MOST EVERY CHURCH has a sign announcing worship times or maybe the title of the week’s sermon. But about four years ago, the sign outside Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Stillwater bore an unlikely tiding: “Now is a good time to visit. Our pastor’s on vacation.” And then the following week, “Shhhh! He’s back.” This was soon followed by “Pastor saw his shadow. Six more weeks of lousy sermons.” Was this the work of ungodly pranksters? Divine meddling? Not quite: it was the birth of Church Sign Guy, also known as Our Savior’s pastor, Steve Molin.
Now area residents drive out of their way to see his signs, and newcomers show up at Sunday services because a sign piqued their curiosity. Recently, Molin’s messages were compiled in a book called If There Were No Lutherans, Would There Still Be Green Jell-O? (available at www.churchsignguy.com). The volume also includes a DVD documentary by Emmy Award–winning filmmaker Gayle Knutson, which portrays Molin and his congregation as just the sort of happy-go-lucky Lutherans that make you wonder What exactly is in their green Jell-O salad?
Lutherans aren’t known for rolling in the aisles laughing. Is your church different?
Our congregation is a place where people can be real, where people can have a sense of humor. What [clergy] do is very serious, but we need to take ourselves less seriously. I think there are some out there who will see the signs or this book and DVD and they’ll roll their eyes and think “lightweight” or “inappropriate.” But I think if you are that serious and that closed to humor, you are out of touch with the people you serve.
Any signs that didn’t go over so well?
I had one this spring during the conclave [papal election] in Rome that said, “If you see black smoke rising from our church, please call the fire department.” Most people thought it was funny, but I got a couple of calls from people who didn’t appreciate it.
Any taboo topics?
I haven’t put up anything about the war. I put some signs up around election time, but you don’t want to use that as a political pulpit because it’s so public. When Dubya choked on a pretzel, I put up a sign that said, “Read my lips: no more pretzels.” But the war is pretty touchy, the economy is pretty touchy, Social Security. I haven’t touched those for good reason: I’d like to keep my job as long as I can.
What about the Bible—finding any humor there?
An actual verse reads, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” I put up a sign [in winter] that read, “For many are cold, but few are frozen.” During a real hot time, I put up a sign that created attention: “Hell is hotter than this, but it’s a dry heat.”
Do you think God has a sense of humor?
I think he does, because he made me. I don’t know if there’s any biblical evidence that God has a sense of humor, but I think if we are created in God’s image, and humor and laughter are so much a part of our lives, I have to believe that we represent the source.
What’s your favorite flavor of Jell-O?
I’ve kind of cozied up to green. But it’s gotta have some texture—carrot shavings or coconut. You can’t just eat it straight. When it has carrot shavings it’s a coupl’a different food groups, so that’s a good thing.