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. JustAnotherGuy

    The Bible is like no other literary work in the existence of the world (at least that I know of). It, as a whole, was written by many different people over hundreds of years. Not only does it not contradict itself, it supports itself. Prophecies that were made in the Old Testament, like in the book of Isaiah, told exactly how, for example, Christ's crucifixion was to occur. When you read about the Crucifixion from the perspective of one of Christ's disciples, does it not match up exactly with what the prophecies were?

    And in general, the big bang theory or any other theory is stupid, because they always require there to be something to begin with, even though they say that the world we know today came from nothing. Doesn't it just make more sense that there is a supernatural being out there, not bound by any laws, that always was, and is?

    May 20, 2010 at 2:08 pm |
  2. Margaret S

    Jesus said "Go into the world and preach the Good News(gospel) to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned." So really, some of you are condemning yourselves. Whether you believe it or not does not change the fact that Jesus is coming back. Some of the comments you make shows the type of mentality you have. Once you die you can never be saved, you will forever be seperated from God. A lot of us thought like some of you do before we got saved. There is absolutely nothing that compares to being a christian.

    May 20, 2010 at 2:05 pm |
  3. Isaac

    Of course science is currently also pointing at 13 dimensions, most of which we can not touch or interact with from only our 4 dimensions, so its all but proven that there is more to know then we can know. So who's to say that God doesn't exist in that area of science we can't see?

    I believe in God AND science. To automatically assume that belief in one nullifies the other is, well, bad science.

    May 20, 2010 at 2:05 pm |
  4. Black Jesus

    Amen barresippin

    May 20, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
  5. anonymous

    theres a church like this in my town

    once saw the sign read: "OUR SUNDAYS ARE BETTER THAN BASKIN ROBBINS"

    May 20, 2010 at 2:01 pm |
  6. Joe

    Steve, is that why people have abortions, because they think they have the right to choose? I thought it was simply because babies are evil and will strangle you in your sleep.

    May 20, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
  7. remember

    Wow! This is the reason why our Nation is in the position that it's in...we as a Nation have forgotten God! Remember, the pledge..."One Nation Under God". Did you know that it doesn't matter if "you believe," if it's truth it doesn't need you to believe that it's true but you need to believe that it's true. Believe this..."The End Will Just Be The Beginning!"

    May 20, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
  8. smalltownmom

    Really?? I have no fear because of my belief.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
  9. donnie.d

    i once read a sign where i live that said 'jesus not duct tape' ..of course this was during the anthrax scare when people were supposedly duct-taping their front doors. hahh.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
  10. Fola

    Jesus is Lord over all and over all things!

    May 20, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
  11. Nature

    Funny that all the 'believing' arguers here are Christian.

    Wasn't this article about a guy making his sermons more interesting and humorous? Where did we get into the ageless God debate? I admire this guy. I'd go to his church, even if I'm Pagan. I believe all Gods are one God, and I receive the same feeling in all churches/temples I go to.

    I just can't understand the whole argument, just accept it all. At the same time, the zombie people are pretty funny to me. I'm sure God has a sense of humor - but who knows for sure?

    May 20, 2010 at 1:50 pm |
    • JDH3

      You make a false assumption. I never said once I was a Christan. Matter of fact I don't consider myself affiliated with any organized religion. I am a believer. I find comfort in knowing that I dont have to have all the answers. I find peace in believing that my life has purpose and meaning to someone (something) of a higher power. I hold no man (woman) accoutable for anything other than their own actions. Christianity, Catholisum, and all other organized religions force you to "pick a side". I am simply on the side of acknowledging that this isn't all just happenstance.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
  12. Dawn

    Way to go Father!!

    I have another one for you!!

    " Aspire to Inspire, before you Retire or Expire"

    May 20, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
  13. Argwings

    All the mocking here doesn’t change the reality about God, he exists and loves all.
    Remember we shall all give an account of every word we speak.
    Finally, our eternal destination will be determined by our present life relationship with Jesus Christ, choose your eternal home wisely.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  14. smalltownmom

    Most of the hostile remarks are coming from the non-belivers that choose to read this article. What made you decide to read this article and why so hostile?

    May 20, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
    • JDH3

      Pastor Darrell and GOD know that the only bad press is no press at all. As long as people take notice and start talking it opens the opportunity for change.

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

      Well said JDH3. Add prayer and stir. 🙂

      May 20, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
  15. Mike

    I'm an atheist, but I have to say that I like the pastor's attempt at bringing interest to something that has remained relatively unchanged for two thousand years. Good job pastor!

    As for Zombie Jesus, that's a funny concept – but I don't recall Jesus ever feeding on people's brains. Lighten up people. Let the believers believe and the non-believers non-believe.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
    • JDH3

      Mike – I am a believer but I agree with your comments 100%. I also found humor in the Zombie Jesys concept. Region is simple what you make of it. Some chose nothing, others are all-in. 99.999% lie somewhere in the middle. Sounds pretty normal to me.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  16. JDH3

    I'm always baffled how non-believers can spend so much time and energy arguing against something they say doesn't exist. If it doesn't exist it makes the argument moot.

    I look at it this way – if GOD doesn't exist it hasn't cost me anything to believe, but if he does exist and I spent my life not believing....

    May 20, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
  17. Rick

    Good one Dave!

    I always say, if I'm wrong about Jesus' return, I will only be disappointed. My life's been richer because I believe. But if I'm right, then you naysayers will be MORE than disappointed. I hope to be able to see you explain yourself to Him. That will be highly entertaining.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
    • Dave

      I think it was C.S. Lewis who said:

      Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
  18. Inquisitor

    Those of you who are believers in faith... how do you know you are right? Just because a book tells you so? Do you believe everything that is written? What makes you right and others wrong? How do you KNOW????

    You don't... so don't go around telling people that your savior is the correct one or others are wrong for their beliefs (or non beliefs). Don't quote the Bible or any other book of faith because it may all be false. You can believe in whatever you want to believe in, but don't condemn me for my beliefs and tell me that I'm wrong because YOU don't know for sure.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
    • sarah

      You must have had alot of people tell you "your wrong" because that seems to be your primary concern. Just so you are clear... this country allows for Freedom of Faith–yours, mine, anyones. So allow others to pratice their beliefs and if you don't care for "religious talk" avoid those who are and find people you have more in common with. Just a suggestion.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
  19. AGeek

    Wow. Surreal. All of you on here saying that if we don't believe in X, your "all loving, all forgiving, all-singing, all-dancing" [insert figure name here] will smite the rest of us. That sure is all loving. Way to pitch a convincing argument for your belief system. I truly want to ascribe to any belief system that rains down fire, brimstone, and can smite anyone who thinks or believes differently than me.

    You /do/ realize how asinine that sounds, yes?

    May 20, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
    • sarah

      Not all faiths believe in "dancing" and there are some Christian sects (if that was who you were referring to) who do NOT preach fire, brimstone and/or "smite." Just saying.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
    • AGeek

      I'm mostly Buddhist (with a hint of Shinto for rounding out). There are Christian sects that think dancing is evil and cast you out if you have a sip of beer. Other sects promote benign methods, but firmly believe anyone not subscribing to the same set of beliefs is not saved. I'm sure there are other sects and religions that simply live and let live – as it should be. It simply boils down to allowing another human to believe what they wish and not forcing your beliefs upon them. I've had many discussions with friends of other faiths – explaining what we like and don't, learning more about each others beliefs and largely educating ourselves.

      Too bad the majority of religions are closed-minded, egotistical cliques.

      May 20, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
  20. Bobbie

    I'm a Christian and I can't stand these signs....

    May 20, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
    • sarah

      Meh...we don't have them at my church but I don't mind the funny ones 🙂

      May 20, 2010 at 1:37 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.