An evangelical church in Granger, Ind., put up billboards a few months back showing a rumpled bed, entwined feet and a URL address called mylamesexlife.com. That site linked to an artsy mini-movie with shots of a seedy motel and a man sunk in morning-after regret.While I can imagine my boys responding to such relevancy, I also wonder if the church shouldn't be a respite from the glut of screens and plugs in the rest of their lives. How will this lonely generation learn to handle the mess of real community and intimacy? I'm all for excellence, but shouldn't church be a place where we don't value the slick and professional, but rather welcome the odd and eccentric?
"Is your sex life a bore? A chore? … Why does it seem like everyone else is having all the fun?" the text asked. As the movie ended, viewers for the first time saw the logo of Granger Community Church, which was sponsoring five weeks of sermons on sex, lust and porn. The tagline: "We're not afraid to talk about it."
Pastor Mark Beeson credits the campaign with boosting attendance 70% the week he gave a sermon entitled "The Greatest Sex You'll Ever Have." Six weeks after the series ended, weekly church attendance still topped 6,000, up from 5,000 before the ad campaign.
"We dare not change the Gospel. But the method of delivery? We better change it for each new generation," said Beeson, who preaches in front of a floor-to-ceiling video screen. His latest sermon series, which starts next week, is called "Finding God in Your iPod;" he promises to analyze spiritual yearnings in songs from Coldplay, Kenny Chesney and other artists.
Theologian Philip Kenneson voices another concern: When churches measure success by how many times a sermon is downloaded, Christianity becomes just another consumer product. "There's a danger that it encourages people to see the church as a service agency, there to meet their particular needs rather than to help them serve God," Kenneson said.To communicate thousand-year-old truths to our shattered young people, shouldn't we strive to be relevant and alternative? If so, how?
It's easy to reassure yourself that you are, in fact, a Christian because you're … consuming Christian products," he said. "Then I don't have to love my neighbor or pray for my enemy or … take on any of the messy, difficult demands of the Gospel," said Kenneson, an associate professor at Milligan College in Tennessee and co-author of Selling Out The Church: The Dangers of Church Marketing.