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May 20th, 2010
08:56 AM ET

Pastor-iReporter: How I devise my church sign messages

Editor's Note: After Illinois minister Darrel Brandon submitted one of the most popular pictures in CNN's recent church sign iReport solicitation - of the sign in front of the church he pastors - we asked him to write about how he devises messages for his sign..

By Darrel Brandon, Special to CNN

As pastor with the Illinois Clay City Christian Church, one of my responsibilities is changing the message on the sign in front of the church. But it’s more an opportunity than a responsibility. Our building is on Main Street, the busiest street in town, so hundreds of people see my messages on the sign who will never hear my messages from the pulpit.

I put a lot of thought into what goes on that sign, getting ideas from a variety of sources - including thoughts that come to me during sermon preparation. I must keep in mind that I only have room for 20 characters and spaces per line, with a maximum of four lines.

To keep people reading, I change the sign once a week.

We use it to announce special events at the church and I get teased because as soon as a program is over, I change the sign. I don’t want people driving by and reading about an event that has passed. I’ve been caught at midnight changing the sign. Once a deputy stopped because he thought if someone was messing with the sign at that hour it had to be a vandal.

I want to target the audience that does not typically go to church, so I try to post something catchy and avoid religious jargon.

One sign that caught the attention of the local newspaper was the message I put up after Michael Jackson died last year. It read:

THE KING OF POP
IS DEAD
THE KING OF KINGS
STILL LIVES

The sign that generated the most comments may have been:

COME HEAR OUR PASTOR
HE’S NOT VERY GOOD
BUT HE’S SHORT

My intention was to use a double entendre - to demonstrate a sense of humor and cash in on the fact that many people think sermons are too long. Since I am only 5 feet 6, it seemed to work.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Darrel Brandon.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Houses of worship • Opinion

soundoff (207 Responses)
  1. vulpecula7.62mm

    How do you know god doesn't use space ships or worm holes? How do you know god doesn't initiate planet seeing with amino acids? Do you think god is not smart enough to develop evolution? What people say about God is religion and religion is gay but God... Now God transcends the concerns of your pathetic little planet.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:49 am |
  2. Zach

    And I thought I was the only one who thought Jesus was a zombie. Easter should now be known as "Christian Zombie Day" because obviously Jesus is the only zombie that counts, which is totally unfair to zombies of other religions.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:48 am |
  3. drew

    oops....didnt realize i was talking to someone who knows everything about our existence....if you know so much than can you explain why christianity borrowed the same story as other religions? And if you don't know what im talking about then dont ask me. Educate yourself...

    May 20, 2010 at 11:48 am |
  4. barresippin

    and why do you think it is the root of most conflict in the world? because it is dated back to biblical times. war between the middle east and africa (north east i.e sudan somalia ethipoia) is not new in our generation. they are fighting for the same reasons they were in the bible: muslims from teh middle east are trying to convert africa and other countries to their religion. but then again this is all a farce, right. I would like to see you tell that to a Suuni muslim or a sudanese soldier

    May 20, 2010 at 11:44 am |
  5. Roger

    Heh! Pastor maybe you should spend more time writing about....hmmmmm....I don't know...say the gospel!!

    May 20, 2010 at 11:44 am |
  6. Mary

    When I ask that question I always get the same thing, "oh millions and billions of years...". no matter what the question is that is the standard answer. How did this happen? Oh millions and billions of years. Oh okay well then how did this thing over here happen? Oh millions and billions of years. Oh well that explains everything then I guess. Time doesn't have anything on God people. He owns time.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:43 am |
  7. Judy

    When I was a child, I would help my Dad every Saturday afternoon to change the church sign at the DesPlaines Christian Reformed Church in DesPlaines, IL. He would always come up with interesting sayings, but the one I remember was the one he felt he couldn't use that my brother came up with. It was "Go to Church or go to Hell". The Church would have been scandalized, but we thought it was funny.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  8. drew

    christianity borrowed the same story as other religions anyways......they just marketed it better

    May 20, 2010 at 11:40 am |
  9. Gabby

    Chris, AMEN! *all puns intended* I'm not much of a church person but at th church my family attends, the priest tells an edgy joke that relates to the gospel, every Sunday. I think it's hilarious.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:39 am |
  10. Tom

    You mean they actually think these up themselves? I always figured there was a book named something like "Pastor Billy's Wizz-Bang" they got the signs from :-). There was a church I used to drive past every Saturday on the way to visit my mom that always had signs that cracked me up, but I guess it changed pastors because it suddenly got very boring.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:39 am |
  11. Mary

    It always amazes me what people are willing to believe in instead of our creative God. Like most atheists I know believe humans evolved from many different species to include fish, lizards, alligators, lions, apes, etc. Basically science fiction, the magical puddle of goo theory. hmmm pretty freaky. Its so easy to acknowledge God. Look around you at this amazing creation and existence. Don't choke on your pride, humble yourself and seek God. He can handle your anger, doubts, questions, actions, you can't shock him. Come as you are, but come on!

    May 20, 2010 at 11:38 am |
  12. Angela

    Jesus loves to party...He really really does...I hope you can meet the real Jesus one day and not the one that religious people talk about. His first miracle was to make more wine at a party, so yep, He loves to party

    May 20, 2010 at 11:36 am |
  13. Steve

    I invest in the stock market because I BELIEVE I can make money.
    I give hours of my life in exchange for money because I BELIEVE that I can trade money for the things I want.
    In 1942 Germans imprisoned Jews because they BELIEVED that Jews were evil.
    In 2001 terrorists flew planes into buildings because they BELIEVED that America was evil.
    People get abortions because they BELIEVE it is their right to choose.
    People kill doctors that give abortions because they BELIEVE that abortion is evil.

    What does it matter to me what she or anyone else BELIEVES? Answer: a lot

    May 20, 2010 at 11:36 am |
  14. kmcwilliams

    Here's a sign for you:

    Spare the 'rod' spoil the child?
    Not us Catholics.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:33 am |
    • Be glad we aren't muslim

      Funny. I'm sorry you weren't hugged enough as a child. Got any Mohamed jokes?

      May 20, 2010 at 11:54 am |
  15. Olaf Big

    Humor goes a long way anywhere including the pews. I am not a religious person, but I think churches would fill better if pastors and priests showed more common touch and some sense of humor. That would help in a small way to alleviate the hypocrisy of the clergy that turns off so many people who would otherwise be open to the influence of religion.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:26 am |
  16. Ryan

    Shame. So many other things you could be doing with your time then church. Funny to still be involved with old fairy tales like they are fact.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:21 am |
    • Papagino

      Ryan, most faith filled Christians do spend time in places other than church. Like working with the poor, ministering to prisoners, spending time with children, performing missionary work in other parts of the world. It is what our Lord told us to do. What would the world be like if that time was not spent.

      Time in church does not a Christian (or any other faith) make. What makes a Christian is a change of heart, a new life, a new love for God and our fellow man. Love you Man!

      May 20, 2010 at 11:48 am |
    • JDT

      "Shame. So many other things you could be doing with your time "then" church. Funny to still be involved with old fairy tales like they are fact." Maybe you should spend YOUR time learning proper grammar and spelling.

      You may think it is funny, but how did everything come about if there were no creator?

      Let us consider the “BIG BANG” for a moment…

      What caused the big bang? What created the materials to produce the big bang? There is something greater out there than science. Just remember, my friend, even the materials we have today; cars, trucks, clothes, food, are created by man. So they just didn't "BANG" into being... Believe what you want, but believe in something...

      May 20, 2010 at 11:55 am |
    • Kirsten

      It IS true! Do you know the story of Noah building the ark and how the people scoffed? Where did they end up? Jesus Christ is alive and well and He's coming soon! Get ready.....give your anger, hurts, fears, sins over to Him and confess Him as Lord of your life. HE alone can make a difference in your life!!

      May 20, 2010 at 11:58 am |
    • Dan

      Like what? There are people out there murdering others, destroying property, causing grief, etc. Regardless of your political standing, I am sure you would admit that politicians these days are crazy. Corporations trample on small business. It's hard to watch the News anymore because it sums up the worst things that happened over the day. We have terrorists out to kill us. Etc.

      The time spent in church, at worst, can leave you with some warm sentiments. And those fairy tales you spoke of generally give examples on how to make life more enjoyable. I think I know how I will spend my time.

      May 20, 2010 at 11:59 am |
    • greg

      poor you Ryan. I hope someday you come to realize the truth instead of what people believing they are intellectually superior and morally bankrupt... hope someday you come to realize that He is your only hope.... every knee will someday bow.. including yours. you can't very well say that people didn't try to tell you and share the hope with you.

      May 20, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
    • bobbales

      Why should I stop going to church just because you believe it's fairy tales?

      May 20, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
    • Luap

      You must be very old and wise to know for a fact that this is a fairy tale. Or perhaps you yourself are a god who knows all and sees all. Or perhaps you religiously follow a belief without evidence to support it, blindly wandering through your godless (and therefore pointless) life by faith.

      Best of luck wherever you end up.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:26 pm |
    • mel rae

      Papagino, don't forget how Christians spend time tooting their own horn for supposedly selfless acts, and also using their "missionary" trips to convert foreign non-Christians, whose indigenous faiths were perfectly acceptable before, but not after missionaries come spewing their doomsday stories.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
    • Papagino

      Mel Rae – Most of us don't toot our own horns, It's not what we are taught to do. Yes, there are "look at me" Christians, I don't deny that.

      That being said, are you saying that the work being done in Christ's name amounts to nothing? Feeding someone who is hungry is bad? Building a home for someone who doesn't have one is bad? Can you show me how spending time with someone in prision and just talking hurts?

      If not us, then who?

      May 20, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
    • Chris

      Ok, I have to interject something here. I spend some of my time helping the homeless, working to make my community a better place, picking up trash, building houses for HfH, and many other things. These are some of the many ways I spend my time, but guess what? I am not a religious man, nor do I have plans to be. So, I don't do these things because they are "gods" will, but because they are needed to help my fellow American. That is all the reason I need to do what I do.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
    • james

      From my perspective, it takes more faith to believe God does NOT exist, than it takes to believe he does. The evidence is plain to see.

      May 28, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
  17. magusap

    Remember that no matter how hard life gets DO NOT LOOSE YOUR FAITH. God sent his only son to save us and all he is asking is to love them and love his people. I don't understand faith, but I BELIEVE...

    May 20, 2010 at 11:19 am |
  18. Max

    Great idea and very creative! Good job Darrel!

    May 20, 2010 at 11:19 am |
  19. Midia

    I like this pastor's idea. Now a days we have to be very creative in church. There are very few people who go to church and like it. When we go to church it's not about the pastor it's about JESUS....so when he said "He's not very good" he most likely ment it...because when a goos sermon is preached through him...it's not his works....But the works of the Jesus Christ through his life. Jesus came...He dies...He Arose...He Ascended...and HE'S COMING BACK!!!

    May 20, 2010 at 11:01 am |
    • Steve

      Midia...ignore the none sense that comes from some of these respodents. I was also a miserable, blind sinner who used to mock God in the past but it was all a show. It's pathetic and sad that people will let their pride allow them to raise their fist against the one who holds their breath...the tragic thing is, too many will seek mercy when it's too late (when all the while God is offering it now). When I see these postings I can't help but think of the old Proverb that says,
      "For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of fools"

      May 20, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
    • waitasec

      Churches need to candy coat the truth so their clientele will came back again and again week after week. They get to enjoy the fruits of their labor for providing entertainment. Think about it, while the congregation sit in comfortable chairs in a beautiful setting, like the crystal cathedral for instance, listening to someone (who they revere as someone who knows more abut the word and has more faith than they do) standing there before everyone spewing out their intolerance and their opinions as if it were the actual word of god while acting like a comedian by telling jokes. It’s not funny. The church receive 10% of the congregation’s income (and that’s not including people that are just visiting), and guess what, they don’t pay taxes on that. Now that is pouring lemon juice on the wound!! What the tithe provides for these preachers and pastors is an upper middle class life style and for those who work at the church with some form of authority. The other part goes back to the institution for presentation and a smaller portion goes to the needy. WOW. That is out in the open for everyone to see. But the simple mined person would rather just live their life, not cause a ruckus and follow the leader because it a lot easier to do that than to question the machine. These pastors and preachers know this to be true and they bank on it.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
    • Dale56

      Midia I am an agnostic meaning I believe in something I think, but cannot define what that is. I have posted this before but please indulge me again. The best bumper sticker I have ever seen was published by the League of Agnostics and Atheists and it simply said " I don't know for sure and neither do you".

      May 20, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
    • mel rae

      believe whatever you want, just don't use those beliefs to infringe on other people's human rights ie. gay marriage, opportunity to get an abortion if so desired

      May 20, 2010 at 1:26 pm |
    • Chuck2

      @ mel rae...neither one of those are human rights.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
    • Rex95

      As for Zombie Attack, the Bible already told us to expect this:
      Jude 10 But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.
      And 2 Peter 2:12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
      I am in NO WAY happy about this for those folks, but it is not unexpected.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
    • mel rae

      it is a human right to be oneself, love whoever one wants, and make one's own decisions.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
    • christian

      Would rather just seee a day when people dont kill in the name of someone

      May 20, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
    • mel rae

      @ Christian...well, yeah, that would be nice too 🙂

      May 20, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
    • Jay

      Science says man was formed from space dust, earth is space dust. The bible says God created Adam from the DUST of the earth. Earth is composed of space dust.
      Science says as of two days ago that there is something missing, they say we shouldn't exist because they don't know why. The bible tells us why we are here.
      Science says the earth was covered with water at one time. The bible says a flood covered the earth.
      Science says knowledge has exploded and man knows more now than ever.
      The bible says that in the last days, man's knowledge will increase.
      What science hasn't told us and for some reason can't figure it out, is how a cell decided to become a fish that walked on land...oh well, nobody's perfect...but that's OK too because that's why Jesus went to cross and rose again. See ya..God bless.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
    • Real

      @mel rae

      It is absolutely NOT a human right to KILL unborn babies. What a selfish and greedy way to think.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:01 pm |
    • Gray

      People are so immature. Why can't you people accept the fact that people have their own opinions and beliefs and stop trying to prove everyone wrong. While I am not religous, I do accept the fact that some people are, and I am open to hear what they have to say because maybe they could be right. Let's try to be mature and stop acting like children.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
    • Ninure da Hippie

      With all the negativity, mean-spirited "bovine droppings", nit-picking, your signs at the very least would make people smile, even if they never walked thru your doors.

      And that is Good News.

      May 24, 2010 at 5:27 pm |
  20. Jythie

    I keep wanting to leave notes on the local church's sign, asking how much thought they REALLY put into their sayings since many of them are pretty horrible (as in mean or bad message, not puntasticly) one you stop to think beyond the unicorn farts.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:58 am |
    • Bryan H. Rhoden

      I have just published a book, "Signs of the Times: The False Messages, Half-Truths, and Poor Theology of Church Marquees" which addresses your thoughts. It's available on Amazon.com.

      June 8, 2010 at 7:40 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.