Since First Church of God Pastor Brian Hefner received a phone call Sunday morning from Joseph Galvan asking if he could change the message on the Marseilles church's sign, he has spent time fielding texts and phone calls from more people than he could imagine.
The sign went viral.
“I’ve had people from all over call and message me in support of the sign,” Hefner said. “They understand the context. The majority of the negative has been from people that don’t understand the context of the post or people who aren’t familiar with social media trends.”
The sign says: “Jesus willingly died for you … unlike Epstein, who didn’t kill himself.”
The post has been shared more than 5,000 times from The Times Facebook page, reaching the New York Daily News and netting more than 70,000 upvotes and 1,100 comments on Reddit.
Hefner reiterated the intentions behind the sign weren’t political as much as they were getting in on a fad.
“The truth of the matter is and I’m explaining this to anyone who asks, is that it has generated so much buzz that it really gives us a chance to express the real meaning behind it and the context about Jesus,” Hefner said. “It’s just a fad right now. We care more about pushing the agenda of Jesus than we do anything political.”
Galvan will be preaching 10:30 a.m. Sunday at the church about "the knee-jerk reactions Christians have to our culture and what we can do to be better."
Hefner said the other complaint he’s gotten is that Jesus should never be put in the same sentence as someone, such as Jeffrey Epstein, who died while in prison facing sex trafficking charges.
“Jesus was hung on a cross next to a thief and a murderer,” Hefner said. “The Bible has always been in the community and the spotlight. We shouldn’t have to be afraid to talk about social issues from the church. It’s our job to impact the community and not let the community impact us.”
Hefner said the sign was a way to keep the church culturally relevant during a time where society is pushing the church out of culture; it’s the church's way of pushing back to assert its opinions and ideas.
"Rarely ever do I say anything political from the pulpit other than occasionally reference something that’s happening; even that’s rare,” Hefner said. “I will never tell anyone to vote or act a certain way, never. Not from the pulpit. If you want to know my opinions, ask me when I’m not behind the pulpit.”
The New York Times, NBC News, Fox News and a slew of others Tuesday reported the guards left in charge of monitoring Epstein were arrested after being accused of napping and shopping online on the night Epstein died.
For more local news, visit The Times at https://www.mywebtimes.com.