Some argue that what the church only needs, apparently, is new methods to reach the lost, new techniques to promote the church, new packages for the gospel message. People, we are told, are not rejecting the gospel or Christ; they are rejecting our out-of-date, unappetizing forms, philosophies, and methods. With this presupposition, one church recently decided to take matters to another level.
New Day Church, a year-old congregation in Hendricks County, Ind., is finding sex helps sell its message of faith. An edgy marketing campaign asking, “What happens when God gets between the sheets?” promoted a sermon series in February and early March focusing on the link between sex and religion.
Members of the congregation heard the Rev. Denis Roy discuss God’s take on topics such as intimacy, pleasure, sexual preference, pornography, adultery and even sexual healing.
Though churches are always evolving to meet the needs of parishioners, New Day’s efforts are part of a larger outreach trend nationwide, said Philip Goff, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
A growing number of mostly start-up churches are trying increasingly creative approaches to appeal to people who have either strayed from church or had no interest in organized religion, Goff said.
“One of the things many of these new churches are trying to do is imitate culture to bring in people, instead of sitting back and critiquing it,” he said. “This is a trend that is going to be with us for a long time, because preachers are realizing they may have to turn to nontraditional means to attract younger members.”
One good writer once rightly noted that most of what passes for an average church these days is replete with tricks, gadgets, gimmicks, and marketing ploys to shamelessly adapt the church to a dead, empty and post modern world. There is too little about it that bespeaks the holiness of God. And without the vision for any reality of this holiness, the gospel becomes trivialized, life loses its depth, God becomes transformed into a product to be sold, faith into a recreational activity to be done, and the Church into a club for the like-minded.
Which leaves us with two dreadful questions. In the bid to become pragmatic and relevant can churches really hide their identity without losing their religious character? Can the purpose-driven church view people as consumers without inevitably forgetting that they are sinners?