Meanings of symbols

One thing to remember is that it is the thing that is symbolised that has the importance rather than the item itself. Therefore, it was not Paul’s handkerchiefs or shadow that did the healing, but they became symbols which helped to release people’s faith. Objects are not important in themselves, it is people’s reaction to them that is important.

In terms of using symbols, the safest ones to use are images that represent themes from the Bible. There are other symbols that most people would think were inappropriate to use in a church. One obvious one is the swastika, as so many people connect it with the unpleasantness of Nazism. However, some people would consider using the peace symbol without looking into its history. Apparently it was devised by someone who was anti Christian and it is supposed to represent an upside down cross with broken arms. What makes it worse is that it is surrounded by a circle which is used by some anti Christians to symbolise that their thinking is opposite to God’s. In other words the peace symbol is one that is unsuitable for use in a church. The peace symbol is not the only symbol which is linked to anti Christian ideas and sadly, some of these symbols are not that different from their Christian equivalents as in the Christian cross and the Egyptian ankh, where the only difference is that the top part of the cross becomes a loop. Therefore, it is safer to stick with images that represent themes from the Bible, rather than using anything from other sources.

There are many ideas taken from scripture which are used symbolically in worship. Here are a few examples.

  • The idea of a sword appears in many contexts. Of course, the sword is a weapon of warfare. This image can be used on flags or banners. It can also be symbolised by a metallic coloured streamer.
  • A shield is also a necessary implement of war. This can be symbolised by the way a praise hoop is used. It can also be seen in the shape of a flag or banner.
  • Water is a symbol used to suggest the coming of life in scriptures.

Sometimes, the symbolism is not in the image but in the fabrics that are used to make up a banner. One banner I saw had some symbolism in the way the fabric felt. The image was of a cross on a hill. The hill was green and felt really soft, it was in fact tracksuiting which was sewn so the fluffy backing was on the outside. The cross felt rough and quite unpleasant to touch. It was made of corduroy, which comes from the French term cloth of the king. The words were “Let my people come unto me”. This just shows the sort of messages that God wants to get across and how He inspires people to do it for Him.

The links below will take you to some pages that have some more ideas of symbols that you could use.

Praise banners This is a business site but the designs they sell will give you some ideas on what symbols you can use.
A call to worship Meanings of materials, objects and symbols.
Joy Shoppe (symbols) Some ideas for symbols together with Bible references.
Joy Shoppe (numbers) Some ideas for using numbers together with Bible