Summary: All churches have signs. Most of these are not literal signs, but rather unwritten messages that are communicated loud and clear - especially to people who don’t go to church.
The Greatest Place on Earth – Part 4
February 3, 2002
(For this message we had 6 signs made and I unveiled them one at a time. In our foyer we have permanently hung the three that communicate what churhes should. Thanks to Mike Breaux, Lexington, KY for the seed idea.)
Play the song, “Signs,” by the Five Man Electrical Band – (Start at :23) Play the line that says, “And the sign said, "Long-haired freaky people Need not apply.”
Then drop back the volume so I can speak over music with these words…
“In 1971 the Five Man Electrical Band made a statement against the intrusive rules and regulations of the establishment. Some of rules were written – many were unwritten but implied. They said things were clear if you just read the signs…”
(Raise volume back up for chorus and fade out – cue up to 2:32)
The song was later remade by the group Tesla in 1990. But the message was still the same. Signs are often used to exclude, eliminate, count out, keep out and rule out.
So I got to thinking, what kind of signs do we have up at the Christian Church Clarendon Hills?
All churches have signs. Most of these are not literal signs, but rather unwritten messages that are communicated loud and clear – especially to people who don’t go to church.
Sign, sign. Everywhere a sign. Blockin’ out the scen’ry. Breakin’ my mind. Do this. Don’t do that. Can’t you read the sign?
We’ve spent the past three weeks looking at some rather foundational, doctrinal and theological things. The oneness of Trinity, what it means to be made in the Image of God, how the very first ever Christian Church lived out authentic biblical community. Today I want to build off of those deeper concepts by getting a picture of biblical community today. Because if church is truly where no one stands alone, it would be the greatest place on earth! To get there, we need to take a look at our signs.
TRANSITION: I wonder what signs most non-church goers see when they look at a church?
The first sign many people see says this:
SIGN #1: When You’re Ready, We’re Here
A lot of churches believe they are really open, inviting and friendly. They say, “Our doors are always open. People are welcome to come on in. But the message is still heard as, “When you’re ready, we’re here.”
What is implied is this:
When you get cleaned up, dressed up, and ready to conform… When you’ve learned how we do stuff here, when you understand the terms we use when we talk, when you appreciate our history, when you embrace our traditions… – when you’re ready, we’re here.
The sign isn’t as nice a sign as we think.
That was the attitude of the Pharisees – added extra rules, through their teachings made it difficult for people to enter heaven.
In Matthew 23 Jesus said it was like they tied up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, shut the Kingdom in people’s faces. When you’re ready, we’re here!
The Bible says that at the very moment when Jesus died on the cross, the great curtain in the temple that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place was torn from top to bottom. God places no barriers between us and Him. Absolutely anyone can have access to Him through a relationship with His Son Jesus. But unfortunately, fair or not, to those who stay home on Sunday, churches have the reputation of reconstructing that curtain.
Instead, a church where no one stands alone displays a sign that says…
COME AS YOU ARE
God, in Isaiah 55:1 says, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters…”
Neither of those invitations say anything about getting cleaned up, dressed up, or learned up. They just say come to me. Come as you are! I have what you’re looking for! If we do anything as a church, we should echo God’s invitation of acceptance.
Gladys Hunt once wrote: “Acceptance means you are valuable just as you are. It allows you to be the real you. You are not forced into someone else’s idea of who you are. It means your ideas are taken seriously since they reflect you. You can talk about how you feel inside, why you feel that way, and someone really cares.
Acceptance means you can try out your ideas without being shot down. You can even express heretical thoughts and discuss them with intelligent questioning. You feel safe. No one will pronounce judgment on you even though they don’t agree with you. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be corrected or shown to be wrong. It simply means it’s safe to be you and no one will destroy you out of prejudice.” (Gladys M. Hunt, quoted in Eternity magazine, October, 1969 – as found in Swindoll’s Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, p. 3)