The only explanations as to the billboards’ origins are website addresses printed at the bottom, and the meaning of the billboards remains unknown until someone on the road has the chance to get on a computer or pull out a smartphone.
John Gann cleared up that mystery for Bradley Sunrise Rotary members at the meeting Thursday.
Gann is the chaplain of J103, a Christian radio station that broadcasts from East Ridge and can be picked up in Cleveland.
The website advertised on billboards Gann said were meant to be provocative is ComeOnLetsGo.com.
Come On Let’s Go is a site that features short videos of people telling stories of how they found themselves in bad situations but found hope through their faith.
Gann said the goal is that people will have the chance to learn how becoming a Christian has had positive impacts on people’s lives without being subjected to preaching.
“Our target audience is people who are not people of faith,” Gann said.
Come On Let’s Go is a project of Partners for Christian Media, the company that owns the J103 radio station.
Gann said founder Bob Lubell was watching TV one evening when he was inspired to start work on the site. Programming that shows people sharing their stories in an honest way is often the most effective, he thought.
Why not do something like that to share what Christianity has to offer?
Once they click on a story, they can watch the video, read the text of what the person is saying, click on various links that allow people to connect with resources on the Christian faith and get help for their problems, site operators said.
It is even possible to contact the person featured in each video directly through email to ask questions about their stories.
Gann said the website is effective because it features real people being honest about their pasts, which can encourage people currently living in similar situations.
The goal is that such storytelling will ultimately lead to people learning more about the Christian faith or getting help for any problems, like addictions, that they may have.
He said he believed every person attending the meeting could relate to having experienced some sort of painful situation in the past, and that sharing those stories could prompt others to take action to better their situations.
“Every story is important,” Gann said.
The stories featured on the site have had an impact on its visitors, he added after Sunrise Rotary members had the chance to ask him questions about his work.
He said that, though the billboards are only in Tennessee, the site has received visitors from five different continents.
Locally, sharing the website info on billboards is a great way to share the site with people because of the Chattanooga area’s location along major highways, said Gann. He said social media also makes it possible for word of the website to spread quickly.
“Two-thirds of America drives through Chattanooga every year,” Gann asserted. “We are strategically located.”
Since the site was started, some of its videos have found their way into meetings of addiction counseling groups such as Celebrate Recovery and Teen Challenge. Even if a website visitor does not become a Christian, Gann said he hopes it will make people realize they too can overcome addictions and other problems when they hear the stories of people who have overcome them.
He encouraged all members to visit the website and share it with others.
Before Gann took to the podium, the club had welcomed a Jack Bates, a new member who had served as a Rotary Club president in Arkansas and Florida and recently moved to Cleveland for work.
The Rotary Club also bid farewell to a group of club members embarking on a mission trip to install a water treatment system in a community that does not currently have clean water. Members of the team include Bill Johnson, Gary Fuller and Sally Poston.