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What are they trying to say, and who are they trying to reach?

Posted by on Jul 16, 2012 in personal | 18 comments

What are they trying to say, and who are they trying to reach?

In the small town that I live in, two church buildings have signs out front – the kind of signs that are usually covered in pithy sayings. One of the signs is used primarily to advertise yard sales (which happens quite regularly) or “gospel singings” (which also happen quite regularly). However, the other sign (the one that is next to a church building very close to the neighborhood where I live) is often used to convey some other kind of message…

When I see the sayings on this sign, they often make me groan, or roll my eyes, or shake my head wondering what they were thinking when they put that message on the sign. However, even when I disagree with the message, I can usually still understand what they are trying to communicate. And, even when I think the message is missing the intended audience, I can still usually figure out to whom the message was intended.

But, lately, the sign closest to our house has a message that has caused me to ask, “What are they trying to say, and who are they trying to reach?”

The message on the sign is this: “You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage him.”

Now, I know this is not a quote from Scripture. I’ve done a few internet searches, and, while I’ve found this quote several times, I can’t find where it is attributed to anyone in particular.

Even after thinking about it for several days, I still don’t know what the message on the sign means, and I don’t know who they are trying to reach with that message.

What do you think that message means? Who do you think the people are trying to reach by putting that message on the sign?


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  1. 7-16-2012

    My immediate impression would be that the sign means this. Those who are easily discouraged are “small” or weak. Those who put on a tough front are “big” or stronger. Why they think such a sign would be in any way helpful or edifying, I have no idea.

  2. 7-16-2012

    Greek Golden Mean…man is the measure of all things. I am a little guy but I am loved by a big God therefore nothing can really discourage me. Or maybe I should say it this way: I serve a very big God therefore I will not be discouraged. How big I am doesn’t really matter. The sign you are quoting sounds like a humanist church to me.

  3. 7-16-2012

    Fat people are not as easily discouraged?

  4. 7-16-2012

    I’m guessing – although I don’t know – that they are simply using a list of pithy statements and didn’t put much thought into what they were communicating. But, if that’s true, I wish they would think about it more…


  5. 7-16-2012


    I gave up trying to figure out signs since most of the time they almost caused me to wreck my car. At my last church, I decided not to use those cutesy bumper sticker phrases and instead used Scripture. Yes, it was not easy to fit a whole verse on two lines, but at times I paraphrased without losing the meaning. Now, how do I know that the Word of God is powerful for pulling down strongholds? Because in our 85% Mormon town, I even had them stopping by our SBC church to positively comment on the messages on the sign. When I told them they were from the Bible, they were clueless, but still thought they were great messages. I would encourage you to go and talk to them. Maybe you could encourage them to use Bible verses on their sign. Blessings to you.

    Craig Schmidt

  6. 7-16-2012

    There are a multitude of churches in my area who are using signs with slogans, witticisms, scripture quotes, or just invitations to join them for abc or xyz event. Seems to me everything other than an announcement of some sort is a supreme waste of time.
    Most of them are either insipid or mindless. Especially loathsome are the ones which have some sort of evangelistic message. Here’s one that I saw just today. “He who is close to the son, never gets burned.” Come on, can’t someone with a modicum of gray matter come up with something better than this? Unbelievable!!
    Is this the church that He is coming back for? Perhaps a simple quote like John 3:16 would be more appropriate.
    Lord help us.

  7. 7-16-2012

    Sounds like a lot of what you might hear from mega-church/television preachers. The self-help gospel with 7 ways to be a better (fill in the blank).

  8. 7-16-2012

    Ok… I have to say… I don’t think I’ve ever had two people named “Craig” whose last names also start with “Sch” comment on one of my posts back to back. So, this is a first…

    I like it best when those signs are used to quote Scripture or to make simple announcements also.

    I’ve tried to meet some of them a few times, but it never worked out. Maybe it will next time.


  9. 7-17-2012

    Humanism has many “pithy” slogans, and church sign boards just happen to be a welcome place to park them.

  10. 7-17-2012

    Maybe it’s a Craig Conschpiracy? (Everyone groan in unison.)

    “You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage him.” – Hmm…

    Makes me wonder whether it’s easier to encourage small people.

    But you’re right Alan. There’s little point in going to the time and expense of putting up a sign if it doesn’t communicate effectively. I’d rather see a Bible text, or a quote from Henri Nouwen or Henry Drummond or CS Lewis. Or an invitation to a BBQ or a country walk.

  11. 7-17-2012

    I have no idea what the intent of your sign message was, nor the intended audience, but I am acutely conscious of church sign slogans, having hand painted them for a couple of years on a sheet of 4 x 8 plywood and seeking to create ones of no more than 3 lines or about 12 words that spoke positive words of hope (usually via extracts of Scripture verses) into (probably un-churched) passers by. My goal was to create an image of a welcoming place that would continue to be available to anyone when they discovered they had a big need. I used to groan at the signs of the church on the other side of town which were somewhat clever but often carried a undertone of condemnation or legalism. In the months after we left that church they got a lovely, illuminated sign…the kind with re-usable black letters…and have had virtually nothing but the church name and service times up there…might have had them etched in a tombstone! I was told it looks too…something…low class(?)…to have such things up in public.

  12. 7-17-2012

    You crack me up. Maybe they are simply trying to make a prominent blogger that lives near their church rack his brain trying to figure out what their sign says 😉

  13. 7-17-2012

    I think Heather is on to something.

  14. 7-17-2012

    I’m not sure what made me smile more: the fact that Heather considers me a “prominent” blogger or that they would care what I think. 🙂


  15. 7-21-2012

    A large church in our area (pastor is even one of those TBN guys) had lawn signs along the street, each saying things like “Visit us today – it’ll change your life” and other similar hyper-statements. All I could think each time I passed by was, “NO! You guys are supposed to ‘GO therefore…’, not just sit on your own private dock and reel in the fish that get hooked!”

    Quit “pithing” around (I should apologize for anyone who may find that offensive) with the signs and get out and love on some folks. The signs are okay, but the Church is not Sears or Penney’s…advertising should not be the limit of our outreach.

  16. 7-22-2012

    Of course the message is not about physical size but about psychological strength.

  17. 10-18-2012

    Church signs advertise the church they are in front of. They have nothing to do with Jesus. It’s like Twitter for the religious: Come up with a clever, witty, or “deep” one-liner in 140 characters and somehow countless readers will suddenly become “Christians”. Ouch.

    Besides, if a local institutional church needs to come up with things to say on a sterile and generic sign out front, far removed from face-to-face interaction, what does this say about their congregants? Exactly.

    *Gasp!* What?! But Pastor works so hard on coming up with relevant and soul-slicing statements and one-liners!

    Hmm. Well, maybe “Pastor” missed their calling, then.

  18. 10-19-2012


    I usually understand the purpose behind the sayings on different church signs. This one baffled me though.