in. It reminds me that our message is best presented clearly and directly to situations that people are struggling with.
I have often debated the effectiveness of billboards, usually as I am contemplating spending the money for a billboard! Generally I fall on the side of not spending the money. But I was impressed by one billboard outside of Kansas City. It was a picture of Phil Robertson (Duck Dynasty) with a simple “I Am Second” and a memorable website address (iamsecond.com).
Obviously, Phil Robertson is quite a character, and the Duck Dynasty brand is everywhere. And anyone who stands up Barbara Walters to go duck hunting is good with me! As you know, he recently was lambasted by many for a GQ interview he did (GQ, really?). Having read the article (I don’t know why I am reading GQ…), I had to applaud the way he handled himself, and shake my head at the way that his words were twisted, taken out of context and downright misrepresented by subsequent articles. I know, on a much smaller scale, how that feels!
So this billboard made me go to the website when I got back to the Lou, and that website gave me many opportunities, in the safety of my office, to quietly discover the healing that Jesus can bring. I don’t know how often even a well-written tract might do that, but I hope that a lot of people go to that website because of that billboard. There are very interesting testimonies of high profile people sharing the healing that Jesus has brought them. Well worth the price of a billboard…though I’m not even second…maybe last?