Mike Lewis wants you to know that Satan hates the New Life Center in Cedar Grove.
He wants you to know it so much that his church has put up a billboard along U.S. 60 outside Rand saying just that.
The sign has caused a bit of controversy, said Pete Conley, owner of Conley’s Hair Styling across from the sign in Rand.
“I don’t appreciate the word ‘hate,'” Conley said. “I have to look at that sign every day and I can appreciate the message they are putting out there but not the way they are going about it.”
The sign lists the church’s Web site, satanhatesnewlife.org. In small white lettering it says that the church paid for the billboard.
Often, people read only the main message of the billboard as they drive by and think the sign was paid for by a group that hates the church, Conley said.
Lewis, pastor of the New Life Center, says he has fielded several calls from people concerned that someone was attacking the church. He says they have always gone away understanding and appreciating the message.
“We are doing a little reverse psychology,” he said. “You always see signs that say, ‘I love you.’ This is the opposite.”
Lewis said he feels that those who oppose his church are on the side of Satan, knowingly or otherwise.
“In the Bible it tells us he will use people, sometimes unknowingly,” Lewis said. “Since we started the church almost two years ago we have faced a lot of challenges.”
The New Life Center’s church burned to the ground on Feb. 28. The fire, which started in a house behind the church, was ruled arson and is still under investigation.
The church will move into a renovated former furniture store in September. The new building will have a 240-seat sanctuary and a new youth facility, Lewis has said.
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“In other communities, other pastors, other churches’ members have not liked our approach or style of ministry,” he said.
Lewis led a failed effort to pass an amendment to the town’s ordinances that would have prohibited the opening of a bar within town limits.
“I feel like Satan is like a Santa Claus figure in today’s culture. But he is real, just as God is real,” Lewis said. “He hates it when you do good for others.”
“A more peaceful approach to recruiting new members would probably be better,” said Adam Short, pastor of the Dry Branch Community Church.
“To be honest, a lot of customers are kind of annoyed by it,” said Short, who works at the Chemical Valley Lumber Co. “As for myself, I understand what they are trying to do but there are other ways of trying to get your message across.”
Short said he has talked to a lot of people who don’t go to church regularly that are turned off by it.
“There is another way without scaring people,” he said.
Lewis said this is not the last such sign the church will put up. He plans more signs on other billboards in the area with similar messages.
“Jesus was unconventional,” he said. “For churches to be growing they need to be cutting-edge, they have to be unconventional as well.
“Obviously you are going to ruffle some feathers doing something so bold. We want people to understand church doesn’t have to be boring.”