When my family and I left California recently to take up work in another part of the country, we decided to look up as many of our churches and institutions as possible. By combining part of our vacation with the trip, we were able to make a sizable detour and see many more places than would generally be the case. We made two observations that I would like to pass on to my fellow pastors and district leaders. In general, we found the location of our churches and institutions rarely or inadequately marked and the appearance of our churches poor.
Because of inadequate roadside markers, we drove many unnecessary miles hunting institutions whose vicinity we reached after dark. How we wished there had been large reflecting signs along the highways! When it came to hunting churches, we seldom succeeded with only one inquiry. It is astonishing, not to say disappointing, to see how few of our churches are advertised at the entrance to towns or even within them. We have a wonderful message; we belong to a grand organization of which we often speak with considerable pride. But why do we hesitate to let people know where our churches can be found? True, some localities will not allow any, or any additional, signs giving the location of a church. Too bad we missed our chance in many places while other denominations put up their signs before ordinances prohibited it. But there are still many towns and cities where we would have no trouble whatever in posting good signs.
When we found some of our churches we had to guess their identity. But in quite a few cases there was not much doubt, because they looked like many others we had seen: the building apparently unpainted for years, the yard in a deplorable state, and the sign if there was any poorly painted and defectively lettered. We came to one new church where our people have been worshiping for about a year, and yet there was no sign of any kind. The building is favorably situated on a corner lot along one of the nation's cross-country highways. I wonder how many of our traveling believers have passed that building not knowing that it is an Adventist lighthouse!
In one town where another denomination has its headquarters and publishing house in modern attractive buildings, our church and its signboard lacked paint so pitifully that I made a fast U turn to remove the temptation of getting out and pinning a note to the board.
With pleasure I mention one outstanding exception: Roanoke, Virginia. Its beautiful new church with matching illuminated signboard and artistic landscaping is a credit to the de nomination. Although seeing it for the first time at night, I could not miss it because of its excellent advertising.
Please do not misunderstand me, brethren. I am not advocating better buildings or more conspicuous locations, but I am convinced that our houses of worship, be they ever so humble, can look more representative, more in keeping with the wonderful message we have. How about giving our signboards a new coat of paint, and why not spell our denominational name correctly? Seventh-day Adventist. This suggestion has been voiced earlier on these pages, and yet it is astonishing how many times one still sees it misspelled not only on church cornerstones and signboards, but also on church bulletins, church and church school stationery, and other material printed locally, and once in a while even by our conference offices! I doubt whether any of us have ever seen other denominations misspell their names. Would we like it if our own name were written incorrectly? Proofread your own material. I would not leave that task to the printer or painter.
Our congregations are made up of the finest people, always willing to follow good leadership. None of us, I am sure, will have difficulty in securing the wholehearted support of our church members when we set out to improve the outward appearance of our churches. Then, when travelers inquire, "Where is the Seventh- day Adventist church, please?" it can readily be found. And when anyone asks us, "Where do you worship?" we can gladly answer, "Come and see."