Friday, April 6, 2018

“I’ll be back!” said Jesus, long before Arnold Schwarzenegger!

WEEKLY CHURCH SIGN REVIEW: St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, Oshawa

St. Matthew's Anglican Church sign "I'll be back" in Oshawa, Ontario

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I have to admit this week’s sign at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in Oshawa definitely caught my attention! I knew right away it would be the sign for this week’s review. Sorry for all the snow in the picture I took on April 6! The sign reads: JESUS SAID “I’LL BE BACK” A LONG WAY BEFORE ARNOLD DID! Is it funny? I’m still trying to decide.

I previously reviewed a “Christian Budweiser” sign by St. Matthew’s Anglican Church. It didn’t score so well. But I do want to give this church one star for effort. They are trying to do something with their sign and they do change every week to two weeks. I’ll give them a second star for including the invite to the Sunday Worship Service, though perhaps they should’ve included the word “Sunday.” I’m hesitant about giving another star for the humor of the sign as I’m not sure that i’s that funny. Could we run a poll on whether this sign is funny or not?

The humor is in suggesting that Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger’s catchphrase “I’ll be back” could’ve been used by the resurrected Jesus as a way of promising his followers that he would return to earth someday following his ascension into heaven. The second coming of Jesus is clearly taught in the Bible so this catchy idea makes sense. It’s not theologically incorrect. But do people who don’t attend church know that Jesus promised to return and that Christians today are waiting expectantly for the second coming? Personally I believe the return of Jesus is imminent. It could happen at anytime. I’m not so sure that many people in the church today believe this or teach it or act as it were true. It’s in the creeds, but do Christians live watching and waiting as Jesus instructed? Do people outside church know that we believe that Jesus ‘will be back’? If not, the humor of the sign falls flat and it’s a joke that only works for insiders. If you click on the “CLICK HERE to join the discussion” link just below this post you can leave a comment to tell me if you found the sign to be funny or not, and maybe you can tell us what you believe about the second coming. Do you agree with the 2 out of 5 stars score? What would you give this church sign? (If you don’t see the link for joining the discussion, click on the title of the post and that link should then be visible below the post.)

Finally, I’m not sure if St. Matthew’s Anglican Church put up this sign because Arnold Schwarzenegger was in the news this week or if that’s just coincidental, but God’s peace be with him. Schwarzenegger underwent heart surgery on March 29, spent the Easter weekend in hospital and just went home today. A spokesperson released a statement saying the 70-year-old “Terminator” actor and former California governor was “home and doing incredibly well.” Here’s Arnold’s tweet from the hospital:

Friday, March 30, 2018

Jesus Is Risen, but Doctor Strange Is So Mystical

WEEKLY CHURCH SIGN REVIEW: Life Point Church, Oshawa

Life Point Durham Church Network sign promoting Doctor StrangeLife Point Church: Reel to Real

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Doctor Strange is a pretty good movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So when I saw it being advertised on the church sign at Life Point Church in Oshawa it caught my attention. What kind of event is this?
“Reel to Real” is a ministry at Life Point Church which looks at “the culture as expressed in the popular movies of our times.” I’d heard of this before. To be honest, it was one of the sources of inspiration behind the “Frame of Mind Movie Night” which I co-lead. Regarding Reel to Real, Life Point Church goes on to explain that “many of the modern movie makers are the ‘story tellers’ of our day. We don't agree with every statement or concept presented in every movie that we explore, but we do look for the kernels of truth, the overriding ‘God themes’ that can be found in the movies we will consider.” Very interesting. Probably a very good time watching and talking. I would be very interested in exploring the movie Doctor Strange along these lines. Just one problem… Look at the date on the sign!
I took these pictures of the church sign on Friday evening, March 30, but the Reel to Real night featuring Doctor Strange took place way back on January 21st. I might’ve given this sign 3 or 4 stars because I like this invite to go to a church, see a movie and consider it from a Christian point of view. I like this kind of cultural engagement. But advertising an event that happened over two months ago is not good. This sign is an LCD screen and it moves through several announcements, many slides are community-related, but I did see another slide for something in February. It’s a good looking sign on the corner of a very busy intersection. Unfortunately Life Point Durham Church Network has not updated their sign for two months or more so the the information is not too useful to anyone anymore. Thus the downgrade to just 1 star. The only saving grace here is that “Life Point Church Sun 10 am” is always displayed on the sign and there’s definitely a community focus presented on some of the slides. They’re trying, but they really do need to keep that sign updated.
It’s Easter weekend! Good Friday, observing the death of Jesus on the cross, and Easter Sunday, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, are big events for Christians. It’s disappointing to see a great sign like this one not being used to invite people to some great Easter events at the church. I couldn’t even figure out if there were Easter events happening when I checked out the church website. Instead of some kind of Easter invitation, this church has chosen to continue promoting a discussion about the movie Doctor Strange which took place a couple months ago.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Weekly Church Sign: Not a church sign, but it could be!

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“Real integrity is doing the right thing even without any recognition”—that is a good message. It tells people passing by something about what this school values. Yes it’s a school not a church (French ├ęcole = school in English). So maybe I shouldn’t review it as a weekly church sign, but I wanted to show that having a good church sign doesn’t have to be difficult. This message is certainly in keeping with our Christian values. I’m sure you could find a Bill Hybels version of it. He wrote a book titled, “Who You Are When No One’s Looking.” In that book he says, “Character is not what we have done, but rather who we are.” That’s a good one. Likewise, “Worry a little less about the darkness, and spend a little more time thinking about what you can do to leverage the light that you’ve been given.” A great quote that speaks to the values of your church can work well on your church sign.

I still like the idea of using a church’s sign to invite people in, but a good quote like the one above could earn 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a good way to bring some variety to the content on the church sign.

The quote on the school sign made me think of former US Vice-President Joe Biden. While at a movie theatre with his granddaughter, when he thought no one was looking, Joe wrote a note, gave it to a reportedly homeless man and talked with him.

As it turns out, this Facebook post went viral and media outlets went crazy reporting the story, but I believe Joe Biden was doing the right thing here by this man and was not seeking any recognition for doing it. That’s integrity. It jumps out at you when you have the concurrent contrast of President Trump paying off a porn star and Joe Biden stopping to get to know a homeless man. Seems pretty clear which one of them has integrity and respects the dignity of every individual.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Weekly Church Sign: Happy New Year’Easter!

Zion Christian Reformed Church sign

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This is a pretty good church sign or at least it was in January and maybe even in February. It’s kind of odd to be talking about the “New Year” in March! As we reach mid-March, shouldn’t our attention be turning toward Easter (April 1)? Zion Christian Reformed Church, it’s time to refresh your church sign!

In January, this sign would likely get around 4 out of 5 stars. It would’ve been timely, playing off of New Year’s Day. The triple repetition of “new” is an effective way of emphasizing it’s a new year, new church service time at 9:30am and you’re welcome to join us (New Beginnings). It’s simple, but I like it. Drivers on this medium busy road in Oshawa can easily process the message.

Zion Christian Reformed Church sign in OshawaThe only problem here is this message on this sign has been left up too long. This is actually surprising as Zion Christian Reformed Church is usually pretty good about frequently changing their sign. In fact, I found last year’s sign from this time of year on my camera roll! Hmm… last spring looks much springier than this spring!

So to review this church sign has a good message, easily understood by drivers. It’s welcoming and has a specific invite. Zion Christian Reformed Church is trying to make good use of their sign and reach out to their community. Subtracting one star because it’s been up too long, this sign still earns 3 out of 5 stars. I’m hoping they change it to a good Easter message very soon!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Weekly Church Sign: Don’t visit us, visit our website

Ritson Road Alliance Church sign in Oshawa

½ star out of 5 stars

Ritson Road is a very busy street in Oshawa. Thousands of cars are driving past this sign for Ritson Road Alliance Church everyday. Why not grab people’s attention with your sign, invite them to come to your church, or at least give them a smile? This sign is an epic fail. It probably got more second looks while my dog was sitting there than it had up to that point. Yes, it’s a clever website address with that .church domain, but let’s be serious most people driving by could find your church website if they wanted to. The sign is an opportunity to give them a reason to look you up online. And this website address fails to give them that reason.

At a minimum the church could’ve use the second line on their sign to say “Join us Sunday 10:30 am.” Instead they put that message, “Join us Sunday 10:30 am,” on the other side of the sign. That is a serious sign sin. You can’t put half the message on one side and the other half-message on the other side. Do they think commuters will put together the two halves by the end of the day? They could easily have put the full message on both sides of the sign. It still wouldn’t be very good, but it would’ve been better than splitting it up.

I’ll give them a ½ star for effort. Their church website http://www.ritsonalliance.church/ is actually pretty good. It’s friendly, welcoming and interesting. But I’m not evaluating websites in the Weekly Church Sign Review, I’m looking at signs. And the sign at Ritson Road Alliance Church is pathetic. Don’t advertise website addresses. Don’t do that! Instead give people a reason to google your church! They did have Sunday info on the other side of the sign, but there’s no humor here or any attempt to grab people’s attention. The sign doesn’t even light up at night! I was very tempted to downgrade to 0 out of 5 stars when I discovered the sign doesn’t light up at night. It’s very dark around this church at night, kind of spooky and not welcoming.

As I said last week, all too often churches fail to use their signs to try to draw people in. Admittedly, Ritson Road Alliance Church, you do not have much space on this sign. You might be able to purchase a set of slightly smaller letters that would allow you to put a little more info on the second line. That might help a bit. Even better would be to get a sign maker in to refresh and reconfigure the whole sign. Using your current letter set, I think this would fit (on both sides of the sign):

YOU’RE INVITED TO JOIN US
SUNDAY 10:30 AM

You could promote an upcoming event at your church. Why not put up a quotation from Jesus? I suspect you’ll find this to be too edgy, but here’s another suggestion that would fit:

LESS BUSY THAN WAL-MART
JOIN US SUNDAY 10:30 AM

If you can catch people’s attention and make them think about something, they just might think about your church the next time they think about going to church. And, yes, they might even google “Ritson Road Alliance Church” and find your website.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Weekly Church Sign Review: “Christian Budweiser”?

Churches can use their signs to tell people about their church, to invite people or to share their message. This is valuable advertising especially if the church is on a busy road, and, yet, all too often churches fail to use their signs to try to draw people in. I'm told I can be too cynical, so I'm going to try to offer some constructive criticism on church signs. While out walking my dog, I've been snapping pictures of church signs as a kind of hobby. Come back to the blog every Friday for my review of a local church sign. I snapped this picture just a couple of days ago...

St. Matthew's Anglican Church sign in Oshawa ON pic by Rev. Ken Symes
Ken Symes rates this sign a 1/2 star out of 5
½ star out of 5 stars





Playing off an 1980s Budweiser beer commercial which sings, “For all you do, this Bud's for you,” St. Matthew's Anglican Church in Oshawa is letting people in their neighbourhood know, “For all you do, this Blood is for you... and a wafer too!” I guess the aim of this sign was to be funny, but making light of that which is most sacred to the church, ie. the blood of Christ, is by definition sacrilegious. Some will rightly take offence at this sign.

I can see that they are trying to be welcoming, saying that the Eucharist (also know as Communion in other churches), the service of remembering the body and blood of Jesus in his sacrifice on the cross, is open to all... that everyone is welcome to eat the bread and drink the wine and remember the suffering and death of Jesus. By adding the Budweiser phrase “For all you do,” this invitation implies that people have earned the right to share in this sacred remembrance. But Jesus dies for us because no one is worthy, all have sinned and fallen short. Recently at a small group Bible study, we saw how Mark's account of the Last Supper (Mark 14:12-26) makes clear that not one of the disciples was worthy to be at the table and that was the point that Jesus was making. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). So all are welcome at the table, at Eucharist or Communion, but no one has earned that opportunity and it is only for those who believe in what Jesus has done for them and trust in him as Lord and Saviour.

Why the ½ star for St. Matthew's Anglican Church sign, the “Christian Budweiser” sign? Because they are trying to be welcoming and friendly with this sign. Unfortunately, it's too churchy for secular people. The humor fails. Theologically it's bad. And it has no specific invite. Usually St. Matthew's does much better with their church sign and I hope they change this one soon.

Previously I've seen on their sign an invitation to something called, “Church from Scratch.” I like the sound of that, like we'll start with the basics ingredients and figure out together how to do “church.” Their website explains:
At St. Matthew's we are trying to do what Jesus calls us too each and every day. We are called to help share and be the Good News of God. We are called to look for and connect to God in everyday life. The trouble is we have too often tried to make people fit out practices on a Sunday morning instead of first listening to you and responding to God that is working there too. We want to create an opportunity to explore your spiritual life on your terms, where you are free to decide for yourself when to stay or when to go deeper. Church from Scratch is one way we can do this.
“Church from Scratch” sounds like a great way to reach out and welcome people in. Put that on the St. Matthew’s Anglican Church sign and I bet they could score 4 or 5 stars ;-)  As I live in the same neighbourhood, I may have to check out this “Church from Scratch.” Hopefully they'll forgive me for rating their “Christian Budweiser” church sign so poorly.

Church from Scratch at St. Matthew's Anglican Church in Oshawa ON

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Franklin Graham's Mind-Boggling Support for Donald Trump's Ban on All Muslims

I've been struggling to understand why so many evangelical Christians seem to be supporting Donald Trump to be the Republican candidate for US President. He has said so many things that are against our Christian values, the latest being his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. I can't begin to tell you how shocked, how horrified I was, really, to hear Franklin Graham give basically an endorsement of Trump because he too would like to ban all Muslims. It's just not a position I ever would have expected the son of Billy Graham and founder of Samaritan's Purse to proclaim. And yet he did.

For some time I have been saying that Muslim immigration into the United States should be stopped until we can properly...
Posted by Franklin Graham on Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Many of us in Canada and the US had no idea of the extent of the Syrian refugee crisis until Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old boy washed up on the shore of Turkey. He died, along with his five-year-old brother Galib and their mother Rehan, in a desperate attempt to escape to Turkey and then find a way to Canada where they have some family. Why are people so desperate to flee from Syria? The brutality Bashar al-Assad and the resulting civil war left much of the country open to the invasion of the Salafi jihadist militant group known as Daesh (or ISIS). And now the US, UK, Canada and other allies as well as Russia are carrying out bombing missions against Daesh in Syria and Iraq. Here are some quick facts about Syria from World Vision.
  • 13.5 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance.
  • 4.3 million Syrians are refugees, and 6.6 million are displaced within Syria; half are children.
  • Most Syrian refugees remain in the Middle East, in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt; slightly more than 10 percent of the refugees have traveled to Europe.
It is the worst refugee crisis since World War II. And this is why the European Union and other countries are bringing in Syrian refugees. Canada is currently bringing in 25,000 Syrians. The US had committed to 10,000, but now even that number is in doubt, thanks at least in part to Donald Trump and Franklin Graham.

Perhaps giving shoeboxes filled with toys to poor children is the extent of Franklin Graham's compassion, but the Samaritan for whom he named his organization Samaritan's Purse does much more than that. The travelling Samaritan comes upon a man whom robbers have left beaten and bloodied, laying in a ditch. While the Jewish priest and the upright Jewish man have just walked by him and done nothing, it is a despised biracial Samaritan who shows him compassion and bandages up his wounds. At great personal risk, the Samaritan brings the beaten man into town and pays for his care. (In that culture Jews despised Samaritans so much that bringing the beaten Jewish man into a Jewish town may very well have resulted in the Samaritan being assaulted.) His compassion tells him it is the right thing to do in spite of the risk. And in case you missed the point of Jesus' parable, Franklin, it is the Samaritan who shows us the compassion God has for the needy, the compassion which God has shown to you and calls you to show to others.

As Christians that compassion tells us that helping the Syrian refugees is the right thing to do in spite of any perceived risk. Threatened by a brutal militaristic apocalyptic doomsday group (Daesh), these people have fled their homes and their country and are seeking refuge, but you would have us treat them as the enemy. How dare you flaunt your "Reverend" title and presume to tell Christians and Americans that they too should support Donald Trump's ban on all Muslims. We are not "at war with Islam" as you say in your Facebook post. No, America, Canada, the UK and their allies are fighting against Daesh, a brutal militaristic group which is a small faction of radical Islamic fundamentalism focused on bringing about an apocalyptic doomsday.  Given how diametrically opposed we are to Daesh and the horrible things they have done to both Christians and Muslims, can you explain to me in any coherent way why we would not show compassion to the victims of Daesh who have had to abandon their homes and flee from their country? Bringing Syrian refugees to our countries is not only the right thing to do and the humane thing, it is also certainly what the Samaritan would have done. You are responding in fear like the priest and upright man in Jesus' parable, and not with the compassion of the Samaritan.

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