The Reasoning Behind the ‘On the Road Looking for God’s True Church’ Series

church on fire

Earlier this year I started a new series titled “On the Road Looking for God’s True Church.” This series features photographs of church signs from houses of worship in northwest Ohio, northeast Indiana, and southeast Michigan. I am disabled, often home-bound days on end, so to get me out of the house, Polly takes me on short road trips an hour or two from our home in Ney, Ohio. While out and about with Polly, Bethany (our daughter with Down Syndrome) and a back seat filled with camera equipment, I look for photography opportunities. Once such opportunity is church signs.

From time to time I get emails from Christians offended by this series. They don’t like the fact that I am making fun of their church, or of Christianity in general. Often I am told that I must be bitter, angry, or have an axe to grind. I am also told that I need to “get a life.” Well, photography is part of my life, and if Christians don’t like me making fun of their churches perhaps they should change their “message.”

Recently, a local pastor emailed me about this series and I responded, giving him five reasons why I love doing the On the Road Looking for God’s True Church series:

  • It exposes how rampant bad theology is
  • It exposes how churches and pastors view outsiders
  • It exposes what it is that churches and pastors think is important
  • It exposes the fact that the people putting up the messages really should use a dictionary
  • It exposes the fact that Evangelicalism rules the roost in northwest Ohio, northeast Indiana, and southeast Michigan

I then added:
On a slightly humorous note, by featuring these church signs on a heavily trafficked site such as this one, my blog appears in search listings near the top of searches for  ________ church. Sometimes my site is listed above the church’s listing. And, for those churches who seem to think it is still 1979 and have no website? Well, my blog comes up first when people search for these churches.

In general, I hate church signs. I think churches hurt their message and image by using them. Now churches are “blessing” local communities with bright, always-on LED signs.

Now you know, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story.

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6 Comments

  1. Brian

    And might i please add that the commentary offered about the signs might well be the most valuable offering that church offers to the world. Thank-you, generous man!

    Reply
  2. Melody

    For me as an European, it’s interesting to see how many churches there are: all those Evangelical flavors, most unheard of over here. Most churches here are mainline Protestant, Catholic or Calvinist Protestant (not sure what the proper English word is, Reformed maybe?). Evangelical churches exist but are pretty much a minority. In my country there are still quite a few churches, though most are not even half-filled on Sundays. They don’t advertise much though. Apart from a few megachurches, churches don’t really advertise with huge signs. They exist and the people who want to find them can find they easily enough.

    Some cities have a roadsign which lists some of the churches and when the services are taking place; newspapers usually have a standard small advert with the same information. Just the name of the church, adress and time of service, nothing else. Most churches have websites too, often giving information about times of services, who the minister is and if there’s Communion or not on a particular day (or a baptism).

    Having said all that: churches in my country are very easily spotted. Why? They have a huge spire and have often been built (hundreds of years ago) in the middle of a towncentre. In cities, it’s a little more difficult, but in villages, the church is the one thing one sees from miles away.

    I was raised in a church that didn’t look like a church. It was just a modern building (like many American churches are too). I hugely resented that though because it didn’t feel like a real church to me. No spire, no stained glass windows, not even a cross on the wall (it has one now): hardly anything to indicate it even is a church. I was jealous of my class mates who did get to go to some pretty beautiful churches themselves.

    Reply
    1. anotherami

      One of the great joys of my life is the fact that I’ve gotten to go Europe 3 times. Well, France really, with short layovers @ Heatherow and a day trip to Switzerland in the mix. I love exploring the village churches! The cathedrals are of course impressive (Le Puy and the Black Madonna is a favorite), but many of the village churches hold such an intimate relation to the surrounding village that one feels the history of the place. When one thinks of the limited tools they had to work with, the craftsmanship in even the simplest church is amazing. And yes, it feels VERY strange for a woman who grew up Quaker to be enthralled by Catholic church buildings, but it is what it is. Sadly, an increasing number of village church doors are locked. C’est la vie.

      Reply
      1. Melody

        I also like visiting some churches on vacation. Most are Catholic because their doors are always open and visitors are welcome. It’s a great way to see different styles of architecture, gothic or baroque, for instance. I watched “Pillars of the Earth” a while ago and it gives you a whole new level of respect for how they build those inmense cathedrals.

        Yes, here many churches get asigned a different use as well. Some become appartment complexes or mosques. Others become concerthalls or even nightclubs. The churches are simply too expensive to maintain for a small congregation, so many churches join each other, keep one church and sell the other one. Of course, this often causes a lot of heartbreak and disagreement as well.

        Reply
  3. Troy

    I hate to break it to offended Christians, but everyone has been laughing at their signs (if they are a real groaner they’ll also get an eye roll). And while it is ironic that Bruce Gerencser’s blog might be the only internet exposure these churches get, make no mistake they should be delighted for the publicity. The ones you post are invariably amusing, but the true groaner in the same caliber as “Seven days without church makes one weak” is a rare gem indeed.
    (As for your list of reasons, giving churches an outsider perspective on the absurdity of their signs is a true public service, yes Bruce doing the LORD’s work you are!)

    Reply
  4. Ami

    My favorite is still, “When you leave our service, don’t forget you came.”

    Must be a hell of a church service!!

    I drove past it at least 10 times over several weeks. Can’t believe no one said something to them.

    Reply

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