Monday Morning Insights

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    How would YOU respond to this billboard?

    How would YOU respond to this billboard?

    Let's say you're in Huntsville, AL.  (Maybe you actually are!)  You're driving on your way to church this morning and you see a brand new billboard put up by the local atheist organization that says "You KNOW they're all SCAMS" with a cartoon picture of a church with a cross on it (along with other religious symbols).  What is your response?

    If you're the Interfaith Mission Service, you call a meeting to see (of course) if you can approve putting up another sign... defending yourself.

    More about that in a second.

    First... more about the billboard.  One of the people behind the billboard (from the state atheist organization) says the the billboard is not targeted toward religious people, but rather to all the closeted atheists that are afraid to come out of the closet because they think they will be 'ridiculed, harassed, ostracized'.

    Yeah... remember that last time I ostracized an atheist.  What great fun that was.

    OK... now back to the response.  

    Why do we always have to be reactive?  Putting up a sign that says "OH NO WE'RE NOT" is the easy solution.  It's like being called 'fat' on the playground and responding... "ahhh.... no... I'm not."

    On the local TV station, here is the response of two local pastors.  Which do you tend to lean toward?

    1.  Pastor John Dees of CrossPointe Church:

    "To say that all churches are scams is just an idiotic statement... There's two types of atheists. The living ones who don't believe in God and the dead ones who now do... "I would just say that Jesus Christ is the way.  Because that's the truth."


    2.  Pastor Christie Ashton of Hope Presbyterian Church:

    "Putting up a sign does not threaten God's existence or God's nature or who God is or how much God loves us, and those are all things I believe. If you're getting your religious beliefs from a billboard on the side of the road, maybe you need to rethink your religious beliefs just a little bit."

    If the local TV station showed up at your office and stuck a microphone in your face... what would YOU say?

    How do you think the average Joe, non-church going, neighbor would think about the two statements, or the billboards?

    And do you think this will change any atheists minds to actually 'come out of the closet'?

    I'd love to hear your thoughts...

    You can read more here...




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    1. Jeff Copelan on Wed, January 05, 2011

      It is a sign of either ignorance or arroagance to make broad, all-inclusive statements like that about anyone. Churches aren’t all scams any more than atheists are all idiots. Unfortunately, it is often the vocal minority that establishes the public perception for the silent majority.
      In my opinion, the atheist group conducted good marketing - they’re getting a lot of press and people remember them. Works for McDonald’s and Wal-Mart too.

    2. Greg Simmons on Wed, January 05, 2011

      Seems to me before we respond to something like this, we need to bear in mind the quote:

      “Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

      Yes, it’s cliched, but What Would Jesus Do? How did He respond to critics? How would He want us to respond to critics?

    3. bishopdave on Wed, January 05, 2011

      I think i’d respond with Christie Ashton’s response, and then with a smile mention the two kinds of atheists.

      WWJD? since the only atheists He dealt with were religious leaders, I assume he’d call them all a brood of vipers.

    4. Peter Hamm on Wed, January 05, 2011

      I think that any words I have to say about what and why I believe are best saved for those who actually want to know what and why I believe.

    5. Leonard on Wed, January 05, 2011

      I wouldn’t respond…  this is distraction tactics from the enemy.  IMO

    6. Bubba on Wed, January 05, 2011

      I do not believe a billboard does much to change minds; the most it can do is cause a person to think about what they believe.

      What I find humourous is the spokesperson saying it has generated “a lot of interest”. Apparently “a lot of interest” means that 20 more tickets were sold. As a social media person, I would call the billboard a low return on investment.

    7. Kevin Mullins on Wed, January 05, 2011

      Todd your blog is just so good.  Thank you!

      Several points:

      1.  If you live in Huntsville Alabama and are an atheist there’s no question that you are ostracized and ridiculed and harassed.  The best advice to give an atheist (other than engaging them in reasoned and inspired dialogue around Christ of course) is move somewhere north of St. Louis.
      2.  I question any pastor who puts an “E” on the end of Point, unless of course their church is in Birmingham England and Pastor Dees response is not the way to engage atheists (or anyone for that matter.)
      3.  I start to identify with Pastor Ashton just a bit.  He seems to get it.

      What would I say?  How about “you know there is very good reason for people to think that churches can be scammy since many of them are.  We do everything we can here at (insert church name here) to be both welcoming of honest dialogue with the religious and non-religious and to be above reproach in the way we handle the people who trust themselves, their families and their resources (both human and fiscal) to us. “

      Here’s one thing for certain:  Don’t put up an opposing billboard (if you live in Alabama someones probably gonna’ lynch the guy that did it anyway) just be a witness (you and your church) of who Christ is.  Witness isn’t something you do, it’s something you are.

      Atheism is on the rise and I for one (as a pastor who is passionate about Christ and His Kingdom) say great!  We will grow more as Christians and those who say they love Christ but don’t want anything to do with his way of doing business will have the option to be people of integrity.  Since it is on the rise we have to get good at dialogue, not arguing and sniping.  Find ways to get atheists integrated into our communities, not exclude them.  Reach out, not push out.

      Average Joe will be more inclined than he/she would have otherwise:  Good

      Some atheists will come out of the closet:  Good

    8. Zach Terry on Wed, January 05, 2011

      Here is my responce. As a Pastor, I almost agree with the Atheist.

    9. Barry Nall on Mon, January 10, 2011

      I grew up in Huntsville, spent the better part of my life there before moving on into full time pastoral ministry. I would ignore this sign, as Huntsville is a weird city (that I still love) but to say it is filled with a bunch of eccentric folks would be to put it mildly. This sign is nothing, certainly not a threat to be responded to.

    10. Mary on Mon, January 10, 2011

      My response? Sadly, many churches ARE a scam—pastored by egotistical smart-mouthed CEOs who call themselves a “pastor”. The athiests are watching, and so is God.

    11. David on Tue, January 11, 2011

      I think the billboard will backfire on the atheist and actually peek non-church folks’ interest sending them to a church soon.
      As for the pastor’s I would respond with portions of both responses if asked verbally. I would not however respond with another billboard. God is bigger than that billboard and I think their billboard will do more for the church than it does to the church.

    12. Steve Long on Tue, January 11, 2011

      The Pharisees said Jesus was a scammer and He didn’t put much energy into rebutting them. They spent their energy chasing Him and the only time in scripture where you see Him at work turning their accusations on their head is when they corner Him somewhere. He just continued to ‘do the mission’. We don’t have to respond to every barb. My guess is that the athiests won no converts with their billboard but they did blow off a bit of pent up frustrations. Their words might seem incendiary to us but to most who pass by the sign it may have caused them to consider what their own attitudes about the statement are. If they think the statement is true then the sign only confirmed what they already held to. Have you ever changed your mind because of a billboard?

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