THE BILLBOARD GOSPEL
I still remember from childhood the well-spaced “Burma Shave” road signs–little gems of advertising wisdom which caught our curious eyes, particularly in areas where little else did along the roadside. Recently some of you may have noticed the large, strategically-placed billboards all over the country bearing brief religious messages, all signed “God.”
Some of them include:
* We need to talk -- God;
* What part of "Thou shalt not . . . " don't you understand? -- God;
* My way IS the highway -- God;
* Let's meet at My house next Sunday before the game -- God;
* Loved the wedding; Invite Me to the marriage -- God;
* Keep using My Name in vain, I'll make rush hour longer -- God;
* Have you read My No. 1 best seller? There will be a test -- God;
* Don't make Me come down there -- God
No doubt these billboards catch the eye of many and get them thinking about such spiritual matters as Prayer, God’s Law, Church Attendance, God and Marriage, Sinful Tongues, the Bible, and God’s Judgment. And these billboards may ultimately get people thinking about things they otherwise don’t consider. Yet, upon further reflection, this “Madison Avenue” religious promotion leaves us with some serious concerns.
1) Once again--as is always the case when you seek to reach and not offend
a religiously pluralistic society--both a generic god and a generic
religion are being promoted. While many of these religious witticisms could
be properly understood by a Christian, they also could be accepted and
embraced by just about every religion on earth. No mention of the true
Triune God; no mention of Jesus Christ and salvation in Him alone; in fact,
no real message of redemption whatsoever. Rather, the impression is left
(and likely intended) that one god is as good as another, one religion is as
good as another, and therefore one church is as good as another.
2) While there are references to God's book (we assume it to be the Bible), one
senses a predominant emphasis on the Law and work-righteousness at the
expense of the gospel and its biblically-focused message of sin and grace,
of forgiveness, life, and salvation found in Jesus Christ. Without this, any
and all religion simply becomes meaningless and leads only to spiritual
futility and hopelessness.
3) The catchy ad-agency approach seems to promote a kind of superficial
religion that seems far removed from the living, lifelong faith and deep
spiritual commitment which characterizes the biblical disciple of Christ.
It's almost like the difference between a fast-food, drive-through restaurant
and a full-course restaurant or home-cooked meal. Overwhelmed by busy
lifestyles and commitments, many are looking for a fast-food religious
experience--one that is easy, convenient, and inexpensive -- surely not the
full-service commitment of Christian family and church life. Yet the
creation and preservation of the gift of faith is a deep and lifelong
Spirit-effected effort, accomplished only by faithful exposure to God's
Word and the Means of Grace. To regularly worship with one's fellow
Christians (and all that this entails) and to absorb God's Word into our
hearts and lives usually create a depth of wisdom and understanding that
will serve our faith well in its many and mighty life-struggles against
the forces of evil.
Once again, nothing against the use of billboards. We ourselves have used many outreach tools to reach precious souls. Yet the focus of our message is significantly different than much of “the Billboard Gospel” we are seeing.
–Pastor David Schierenbeck
From the Editor: A while back we saw the road signs referred to in this article frequently in our area; lately we have not seen as many; yet the author’s message remains pertinent, for it can refer to superficial religious messages wherever they are found–including on bumper stickers.