December 21, 2021 Q & A

Why Not Display Crosses on Church Buildings?


I perused your answer regarding the display of the cross in the sanctuary. The answer left me with many questions about the OPC’s reluctance to display the cross. The answer made it very clear that the decision to display the cross was up to each individual session. But it did not provide any insight as why the denomination seems to universally avoid use of the cross to indicate that the building is a Christian church.

Perhaps there are strong theological reasons, but I have never been able to get anyone to state them. Did our founder, Machen, think that the use of the cross was part of the liberalism he was rightly fighting?

Given the secularizing of our culture, it seems to me that displaying the cross would be a good thing, though not a necessity. Nearly all Christian churches use the cross to identify their building and to bear witness that they are followers of Jesus Christ. Why is the OPC the only church that is ambivalent about this issue? We are not to be ashamed of the cross.

There is a powerful gospel message in the cross. Why not boldly display that cross on our church buildings?


Right up front I want to commend you for not wanting to leave the cross out of our theology. You rightly see the importance of clinging to it and identifying it as the symbol, historically, of the church of Jesus Christ. I also appreciate your perplexity.

I think the answer to your question is simply this: while no OPC minister I know of is ashamed of the cross, we remain a denomination that gives us liberty from congregation to congregation in how we decorate and advertise our faith. There are no top down decretals from home office or General Assembly as to how churches are to represent our dependence upon the cross or decorate our building inside or out. We certainly preach the cross and sing joyfully of the “Old Rugged Cross.” But from minister to minister and congregation to congregation we have from the beginning of our existence refused to bind people’s consciences on such matters as depictions of the cross. That is left up to the individual congregations. Some would agree with you and some disagree, but we hold our views that differ peaceably, as unto the Lord. OP churches that do not use pictures of the cross do preach Christ crucified, and none that I know of would forbid using a display of the cross in homes, so long as no figure of Christ was on them.

Yes, displaying a cross would be a good thing in our culture, but it is optional, and the Bible speaks neither for nor against it. So what I am saying is this, paraphrasing Scripture a bit: Let the one who displays a cross on his building do so and rejoice in his freedom, but let the other who does not, abstain joyfully as well.

Thank you for a very thoughtful question. You are welcome to respond to this email with your thoughts.



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