LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Call it the battle of the billboards.
In Lexington, a church has decided to lease billboard space to respond to a recent message from an atheists' group.
Pastor Jared Henry of Lafayette Church of the Nazarene told the Lexington Herald-Leader (http://bit.ly/PUE72k) that the church has gotten "almost exclusively positive feedback" after posting its message, which says: "We believe in God. Join the right club. John 3:16."
It came on the heels of a billboard message in September and October that said: "Don't believe in God? Join the club."
Clay Maney, a member of the Humanist Forum of Central Kentucky, said the Bluegrass Coalition of Reason put up the original billboard to let non-believers know that they are not alone. It listed a website where people could find out more about a convention for non-believers that was held on Oct. 6 at the University of Kentucky.
"The new billboard comes across as judgment when ours did not," Maney said. "We're trying to be welcoming, while they're trying to be judgmental."
Henry said the message on the billboard started out as a sign in front of the church.
"That got some attention," he said, and church members started considering ideas to spread the message even more. He said they eventually decided to spend about $4,000 to lease the billboard for a month. The sign went up in early November. The verse it references says: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life," according to the translation in the New International Version of the Bible.
The name of the church is in one corner of the billboard.
"We wanted the message more than we wanted recognition," Henry said.
The Protestant Christian church, which began meeting in 1954, has more than 160 members, Henry said.
Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com