On our way home from church yesterday we passed another church which had a large sign outside: What part of "Thou shalt not" don't you understand? We were astonished. I can't begin to list what I think wrong with this sign. OK, actually I can.
1) It leaves them wide open to the reasonable answer, "I'm not really sure about 'shalt' for a start".
2) It is profoundly unwelcoming.
3) It implies that the main thing the church cares about is telling you not to do things.
4) It is entirely at odds with the way that Jesus related to people. He welcomed all: weary, broken, thirsty. He battled the religious authorities when they tried to condemn a woman caught in the act of adultery. And even when he quoted the law he said (paraphrasing) "Love God and love your neighbour" (he used UK spelling of course!) - not a "thou shalt not" in sight.
I wonder what that church is trying to achieve. Perhaps they thought it would catch people's attention - if so it worked for me. Perhaps they hope that a murderer or an adulterer or someone who covets his neighbours belongings will drive by and realise their wrongdoing and change. Perhaps they think it will draw people into their church. Perhaps if people do go they will receive a warm and loving welcome from people who care for them rather than about their behaviour.
The picture is from our walk on Sunday afternoon - Exile #3 managed to get some water from this pump. We didn't sample it though. If we had been thirsty we'd have looked for a more inviting place to drink.