SIGNS We are on a 15 day tour of the Canadian Rockies and the Pacific Northwest. I’ve been thinking about signs. We’ve seen a few on this trip. Want to do a fun exercise? Google “signs”, and you’ll probably find a couple of free online quizzes on signs to test your driving skills, and knowledge of road signs. I plan to give the group my own little quiz this morning.
Since we’re in Canada, and talking about signs, I can’t help but ask, does anyone remember that 1970’s song, “Signs Signs, Everywhere a Sign”? It was performed by the Canadian group, Five Man Electrical Band. It made it to number 3 on the U.S. charts. Can’t you hear the chorus now? “Signs signs, everywhere a sign, blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind. Do this, don’t do that. Can’t you read the sign?”
What really started me thinking about signs was a meeting I had with a pastor a few weeks ago. When I became an architect, I thought maybe God called me to that profession so I could do churches. Then I did a couple of churches, and I was hoping there was another reason. Churches can be challenging for architects for many reasons. I really found some joy in a few church projects towards the end of my career, and this pastor’s project was certainly one of those.
We had completed a study for this church as to whether they should renovate and build on, or build a new church. A likely controversial subject in any church. I love historic architecture, and though I’m not a pure preservationist, I’m slow to tear buildings down. 3 of our 4 offices are very modern designs juxtaposed inside beautiful historic buildings. As I’m telling this story to our travelers today, we are worshipping in a very rustic, historic chapel.
Churches should be designed around ministry, and that is what I loved about this pastor and this project. I had stopped to have coffee with him, to see how the congregation had responded to their committee’s recommendation. I was there to let him know I was retiring, but if I could support him in any way, that he should still call me because I felt so compelled by his leadership and vision for his church. They were not a big or wealthy church and the pastor was not a young man, but his ambitious vision for a long- established church is that they should live the Great Commission and try to be more outreached focused. To reach people who were not raised in the church, or were for some reason estranged from church. He also wanted to be a servant church, and be the hands and feet of Jesus to the many people in the community who needed a helping hand.
For many reasons we had recommended their best course of action based on both costs and ministry goals was to build new. The committee concurred, and surprisingly the congregation, by an overwhelming majority did too. Did I mention in the course of this study, the church had a damaging fire in an area where their young children had Sunday school? Fortunately, it was not occupied at the time because it was upstairs with only a single exit. Was this a sign?
As I listened to the pastor, he talk about how their temporary occupancy in a local school just helped them confirm the decision to build new. People were seeing how the spaces enhanced their ability to fellowship, worship, and serve. He was in no hurry, and I got the sense he was waiting for God to show him a sign as to the next steps he should lead his congregation on. I could not help but think of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promise Land. He provided a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. The pastor was in no hurry, and seemed very confident God would give him a sign to make the path clear. I could certainly see why this pastor was so well liked even while patiently moving his congregation out of their comfort zone into higher levels of ministry.
Let’s not forget God gave Moses signs to convince Pharaoh to let them leave Egypt. Then he had them paint the door post with the blood of the Lamb as a sign that the angel of death should pass by their homes. Do a Bible search on the word “sign” and you’ll find many examples of God’s leading through signs. Think about Noah and the rainbow, Gideon and the fleece, and too many more to mention.
In my own life, God gave me signs that made it very clear he wanted me to be an architect. Early natural gifts in art. My non-artistic parents taking me to art classes and giving me all kinds of imaginative and constructive toys. A Grandfather who I loved to watch build houses all around my neighborhood. That conversation I overheard in high school study hall about someone considering architecture that really started me thinking about it for the first time. Oh, yes, and that really good high school art teach, Mr. DeHoogh who just happens to be on this trip.
God gave me undeniable signs, and as a result I had a great career doing what I loved, and serving in ways I felt called to serve. Obviously lately my calling has changed, so let me ask you. Is God showing you some signs? Is there something he may want you to do? Mentor a grandchild? Serve in a ministry? Volunteer? Take a mission trip? Support a Christian mission financially?
Always keep your eyes open for those signs. I know we're in the age of self-driving cars and GPS’s. My GPS is not always reliable, so I think I’m going to continue to follow the signs. Hopefully you will too, because I’m sure God has somewhere he wants you to go, someway he wants you to serve no matter how old you are.