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Historic Billboard Campaign Asks Austin To Explore God
Updated: Monday, August 19 2013, 08:20 PM CDT
It's a message from above.
When you drive through Central Texas, you can't miss them.
"There are 30 billboards in the campaign," said Dan Smith with the Explore God Project. "What we've been told is that this is, if not the biggest, one of the largest billboard campaigns ever in the City of Austin."
The billboards have one simple request.
"Explore God," Smith said. "I mean it's about that simple. There's a ton of questions we all have."
Dan Smith is one of the many people behind the message. He's not a preacher or a teacher. He's an Austin high tech entrepreneur whose first big venture was creditcards.com. He sold that for millions then starting working with the team that created www.exploregod.com. The site has been four to five years in the making with raw and real videos addressing some tough questions. It has experts talk about why there is pain in this world, is there a God and does life have a purpose?
"It saddens me that there is a taboo, that it's politically incorrect to talk about religion," Smith said. "And I just think that's so wrong. If there is a God shouldn't we be talking about that?"
This movement also involves 325 churches in Central Texas across several different denominations and languages.
"300 churches involved in one thing is definitely unprecedented and historic at least in my lifetime as an Austin native," said Pastor Will Davis Jr.
Davis is the pastor of Austin Christian Fellowship and his church will be part of the project that launches citywide in September.
"All we're trying to do is start conversations we're not trying to convert people, we don't have an ax to grind," Davis said. "If people start talking about God a lot of people will end of finding him."
Explore God says there are about 1.8 million people in Central Texas and about 750,000 or so claim a church or a faith. So they hope to reach about a million people who may not believe in God but have questions and are willing to talk about it.
Critics say it's a waste of time.
"I guess I'd have to say it's probably a waste of time and money base on what my personal opinions are," said Matt Dillahunty, the former president of Atheist Community in Austin.
Dillahunty now hosts "The Atheist Experience" show on Austin cable TV.
"I think that the money could definitely be put to better use Austin has a homeless issue," Dillahunty said. "There are plenty of other areas where we could be spending money and helping people. It's all built on this presumption that there is a God and the opinions that you're getting are coming from people who already believe this."
The Explore God team says churches have always helped the homeless and volunteered in their communities. They say the Explore God Project is about reaching Austinites who may be searching for God and are providing an unprecedented citywide effort to make that happen.
"They're just saying everybody wonders, let's talk about God," said Pastor Davis. "I think the impact on our city is going to be amazing I can't wait to see what happens."