Gambling Billboards and The Obligatory Gospel

I find myself on Interstate 10 pretty often. My in-laws dwell in cajun-ville, therefore I am legally bound to slog across the state line to Louisiana. The food alone is worth the drive, the family is great too, but that goes without saying.

On a recent drive, I noticed something peculiar.

Gambling is legal in Louisiana, so as you leave the great nation of Texas, you are immediately shot-gunned with gambling advertisements. Again and again. And again…and again. Billboard after billboard.

Gambling problem?
photo credit: stirwise, flickr.

They all promise the same thing: Great odds! Most winning slot machines! Dazzling buffet!
Complete with BIG fonts, lots of color, eye-catching graphics, dollar signs, stacks of money etc.

But there is one thing that is hardly noticeable — especially at 70 mph.

In small letters, every sign reads: “Gambling problem? Call 1-800 etc…

I started thinking, “Why is that there? They wouldn’t include that out of the kindness of their hearts and genuine concern for their patrons.”


It’s there because they are legally obligated to have it there.

How many churches are like this?

I started thinking, “How many churches are just like this? How many sermons use this same hoo-haha and mumbo-jumbo to draw a crowd.”

  • “7 Tips Towards ____”
  • “Great Kids Ministry! Unicorn Rides!”
  • “You’re a Champion!”
  • Giveaways, pirate ships, acrobats, stunts, etc.

Basically, the church is built around expierence. “Come to the greatest show [service] on earth.” The tactic is: draw people in with what they are already drawn to — pizazz. And if you couple entertainment with a motivational message of morality — well mister, you got yourself a crowd.

How are they similar to gambling billboards?

These kinds of churches wouldn’t dare forget about Jesus — they are legally bound to mention Him. Jesus shows up, seemingly out of nowhere, at the end of every sermon. Jesus and the Gospel may not be talked about during the entire service, but He makes guest appearance, a brief tip-of-the-hat, before the curtain closes.

Jesus isn’t the heart of the service. He is an obligation. The “Do you know Jesus?” is the “Gambling Problem?” tag at the end.

I wish I were making this up, but this is far too common. I’ve sat in these services. I nightmarishly remember one service — the only time Jesus was mentioned was in the closing prayer: “In Jesus name, amen.” That couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Our services, sermons, programs, etc. — are billboards. What are they saying?

God is not glorified by being a tagline. God isn’t honored by being the compulosry and obligatory shout-out.

He demands the whole service. He requires the whole billboard. He is the “I am.”

If you think I was speaking of your church, trust that I had no particular church in mind, and that it is time for your to find a new church.

Gospel proclamation is more than an obligation — the gospel is the whole shebang.

2 Corinthians 4:1-6
1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy
of God, we do not lose heart.
2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing.
4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

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