Yes, I admit that the USA Today headline caught my eye: “Start Up Indiana Church Uses Sex to Sell Message.” So what’s the story?
New Day Church, a new church in Indiana, is using a marketing campaign that features ads that ask: “What happens when God gets between the sheets?” The church is using their pastor’s four-week series on sex to draw the crowds.
According to Philip Goff, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, what we see happening at New Day Church is part of a national trend among new churches. Says Goff: “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. 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 non-traditional means to attract younger members.”
According to USA Today, other churches have tried different, edgy strategies: “Some have services or events at non-traditional locations, such as
tattoo parlors, music venues or even bars. They may host heavy-metal
concerts, skateboard competitions, motorcycle shows or even
body-piercing events to spread their message.”
A parishioner at New Day defends his church’s unusual outreach program:
“It has become more necessary to show non-believers we are just regular
people with the same problems they have. We aren’t here to
judge you or look down on you but to share the love of Christ.”
If it seems like churches like New Day are simply fitting into the culture, USA Today notes that most of these churches preach “straight from the Bible.” So their means of reaching out to new people may be just a tad unorthodox, but their message appears to be pretty much in line with the straight and narrow of Christian tradition.
Of course not all churches are choosing an edgy, risky marketing strategy. The billboard in front of the church I attend in Boerne, Texas, recently proclaimed: “Repent of your sins and turn to God.” Yes, I do attend a Presbyterian church, PC(USA), at that. Not exactly the most innovative message, but you can’t fault it for its faithfulness to Scripture.
So what do you think about this? How far should the church go to market itself? Is something lost when the church imitates the culture’s way of promotion? Or is this a valid way of reaching out in an increasingly secular culture?