Clackamas Church of Christ sign
Pastor Adam Ericksen hasn’t shied away from tackling sensitive political topics – and his strategy is paying off. (Clackamas United Church of Christ / Facebook)

The Clackamas United Church of Christ in Milwaukee, Oregon has managed to unite Muslims, African Americans, the LGBT community, and many more groups in its quest to build up a dwindling congregation. The magic ingredient: eye-catching and uplifting messages on its roadside sign.

Pastor Rev. Adam Ericksen hasn’t shied away from tackling sensitive political topics. “Our transgender siblings have heartbeats,” he posted on May 21, challenging Alabama’s anti-abortion bill and displaying his church’s support for LGBTQ rights in one fell swoop.

The progressive (and some would argue, provocative) religious messages have been consistently going viral. Signs such as “God loves you just the way she made you” are shared widely on Facebook and other social media platforms.

People discovering the church for the first time through their posts often respond with their own positive comments. “Wow some impactful, loving church signs for once! I love it and thank you!” wrote one. “God bless you. This is the kind of healing, restorative work churches need to be focused on,” posted another.

This tactic has proven successful in large part because the sign can be changed to address relevant current events. Upon learning that the decision to include a famous black abolitionist on the nation’s currency had been delayed, Ericksen again took to the marquee: “Harriet Tubman deserves to be on the $20. End White Supremacy.” That simple response to racial division in his community made a convert out of one particular Facebook user. “I love this, and I’m an atheist! This is what religion all over the world should be like.”

Bucking the Trend

A recent post on the church’s Facebook page illustrates both their willingness to wade into controversial topics and to go against the prevailing beliefs of many traditional-leaning faith communities:

While the pastor told CNN these posts were meant to comfort and reclaim those groups traditionally alienated by a tougher, more conservative Christianity, the effect of his marquee messages has extended beyond simply doubling Sunday attendance.

“We’ve gotten hundreds of messages, including from transgender people who say they wish they had a church like this in their area. People are thirsty to know they are loved. In every area there are pockets thirsting for this message of radical inclusion.”

A Great Awokening

Of course, not every Clackamas United Church of Christ sign message has been universally accepted. Some fellow members of the faith community allege that Pastor Ericksen’s teachings are “unbiblical” and “blasphemy.” Other critics allege that he’s just virtue-signaling and pandering to a progressive audience in order to boost attendance.

Still, the pastor has clearly found a successful niche promoting this “woke” version of Christianity to fellow progressive thinkers. And the sheer amount of engagement on his viral Facebook posts don’t lie – many smaller congregations would kill for exposure like that. Plus, it’s translating to real success on the ground, with attendance numbers jumping dramatically.  

What do you think? Will the future of religion be centered around viral messaging and building big tents?  Should more churches embrace attention-grabbing signs as a way to draw people into the pews?

46 comments

  1. Dan Anderson says:

    I commend Pastor Adam Ericksen in his common sense actions! The world, especially in the US, needs more people who are not going to be afraid of causing waves.

  2. Lionheart says:

    It’s very interesting how words can upset people, or make them feel happy. There will be many saying how wonderful, and many people saying how sad.

    Imagine if those words on the sign said “Our Transgender Siblings Have Heartbeats”. Followed by “Making America Great Again”. Many liking the first phrase could just as easily be turned off by the second, or be even more elated by the second.

    Bottom line: Does it really matter what’s on signage as long as no one is pushing an agenda to hurt anyone, or threatening religious blackmail?

    🦁❤️

  3. Just a nobody says:

    Let all without sin cast the first stone. There is not one person that does not have a cross to bare. If this signage can help to stop all of hate that is in people today. Keep up the good work. If people could just realize that it takes more energy to spread words of hate than it takes to spread words of love and understanding. We all leave this world the same way. Rather you believe in God or not. Rather you’re gay, straight, black, white, brown, red, or anything else. There’s only one way out and that’s by death. No matter how many years get life is still to short to use up energy hating each other.

    1. Carl Elfstrom says:

      I love the song that goes something like ” People are people and why should it be you and I should get along so awfully. I can’t understand what makes a man hate a man hate a man. Please help me understand.” That last sentence is the only one I don’t agree with. I don’t want to understand what makes a man hate a man. I’m glad I’ve got that CD of Depeche Mode. I only got it for that song. I think I’ll listen to it tonight.

    2. Sandy says:

      Well said!!👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

  4. flugo says:

    Provocative, eye-catching road signs are NOT indicative of Christianity, nor do they promote such. Increased attendance numbers and countless favorable comments, also, do NOT evidence Christianity. Muslims, Afros, LGBTQxyz-ers, atheists, etc. may meet in the same building, have ‘bless me’ meetings and talk of inclusiveness and loving everyone . . . .but that ain’t Christianity.

    This so-called ‘reverend’ is blasphemous terming God as ‘she’. And,the pastor seem to be trying to ‘be all things to all men’, but is ‘riding the fence’. He must either crap, or get off the pot. He must call sin, sin. He must stand for repentance of sin. He must point to Jesus as the ONLY remedy for mankind’s ills and woes.

    Christianity is a lifestyle of practices and beliefs of the teachings and person of Jesus. This is the same Jesus who condemned sin, obeyed His Father, preached repentance, loved the unlovable, rebuked the proud, and had compassion on the hurting. This is the Jesus Who died in our place on the cross to satisfy a holy, righteous, and just God’s demand for a penalty for each of our sin.

    1. Lionheart says:

      Well Mr/Mrs flugo, I wonder if your god is actually a hermaphrodite (having both genitalia). Perhaps thats why our male species have nipples. I mean…they are redundant on males…right? I’m sure your god knew what he/she was doing giving us men nipples. Perhaps it’s because we were all made in his/her image? And in fact, perhaps only hermaphrodites are the real people here on earth that “really” looks like your god.

      How’s this for a thought: Perhaps those of us with separate genitals are genetically mutant offspring that went bad, and perhaps should have died off. When your god saw that genetic error he tried to correct it by killing us all off in the flood leaving Noah and his family to be the only hermaphrodites left to populate the earth. It obviously didn’t work because here we all are again, genetically all messed up, and condemning those who want to become like god again with surgery. 🏳️‍🌈

      I know these thought is very “off the wall”, but is it any more “off the wall” than religion? Just asking!!!

      🦁♥️

      1. Carl Elfstrom says:

        It’s never stopped a man from trying to screw himself. If it was just a little longer.

    2. Carl Elfstrom says:

      You’re right, flugo. God is only a he, but then there is the Goddess, who is only a she. Have you ever wondered how there can be a father, without a mother. It makes no sense to me. Ever since my Christian parents told me that when I was knee high to a grasshopper I knew they were thrown. But each to his own. Different strokes for different folks.

    3. Jon Andersson says:

      The only thing you need to do to be called a Christian is to follow Christ. And nowhere in the Bible did Jesus y’all about gay people or trans people. Nowhere. Not one time. So you can make all the pronouncements about how you are right and others are wrong but you don’t have the authority to determine if someone is or is not a Christian.

      1. flugo says:

        ‘jonasson’: You’re embarrassing yourself and wasting others’ time.

        Jesus clearly reinforced His Father’s Genesis account of original sexual relationships: one man and one woman. Also, look at Jesus’ account in Matthew 19:4-5. Clearly, Jesus and the Father were adamant about marital/sexual union being composed of a male and a female. Anything contrary to this is an abomination, sin, and disgusting.

        You’d do well to do your homework before revealing your ignorance of the Scriptures.

  5. Josand Agencies says:

    Yes, to win and help people you must first learn how to walk with them. Fellow Christians will despise, criticise, isolate and see you as a person possessed by evil spirit. Consistent walk with the people you intend to change will eventually change them and change your critics as well. It will be a win win situation.

    1. Rev. Adam Kraus says:

      You make it sound like being Gay,Bi or Transgender is a CHOICE, it is something that we are BORN with and are happy with our lives, we are Happy and just want to be left alone. We do NOT want to change and there is nothing that a 2nd or third can do as we are exactly the way GOD wants us. I’m a very happy GAY male.

      1. corsair red says:

        Transgender is something we are born with, and not a choice? That will come as a surprise to the surgeons who do the hacking of various parts to make someone a synthetic something.

        As for being happy, is happiness the reason why suicide attempts across the transgender population stand at 41 percent, compared to 4.6 percent of the US population. I doubt it.
        Source: https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/AFSP-Williams-Suicide-Report-Final.pdf

        You can’t be the way God wants you if expensive elective surgery and hormone treatment is required to make you something. .

  6. Ty Ford says:

    Let him or her who is totally pure cast the first stone. Hmmm, what? No one? Move along then and tend that garden.

    1. Rev. Adam Kraus says:

      I agree 100% with Ty Ford on his comment, but would like to add that if you can walk on water then we might be able to talk until then there is NOTHING more to say except have a blessed day !!

  7. Freddy Guerra says:

    Can someone please explain to me how if you are a Christian regardless of what church you belong to a Christian a God-fearing Christian how can you say it’s okay for gay marriage man or woman gay marriage another thing how as a Christian can you vote and stand by democrats that’s a that they are doing the Lord’s work but yet condoning allowing given the grace for abortion and gay marriage all this is not the work of God and for all you Christians that’s said here insane We Are All God’s Children We Are All God’s Children even the children that’s unborn that’s being murdered every day in the United States of America the Bible says to protect the child in the womb the Bible States that man shall not lie down with men women shall not lay down with women man shall not dress as a woman women are not supposed to dress as a man where in the Bible says it is okay for this to happen nowhere it is a sin it is an abomination it is a sin against God all you Christians that want to preach that it’s okay to accept gay marriage an abortion you are breaking God’s law and all you priests and holey people you are breaking God’s law cuz when you accept abortion can you participate in abortion what you are when you give the okay for abortion you are committing murder one of our Ten Commandments when you give the okay for a man and a man to sleep together you are breaking God’s law because it says in the Bible that that is a sin I think all of you religious folks I want to preach the word of God should go back and read a little more to Enlighten your mind I’ve done things in the past that I am not proud of but I’m working in the direction of the grace the light the forgiveness of God think about it amen and God bless

    1. Lionheart says:

      Phew!! I got out of breath reading that Freddy. I guess you don’t believe in punctuation. However, it made for a very interesting read.

      When you say, Freddy, “We are all Gods children” “Gods law” and you mention the “Ten Commandments” try not to get too much bent out of shape about it all. Your religious world is only in your head Freddy. I know you won’t want to believe me, but the religious world in your head Freddy isn’t real. We are all totally alone on this planet of ours with no voyeuristic deities watching over us. I know it’s very hard for you to even imagine that, but someone needs to break that bad news to you, and I honestly don’t mind it being me, we are all friends on here, so see me as a caring brother. I can also explain punctuation to you Freddy, but that’s for another lesson. Relax, breathe, smile, and try not to worry about upsetting any angry jealous gods, and have a very nice day.

      🦁♥️

      1. Carl Elfstrom says:

        Guerra didn’t do all that bad for someone who only took a course called English As A Second Language. Ole!

    2. minister james says:

      Freddy-you might try to walk in this plane of existence in love and grace-you might try to be humble enough in the light of an Almighty to leave it to that Almighty to ultimately judge others-unless you truly wish to employ words found in a certain book to assume the mantle of that book’s God?

      May we all find a better day.

    3. flugo says:

      Some excellent observations.

    4. Rev. Adam Kraus says:

      Everyone is created as the creator wants us and we are not the ones to challenge what GOD desires. Leave the marriage issue up to the LAW to decide, remember people there is this thing called the constitutional amendment [ Part of the 1st amendment] My feelings are that if you do not like something like gay marriage then do NOT marry someone of the same sex and let us live our lives as we feel we should and we are following GOD’s wishes.

    5. Willie says:

      Freddie G. would you please tell me exactly where in the bible all you are claiming this is written in the bible. No quotes or numbers?
      The bible is the most bought book but the least read for that matter. Most so called Christians only know the bible from what they were told the bible said by a preacher or another person, said, what was in the bible!
      Really hearsay! And Catholics were before never allowed to read the bible in case they mistranslated the bible, so their priests had to tell them what they said what
      The Church wanted them to know! God was Spirit, so formless and genderless. The different churches/religions/men started the creat God in their image, in human form, with a long gray beard! Their blown up egos could not understand what Spirit really was, and they still dont!!!
      Most people could not read or write in those days any way and a lot of them still dont! Sounds or looks like any way.😩😂😂🙏💖🙏

  8. Carl Elfstrom says:

    I think I’ll call my first church The Church a of No Religion.

    1. TigerMoon2 says:

      Good one! I might call mine the Church of Universal Truth and Energies… CUTE?

  9. Qrez says:

    i dont really think you can reform the abrahamic religions without totally divorcing them from their past..
    people often try to tone down the lunatic hate mongering but they wanna have that legitimacy of it being an old religion.. but that means the hatred lurks beneath the surface to emerge again…

    It started out as a religion of tribal war lord and unless you create a whole new religion divorced from that past it will never solve the core issue…

    Sane people just give cover and legitimacy for the lunatic bigots

    1. TigerMoon2 says:

      The problem is, one man’s lunatic bigot, is another man’s shining beacon of justification. An example of that would be Trump and his cult following right here in America…

      1. Lionheart says:

        Yes, one of our greatest Presidents if our time. I know what you mean.

        🦁❤️

        1. TigerMoon2 says:

          Sorry, not sure if that was sarcasm or not. Sarcasm doesn’t play out well in print because you can’t hear the tone of voice or see the eye roll. So, I’m unsure if you ARE saying Trump is ” …one of our greatest Presidents…” Though, if you “…know what you (I) mean.” then it sound like sarcasm, and if so, thanks.

  10. John Palmer says:

    Hooray for Reverend Adam and his congregation. Love for all.

  11. Jeanne Leskovec says:

    I don’t think i would attend. Trans gender people make me feel uncomfortable. I have not been around many trans gender people. Although i would not do anything to hurt them

  12. Tom says:

    No, I would not stop in for a visit. This is clearly against Gods teachings. I believe all these people are bound for Hell.

    1. TigerMoon2 says:

      Sad… but glad you won’t visit. They don’t need what you’re selling.

    2. Vivienne says:

      Yea tom! You’re totally right! God came down on his/her golden chariot & personally told you told to hate everyone different from racist, homophobic, very old, burdensome white guys like yourself. According to tom, everyone, except for tom, is going to hell because god speaks to him in his delusions, oops I meant dreams & tom is perfect because his magical mirror said so.

  13. TigerMoon2 says:

    I’m an atheist for many reasons.
    First of all, we all know that there is NOT a god that created folks here on Earth, or Earth, itself, etc., even if that’s what you tell yourself. Because this is 2019 and we KNOW what’s out there by now, even if you WANT to deny it, and TRY to deny it, there IS such a thing as reality. If I’m going to be delusional about anything, it won’t be that, it’ll be about something I am unaware of thus far. The possibilities there are endless.
    Second, I have seen and attended too many churches in my past that demonstrated divisiveness. And then make money off those they pander to with false ideologies.
    Thirdly, I was always skeptical of those who professed to know their God’s intent, and their temerity to speak for God. Nor did a God write a Book about it. Books are written by MEN, not God, and men ALWAYS have an agenda to SELL something that benefits them.
    And last of all, or not, it seems that everyone has their own interpretation of what their God wants from us, as does different sections of their Bible does. There seems to be no consistency in that. Some think it’s all about SINNERS, preaching the 10 Commandments along with hellfire and brimstone, and go so far as to self-flagellate. While others preach of a God who is pure love and light.
    It has all but destroyed my compassion for ‘mankind’, to see the blatant ignorance in their willingness to follow ANY path laid out for them by a church leader and a book written by men. People have done HORRIBLE things in the name of their God!
    Possibly, had I attended Rev. Adam’s services when I was younger, my attitude toward mankind would have been better. Maybe. But I know this: The more a church is inclusive of ALL peoples, the better the people act toward others, inside, and outside, of the church walls. But would I still be an atheist? Absolutely.
    I DO know I need a LOT of work on being a compassionate and loving person. As it stands now, most of my love and compassion (and I do have plenty of it) goes toward children and animals, because they don’t HAVE an agenda, they accept ANYONE who is good to them, and, even those who are not good to them, unfortunately. And that last is why I care about them so much. And please, when I advocate for animals, don’t make out like I love animals more than I do children… I can do BOTH. And when someone advocates for ANYTHING, don’t complain that they love one thing (eg. immigrants vs citizens) more than another, we can advocate for MANY things at once. It’s never been either/or. It’s about the need that is presenting itself to you at the moment.
    Finally, I’d like to commend whoever writes these articles that we comment on. They are always presented to invoke thoughtful responses, and does succeed in that more often than not. I think there would be a lot more snarling at each other if not for the leadership of this all inclusive institution, and the thought-provoking writers of this newsletter. Here, I am often able to tell apart those who can work things out in their own heads, from those who follow strict rules laid out by men and books, and thus divide us from each other. I really do thank you for that.
    Um, one last ‘disclaimer’ here. I am Wiccan, and some might say ‘but you believe in MANY Gods!’, Well, no, I don’t believe in ANY Gods… but I DO believe in the energies of things that have been long-spoken. I believe in ‘correspondences’, those things that add to the energies of a thought or deed, positive, as well as negative. I live my life to work with positive energies, and to project those upon people I come in contact throughout the day in hopes of spreading that positivity. Correspondences include the various Gods who’s spoken names reflect a certain aspect needed, much like the Christian’s calling upon Saints of various aspects. Other correspondences include the elements of Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Spirit; colors, scents, sounds, lit candles, and our ancestors, to name a few.
    I believe the world turns, and that the universe exists due to the magnetic energy forces that encompass EVERYTHING. And that the trick of maintaining all that lies in the balance of positive/negative energies. Not a perfect balance, of course, but still a balance. And so we MUST have the bad energies along with the good, whether we like it or not. Everything NEEDS it’s opposite to thrive. Which is why it makes NO sense to be divisive toward anyone. We are ALL connected. “No man is an island…’ said the poet,John Donne, “…but is a part of the main…” (I may be paraphrasing), “… any man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind.”, “…and so, ask not for whom the bell tolls… it tolls for thee.” There is more, of course, but I can recall only these words, at present. But here’s another from the French essayist, Paul Valery… “The world acquires value only through it’s extremists, and endures only through it’s moderates: Extremists make the world great… moderates keep it stable.” – Paul Valery

    1. browneyedwytch says:

      I must commend you on your comment, especially the last part noting that you are Wiccan. As a third degree Wiccan High Priestess (a title I rarely use except to denote training) and ULC minister, your description of Wiicca, or for that matter, any of the earth based religions, is one of the best I have ever read. With your permission, I would like to use it in the future when explaining our faith to people. Maybe they will understand better what we practice. I do not invoke Goddess names myself, however I do believe in a higher power, whatever or whoever that may be. As you say, it is an energy that we feel that empowers us all, and how we use it makes a difference.. Thank you for your insight.

      1. TigerMoon2 says:

        Thank you. I am grateful for my Correllian Nativist Tradition learning that taught me so much about what I call, Universal truths and energies, though I may have interpreted a few things a bit differently, they are fine with that, as they believe in the individual paths of their students.
        I attained my first degree many years ago, before becoming more of a solitary practitioner, though they are all inclusive. I highly recommend their ‘degree’ courses and ANY of their wonderful varied courses! Though I stopped my degree advancement, due to poor ‘mentorship’, I have and refer often to the second and third degree textbooks that they have, which are all excellent!
        As I noted in a reply to another in this section, if I were to start up a tradition of my own, I would call it the Temple (Church) of Universal Truths and Energies. For me, it’s all about the laws of nature, the energies of the Universe and it’s cycles and patterns in nature. THIS is truth.I see it as an undeniable correlation between science and religion. If only we could all come together in this manner.
        One note though, if you believe in the energies of thoughts and words as solid matter, why would you skimp on calling upon a correspondent’s energies to affect the change you desire in your life? Just curious about that, no judgement upon it.
        I thank you for your response. I am on Twitter @TigerMoon2, if you’d care to follow. Though lately my posts have been more political than ‘witchy’, I hope to get back to my ‘comfort’ food of Wicca after the next election.

  14. oldaabill says:

    (NIV) Ephesians 4:17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
    20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.:

  15. George E says:

    The author wrote: “Our transgender siblings have heartbeats,” [Pastor Rev. Adam Ericksen] posted on May 21, challenging Alabama’s anti-abortion bill ….

    If this is truly an attack on AL’s pro-life bill, then logically it is suggesting that, heartbeats or not, transgendered should be no more protected from killing than fetal humans should be. If, on the other hand, the pastor is saying transgenders’ beating hearts render them as worthy of life as fetal humans, then that would place him in the mainstream of Alabama, as there is no movement in Alabama to kill either fetuses or transgendered.

    1. TigerMoon2 says:

      And THIS is how Alabamian’s ‘willful ignorance’ comes into play. Because you KNOW he’s not saying either of those things. He talking about ‘selective compassion’.
      And we all know that Alabama is NOT compassionate of the LGBTQ community or they would not try so hard to deny them the right to be who they are, to love each other, to marry, to start a family through adoptions, etc.
      But, hey, it’s YOUR spin, and I guess that’s how you prefer to see things, as the rest of you’re fellow oppressors see it.

  16. Ed says:

    Keep it up SIR and SATIN will fill your church to overflowing

    1. Vivienne says:

      Mr. Ed, satin is so lovely and feels wonderful against the skin. I’ve had some satin all over my house and I’ve worn satin and even silk too! I think that most people would absolutely LOVE to have satin overflowing in their churches, synagogues, temples, or whichever house of worship they choose. Satin’s awesome, especially in deep jewel colors! You should try satin sometime, I think you might enjoy it as much as you enjoy judging and insulting people.

  17. Baba Barkley says:

    I personally find people’s choice of musical instrument more important than their sexual orientation.

    1. Lionheart says:

      Really? That’s quite kinky Baba. So…what musical instrument do you use in place if sexual orientation. Is it a fetish of yours? Just asking!

      🦁❤️

      1. Flugo says:

        Probably his ‘skin flute’!

  18. Reb TK says:

    Greater than the debate, a tree has been planted. It’s roots will go deep, it’s branches will grow high, and it will sustain many creatures. Like any tree, a cleansing wind will cause the dead branches to fall away, and as they pass, they will feed the tree an those who depend on it.
    tk

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