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 sign that generated the most comments may have been:


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. Dave

    GEE WHIZ!!! I thought I was going to see some good and creative church signs and all we get is a bunch of atheist/agnostic banter. Well, Mike and all you other poor suckers, here's one for you:


    Will you be smoking or non-smoking?

    May 20, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
    • smalltownmom

      That is funny and sad at the same time. non smoking for me please.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
    • JDH3

      ditto! non-smoking please

      May 20, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
    • Papagino

      Put me down for non-smoking

      May 20, 2010 at 2:27 pm |
  2. elidude

    I think the poor pastor means he is BRIEF, not SHORT, unless he's, say, 5' tall (short)

    May 20, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
  3. Starzee

    Two scientists were sitting talking and one of them said, "Well God, we don't need ytou anymore, we have figured out how to create a human being."
    God said in a booming voice from heaven, "Is that right?
    The first scientist said, "Yes sir, we can make a human being out of dirt, just llike you did."
    God said, "Well let me see it, this sounds fascinating."
    So the men reached over and gathered up a handful of dirt. God said, "Whoa wait a minute......get your own dirt."

    Science, as with any other original thought, idea or creation, came from the Maker of this Universe, the one and only living God. And this God loved us, His creations so much that He sent His own son down to die because when sin came into the world, ew were doomed. So, Jesus, took MY sins and YOUR sins upon Himself, and being not guilty of ANYTHING, He wsa made guilty of everything we have ever done. He died so I don;t have to die that death of the soul. The body wil pass away, but if you die without having beleived in Jesus, you are forever separated from God.
    Simple as this, He paid your bail so you don't have to go to hell, you only must confess and let Jesus do the rest.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:17 pm |
  4. b1wutx

    It's not our believes that can save us, it's WHO we believe that can save us:
    "Whosoever believes in HIM shall never perish but have everlasting live."- John 3:16

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

      @b1wutx Not to sound mean or anything but it may be a better idea to quote the entire sentence to avoid confusion 🙁 There's much more to that little passage

      May 20, 2010 at 1:26 pm |
    • b1wutx

      Sorry,I may need to clarify, my post was to answer one question: "Can our belief save us?" and the answer is: depends on who you believe. According to the bible, it's clear that only when we place our trust in Jesus Christ can we have this enternal life.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:27 pm |
  5. TheMax

    I have absolutely no religious affiliations whatsoever – Darwin's theory is MY belief, although I do respect those who have their faith (and envy them somewhat.) However, this guy seems like he is touch with the 21st century – what a breath of fresh air! I certainly wouldn't want to hear a sermon, come to that I don't care if he's short. I DO think he has an awesome sense of humor and would like to meet him away from the pulpit. Laughing at yourself is really wonderful.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
  6. Isaac

    According to science and philosophy the only thing we can really know for sure is that we exist. So whatever you choose to think true apart from that you take purely on faith. You can't know for sure that the scientific method you used to "prove" something wasn't really just a figment of your imagination.

    Also, not only do I take on faith that God exists, but I also take on faith that science is real and that God used science and evolution and the big bang and all the rest as his engine of creation. Faith in God or faith in Science is still faith all the same at the end of the day (or what you take on faith was actually a period of time equal to a day)

    May 20, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
  7. Urfubar12

    @ Drew–"Christianity borrowed the same story as other religions anyways......they just marketed it better" Seriously...why do you even care? Why is it that these people who claim to be atheist or say that all religious people are in a cult, or that we are all just flat out stupid ALWAYS seem to comment on these articles?? It just blows my mind why you would take the time out of your day, read something you don't, supposedly, care about then sit there...try to think of something smart and crude to say then post away. I mean....really....do you have nothing better to do with your time than sit at your computer like a mindless gerbil spewing out whatever you know would make people angry? Dude...seriously...get a life...get a girlfriend...DO SOMETHING! I read these articles because I am RELIGIOUS and I enjoy reading these things. If there was an article about… oh I don’t know..Taxidermy…I wouldn’t read it because it holds no interest to me and I DO NOT CARE ABOUT IT. So...like a NORMAL person...I will skip the article and read something I enjoy. Get a clue dude...and do something with yourself!

    May 20, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
  8. sarah

    From the sign in the article: "Sorry Mr Beck Jesus Preached social Justice."

    Well-said! Personally, I'm happy to see signs like that one 🙂

    May 20, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
    • Papagino

      The bigger point there is that Social Justice comes from people, not from the government. Just as morality cannot be legislated, neither can effective social justice.

      The "social justice" dispensed by a government only serves as a form of slavery, trapping its recipients in the flypaper of inadequate measures. True social justice serves as a hand up, not a hand out.

      May 20, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
  9. Darryl

    HAHAHAHAHA Jesus is about as real as Santa, why can Christians turn their nose at scientology when they're believing science fiction anyways. The bible has been disprooven on about 80% of what it claims, yet you sheep still believe what was meant to be the law 2000000 years ago before they had police.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
  10. TAGNGA

    To "Zoombie Attack" and all the other non-believers; No matter what you say about Jesus, He DOES exist and he still LOVES YOU.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
    • smalltownmom


      May 20, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
  11. Not a believer

    I'm not a believer but if you and others that do is your right. I think that zombie remark or remarks are stupid to say the least. I think of your bible, torah, qu'ran or whatevers are just faery tales for children. Just don't get in my face with your preaching. It's nice to see a sense of humor from your view point, there is damn litttle of it now days. We none believers have a right to express ourselves if the wrong buttons are pushed.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
  12. Raven

    If I accept God as my Lord and savior does that trump Jesus? Is Good like the Royal Flush compared to the 4 of a kind?

    May 20, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
  13. Emily

    I saw a funny one the other day: "God replies to knee-mail."

    May 20, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
  14. Steven

    @Tex And likewise, as a literary work, it should be taken as a literary work and not a proof. Literary works are interpretations and opinions, not facts.

    and to all who are talking about the big bang... the most we can say is "I Don't Know". Only once we've proved something can we state it as true. That's why the big bang is still a theory, and scientists are still saying "We Don't Know, the best we have is a theory". The existence of god has not been proved either, which is why it shouldn't be accepted as true.

    It's fine if you believe in it, but that doesn't mean that it's true.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:53 pm |
  15. Gee whiz...

    You people amaze me. This is a lighthearted story about a pastor who's using humor to attract people to church. "Zombie Jesus"?! Really?! Just because you don't believe in Him doesn't give you the right to mock someone who does. Have some respect for others. I wonder what you all would say if it turned out that there is a God and He/She condemns you to an eternal fiery punishment for being disrespectful, hurtful ,cruel and rude to your fellow man?

    May 20, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
    • JT

      What if this supreme being roasts you in flames for eternity for falling for such a ridiculously, absurd fable?

      May 20, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
    • Not a believer

      I could reply with one hell of a comment on that part of your comment, and in keeping in line with the moderators, it goes like this: "God is coming and boy . . . is she PO'd"

      May 20, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  16. Steven

    The funny part of this all, is that all of you are arguing on the internet.
    A quote, from myself.
    "Arguing on the internet is like running in the special Olympics, Even if you when your still retarded."
    (I am sorry for the use of the word retarded, Not like im trying to offend people. my niece has Down Syndrome."
    But we are shells of dirt, and god breathed life into us. So we have souls.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
    • Scottie V

      Okay, Steve-O. We all know you didn't come up with that saying, it's been around for some time now. Plagiarize something unknown if you're going to steal at all. Also, "even if you 'when'"? "When"?!?! Are YOU retarded? It's 'win', as in, to be the champion, to emerge victorious. Not 'when' as in, time.

      May 20, 2010 at 6:27 pm |
  17. Kent

    Darrel, Thank you for submitting the picture and article. Memories flood back of my dad who was a pastor and short and never afraid to sprinkle a little short guy humor into a sermon.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
  18. Jennifer

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article and I enjoy signs like this when I see them posted. They make me smile. That is good in todays world. No harm done. Everyone relax and take a deep breath.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
  19. Johann

    "Come hear our pastor. He's not very good but he's short". After walking into the service, I see a midget preaching from the pulpit.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
  20. Tex

    @MrThou: The Bible, like any other literary work, is allowed the use of symbolism and metaphor.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
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About this blog

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.