I have lived outside of the US for many years so I am not sure if this is still “a thing,” but back in the 1980s and 1990s one would see them a lot. A car would go by with a bumper sticker that said, “HONK IF YOU LOVE JESUS.”
I would never honk… honking the car horn is almost always considered offensive in the US. Why would anyone create such a bumper sticker? Why stop there?
THROW TRASH OUT OF YOUR WINDOW IF YOU LOVE JESUS
“KEY” SOMEONE’S CAR IF YOU LOVE JESUS
TEXT WHILE DRIVING IF YOU LOVE JESUS
DRIVE SLOW IN THE LEFT LANE IF YOU LOVE JESUS
DRIVE AROUND QUIET NEIGHBORHOODS WITH YOUR WINDOWS DOWN AND YOUR RADIO CRANKED UP IF YOU LOVE JESUS
There were stories about people honking their horns in support of the HONK IF YOU LOVE JESUS bumper sticker, only to have the owner of that bumper sticker “flip off” (give ‘the finger’ to) the honker. Are these stories true? I don’t know, but I saw lots of horrible, aggressive drivers with “Inspirational” messages on their back bumper. The sticker might quote a Bible verse. Or it might might have a pithy statement like “Let Go and Let God” (almost completely useless advice, but it least it sounds catchy). Or perhaps it might say something like “Jesus Loves You.” I used to have a bumper sticker with the message “Jesus Loves You” spelled out in International Signal Flags… it’s a Navy thing. In some cases the “inspirational message” may be more insulting than inspirational… such as “In case of Rapture, this vehicle will be unoccupied.”
I find that bumper stickers typify a couple of problems in missions.
1. A focus on Input-Based Missions rather than Outcome-Based Missions. Input-based missions means the focus is placed on “spreading the good news” rather than transforming lives. Input-based missions is often justified by the idea that it is “just our job to share the truth and the Spirit’s job to convict the individual.” This may be true, but the argument only has merit if one assumes that every time and every way that we share the message of God is either positive or neutral. However, the message CAN be shared in a manner that drives a wedge between man and God. We cannot transform people, but we can build bridges and break down barriers to said transformation. Outcome-Based Missions means that a methodology needs to be chosen that is effective in bringing about positive change (removing barriers and building bridges). Can this become “the end justifies the means?” Absolutely, which is why one needs to balance it out with sharing what is true and good with what is effective. A poor choice of Christian bumper sticker is as likely to drive a wedge as shine a light.
2. Missions Without Integrity. Integrity Missions says that your message is more powerful if it is consistent with your life. Or one could say that your life is more powerful if it is consistent with your message. Bad drivers with a Cross or Ichthus proudly displayed can push people away from God, not towards Him.
3. Demonstrate in your Presentation something that is Enticing. Titus 2:10 says that we are to adorn or decorate the gospel. Paul is saying that our life should make the gospel look beautiful, not ugly. I recall seeing a house in Chesapeake, VA. That house had gospel messages all over it. They were written with blood red paint. Even the tree trunks were painted white so that they could be hand-painted with the messages using blood red paint. If one did not actually read the messages and only looked at the aesthetics, one might assume that this house was decorating for Halloween with macabre messages. Reading the messages did not totally change one’s mind about the owners of the house. They presentation made me wonder about their mental state. Perhaps the image above of the car with the Jesus labels all over it would have a similar effect on people. I don’t know. You decide.
4. Don’t Mix Your Message. If your message is Christ, don’t mix it with other messages that confuse who you really worship and what your priority actually is. I hope this image of a church makes this point clear.
To me, Missions needs to balance both input (truth) and outcome (effective spiritual transformation), and be done with wholistic integrity to be effective.