There are many legitimate forms of evangelism, including: open-air preaching, the distribution of gospel tracts and Bibles, door-to-door, and one-to-one conversations. Another legitimate form of evangelism is Sign Evangelism. In this article, I will provide information for beginning your own sign evangelism ministry.
Choosing Your Signs
You can either make your own signs or have them professionally designed. Let your personal budget be your guide.
The signs I use are custom-made by Roger Hertzler, at Watchman Gospel Signs. Roger charges $17 for a custom, 3′ x 2’corrugated plastic sign, with vinyl lettering. Roger also carries a wide selection of stock gospel signs, which run $12 each (shipping costs are not included in these prices). Roger does exceptional work, his prices are very good, and the project turnaround time is reasonable.
Signs like those described above can be made at any custom print shop, but you will likely pay considerably more per sign.
A 3′ x 2′ sign, in my estimation, is a good size for any evangelism application. This size can be comfortably held for long periods of time. It is large enough to be easily seen by people in moving cars. This size is also appropriate for use in static locations, such as leaning the sign against the wall or on a stand in your front yard.
Corrugated plastic is the preferred material for your signs. It is durable, stiff, and lightweight. It is also, for the most part, waterproof. Signs made of corrugated plastic are not indestructible, but they will stand up to time and the elements far better than cardboard.
Vinyl lettering is the way to go. Like the corrugated plastic, vinyl lettering holds up well, is bright, and even the non-reflective vinyl has a reflective quality. You can also get reflective vinyl lettering, which will make your signs much easier to see at night.
Content, Content, Content
Most real estate agents will tell you that the three most important factors in buying and selling property are “location, location, and location.” Similarly, in sign evangelism the three most important factors are content, content, and content. You can have the most attractive signs, but if your content is poor, if the content of your signs is not biblically based, you will be engaged in an activity and not a ministry.
Presently, Roger Hertzler is designing ten new signs for me. Here is the content for each:
Repent and Believe
You Need Jesus
Do Not Be Deceived
You Need Jesus
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Jesus Is Your Only Hope
1 Peter 1:3-9
Are You In The Book Of Life?
You Need Jesus
God Won’t Overlook Your Sin Forever.
You Need Jesus
Are You Sure Your Sins Are Forgiven?
Not Without Jesus
There Are No Proud People In Heaven
You Need Jesus
If You Say You Love Jesus, But You Hate People, You Are A Liar
1 John 4:19-21
You Are Not An Atheist
You Need Jesus
If You Are Not Perfect, You Need Jesus
First, allow me to break down the content for you. On each sign, you will see the “Three C’s” of a good evangelism sign: commentary, citation, and contact.
Your sign(s) must concisely communicate biblical truth. You must accomplish this in as few words as possible. Remember, if you are standing on a street corner and holding your sign for passing motorists to see, then your sign must be readable at speeds ranging from 25 to 55 miles per hour (the standard range of speeds on surface streets within most communities). If your signs are text-heavy, meaning it contains a lot of words, it is going to be difficult to read by those driving by.
The exception to the above rule is if you are going to use the signs at locations where the viewership is primarily pedestrian. In these environs, people can stop to read a sign–taking their time to read it in its entirety and maybe engage you in conversation. Signs used in areas where pedestrian traffic is predominant (i.e. parks, public squares, university campuses, etc.) can be as text-heavy as you like.
Every sign should mention Jesus. More than anything else, you want people to remember His name. After all, it is Jesus Christ you are proclaiming (Colossians 1:28). You want motorists to be thinking about His name–who He is and what He has done.
You will notice in the above exemplars that the commentaries are of various types: provocative questions, warnings, and declarations of positive truth. Each statement ends with a declaration regarding the reader’s need for Jesus.
Scripture, the Word of God, the Bible is the authority under which the Christian gladly and submissively lives. Any commentary that is not based on Scripture has as its foundation man’s wisdom and his arbitrary opinions. It is a foundation of sand. The commentary on your signs should be built upon the rock of God’s Word.
With the above in mind, it is critically important that your signs include a citation from the Word of God that supports your commentary. This serves a two-fold purpose: 1) it communicates to readers that what you’re saying is supported by or can be found in the Bible; 2) readers can look up the Scripture references and read the Word of God, which “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
I am a member of Grace Fellowship Church, in Davenport, IA. We have had people visit our church, our men’s Bible study, and those who may participate in a new neighborhood Bible study as a result of our church’s sign evangelism efforts. How do people know to contact or visit our church? We include the church’s website on our signs.
It’s very important to include a point of contact on your evangelism signs. Now that most people in the world have smart phones, putting a church or ministry website on your signs is the best way to give passing motorists the ability to contact you.
Having made your signs, the next thing to consider is where you should stand with them.
Where to Engage in Sign Evangelism
Regardless of the size of your community, even if you have just one traffic light in your town, there is a place for you to engage in sign evangelism. Even the smallest communities have roads on which people travel. If there is a road running through your town, then you have a roadside or an intersection at which to stand with your signs.
My new home (Davenport, IA) has a population of about 100,000 people. Needless to say, my community has many large intersections. There are enough intersections in my community to keep me busy year-round. However, there are many other places to engage in sign evangelism. The following list is not exhaustive and each reference below assumes you are standing on public property:
- High Schools
- Public College and University Campuses
- Sporting Events (outside stadiums; along bike and running race routes)
- Polling Places
- Police Stations
- Any Public Place Where People Gather
The common denominator among all forms of public evangelism is unsaved people. In order to engage in public evangelism, you must be in a place where you have contact with unsaved people. This is true with open-air preaching and gospel tract distribution, and this is true with sign evangelism. So, pick your spots accordingly. It’s really that simple.
Having now made your signs and picked your locations, it’s time to turn your attention to tactics.
Sign Evangelism Tactics
There’s more to standing on a corner with a sign than standing on a corner with a sign.
Two of my favorite sign evangelism locations in my community are: 1) the northwest corner of Kimberly Road and Marquette Street; 2) the southeast corner of Locust Street, Division Street, and Hickory Grove Road (aka: Five Points). There are two primary reasons why I prefer these locations: 1) high volume of vehicle traffic, combined with a modicum of pedestrian traffic; 2) ample nearby parking.
If at all possible, pick a location that allows for motorists to stop, park, exit their vehicles (if they wish), and engage you in conversation. My two favorite locations for sign evangelism have at least one corner with an adjacent parking lot. Allowing for this simple, tactical consideration has afforded me opportunities to engage in many conversations I might not have otherwise had.
The temptation is ever-present, at least for audio-bibliophiles, podcastaholics, news junkies, and sports fanatics: headphones and earbuds.
I recommend NOT using headphones or earbuds while engaged in sign evangelism. It’s important that you are able to hear what’s going on around you. Even with nothing covering your ears, it’s difficult, even on streets with minimal vehicle traffic, to hear someone walking up behind you. Believe it or not, there are people in the world (even in Small Town, USA) who might want to hurt a Christian standing on the corner with a sign. If you can avoid it, don’t let someone intent on doing you harm get the drop on you.
My general rule of thumb is to not wear sunglasses while engaged in public evangelism. It’s important people see your eyes as you are communicating Christ to them. However, I make an exception for sign evangelism. When the sun is out, a lot of bright glare can come off passing vehicles. Believe it or not, there are people in the world (even in Small Town, USA) who, for kicks, will throw things at someone standing at an intersection holding a Christian sign. It’s better to see it coming. The extra split-second might give you time to duck.
Exercise Common Sense
Use the common sense the Lord has given you.
If someone stops to talk to you and he (or she) waves you over to his car, don’t assume he wants to be your best friend. Remember, just as you are a stranger to him, he is a stranger to you. Here are a few tips that will help you have safer encounters with strangers:
- Discreetly hold your sign between you and the pedestrian stranger. While your sign will not stop a bullet or a knife, it may give you the opportunity to keep a would-be assailant from making direct contact with you, and it may give you the opportunity to distract the person, giving you the opportunity to flee.
- If the person stays in his vehicle and you approach either the driver or passenger door, position yourself so that if the person opens the door, the door is between you and the person. If you step passed the door and the person opens the door, you will find yourself on the inside of the door and the same side as the would-be assailant, making it easier to force into the vehicle.
- If you approach the person’s vehicle, make sure you remain more than an arm’s length away from the open window.
- Under NO circumstances should you enter a stranger’s vehicle.
- If the person gets out of his car or if he’s a pedestrian, do not leave the corner with the person. Remain in plain view of the public at all times.
Remember, Jesus has not promised you safety (Luke 21:17; John 16:2; 2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus has called every Christian to be willing to lay down his or her life (Luke 9:23). However, while Jesus calls his followers to lay down their lives, He does not call them to throw their lives away (Matthew 10:23). Use common sense and exercise caution when engaging strangers in any form of public evangelism, including sign evangelism.
Don’t Just Stand There
Sign evangelism can be a bit tedious at times, but it doesn’t have to be. Make the most of the time for the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16).
Don’t allow your mind to wander. While paying attention to your surroundings, take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Recite Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
Pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Pray for those who bless you and those who curse you while you are on the corner (Luke 6:28). Pray with your head up and your eyes open.
Worship (Philippians 3:3).
Meditate on your pastor’s last sermon (Philippians 4:8-9); mediate on who God is and what He has done (Psalm 143:5; Psalm 145:5).
Prepare your heart and mind for the conversation you will have with the next person who stops and asks, “So, why are you doing this?” Be ready to honor Christ the Lord as holy and give an answer for the hope that is in you (1 peter 3:15).
Your Demeanor Matters
Don’t be this guy…..
And don’t be this guy…..
And don’t be this guy…..
Your demeanor matters. Whether open-air preaching, distributing gospel tracts, or holding a sign on a street corner, your demeanor matters. Look; to most people driving by, you already appear strange standing there with a sign. Don’t add to the caricature in people’s minds by standing there with an angry, sour, or bored look on your face. To stop and talk to someone holding a sign is likely several steps outside the comfort zone of most people. Don’t make it any more difficult for them by carrying yourself in such a way that your demeanor says to people, “Stay away!”
Even in the minds of people who might think you’re nuts, as they drive by leave them with the impression that you actually want to be there. Smile. Wave. Tip your hat (if you’re wearing one).
When a person makes eye contact with you, smile and wave.
If a person gives you a thumbs-up, smile and wave.
If a person gives you a thumbs-down, smile and wave.
Whether a person waves with four fingers and a thumb, or with just one finger, smile and wave.
Whether a person yells “God bless you!” or “!@#$%^&,” smile and wave.
A motorist is more likely to stop and talk to a stranger who seems friendly than a stranger who looks like…..
Don’t be that guy.
Here are couple more things to consider.
ALWAYS carry gospel tracts, whether you are engaged in sign evangelism, or just running errands around town. A person might not have time for a lengthy conversation, but they can and often will take something to read later.
If the gospel tracts you distribute don’t include information about your church, then make sure you have that information available (i.e. church business cards, flyers, bulletins, etc). I want everyone I meet to come to genuine repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. And I want everyone I meet to come to my church, sit under the teaching of God’s Word, hear the gospel over and over again, and see the love Christians have for one another. If the Lord saves those who visit the church, then I want to be part of discipling them as the Lord sanctifies them in truth.
I have engaged in cross and sign evangelism for about eight years, in many different places. I have had many wonderful gospel conversations with people while engaged in sign evangelism.
Sign evangelism is not difficult. As is true with any form of biblical evangelism, sign evangelism requires faith (Hebrews 11:6), love (Matthew 22:34-40), and obedience (John 14:15)–faith in Jesus Christ, love for God and love for people, and a desire to keep Jesus’ command to proclaim the gospel to those bound for hell apart from His saving grace. If you are truly a Christian, then you are fully equipped (once you have your signs) to engage in sign evangelism.
I hope you will prayerfully consider engaging in sign evangelism. If you do so engage, please let me know. I’m here to encourage you, if I can.