Back in the dark ages when I started in youth ministry, I used Dawson McAllister’s material in my Sunday School classes. Dawson applied Scripture to subjects like responding to parents, dealing with drugs and alcohol, respecting authority, and relating to the opposite sex. Dawson’s material taught no sex before marriage or outside of marriage. God designed sex and it is good, but only within biblical parameters.
When I served my first full-time church (they will remain unnamed to protect the narrow minded who still might be alive), I wanted to use this material in Sunday School. First of all, I wasn’t using Southern Baptist material, and this caused quite a stir among the legalists who thought only edicts from Nashville were inspired. Secondly, that material had one session on God’s Word regarding sex.
Before I could teach it, we had to discuss it (that’s a nice word for “argue”) for an hour in business meeting. I had to make a copy available in the church library for all to see. You should have seen the Women’s Circle in there looking through the notebook. I won’t go there, but it would have been comical if it hadn’t been so pitiful.
As a youth minister, I would speak on the subject about once a year. When someone works with teenagers, you have to, considering the hormonal overdrive that most teens are in. Better they hear it from us than from someone who believes anything goes as long as you have a condom.
Unfortunately, today I believe churches are going too far in trying to shock people and using sexual innuendo to do it. A few years ago Fox & Friends spent several minutes covering Granger Community Church and their billboard and sermon series, “My Lame Sex Life.” Fellowship Church in Dallas had a series entitled “Forgiveness, the Real F Word.” They’ve also edified the body with a series on faith (playing off the male enhancement drugs) called “Size Really Does Matter.” They bring a whole new meaning to fellowship.
These are only three examples. Lacking the powerful message of the cross, some resort to shock and sexuality. When a pastor lowers himself to gimmicks that are galling, it’s easy to conclude they don’t believe in the power of the gospel.
I know that Billy Graham has preached on sex. That’s not the point. We need to talk about what God’s Word says on the subject. The message of Dr. Graham in every message was, “You need Jesus.” With this kind of advertising, it looks like the message is, “You need better sex.” This world’s message is perverted and skewed. The truth does need to get out. But there’s a difference between letting the Word speak and feeling like you have to tantalize, tease, and titillate to get a crowd.
Paul preached in the most perverse sexual society on the face of the earth. There were temple prostitutes (male and female). There were concubines in every home. Sex was a god that was worshiped. But read his letters—Paul took them straight to Jesus. When people get Jesus, they’ll turn from idols and immorality. Paul didn’t preach on sex; he preached on the Savior and they turned from their perversion. Paul believed in the life changing power of the Word. Some today apparently don’t. The greatest tragedy of it all is that these churches are our “successful” churches. Mark it down—numbers don’t translate into God’s approval.
Here’s the problem. The billboards send one signal, and the Word sends a different one. If you bait them with sexual innuendo and advertising that appeals to the flesh, are you now going to speak on, “Be holy as I am holy”? Will the first words out of your mouth be, “This is the will of God, avoid sexual immorality”? I doubt it. I doubt if they can get the titles of the series out of their head enough to hear the Word.
If these churches are really sold on their marketing methods, I think they should do away with their coffee shops in the church atrium and open a small “Bathsheba’s Secrets” to sell Christian lingerie to the couples who want to jazz up their sex life. Maybe they should preach a series on “Samson’s Secrets to Making It with Women.” They could have Tom Jones comes sing “Delilah” just before the message. Stephen Stills could open the service with his hit, “If You Can’t Be With the One You Love, Honey, Love the One You’re With.” The church is giving a whole new spin on flesh peddling.
We’ve gotten away from the exposition of Scripture because we really don’t believe it is sufficient. We’ve resorted to fluffy series because we don’t understand the centrality of Christ is the key to all relationships. We’ve stopped preaching Jesus and started preaching another gospel, which really isn’t the gospel.
When you add to or take away from the pure message of the gospel, you have another gospel. You can use the right words, but that doesn’t mean you are preaching the truth. You can quote Scripture, but that doesn’t mean you have the power of the Spirit behind what you say. The Pharisees quoted Scripture. The Catholic priests who molested children quoted Scripture. The Word is not to be used to get a crowd. It’s to be preached to confront sinners and exhort the saints.
We’ve bought the lie of shock and awe in advertising. We’ve been duped by the devil to believe the simple message of the grace of God on the cross is not enough to draw people to Jesus. We’ve got to help Jesus out. He’s not as strong as He used to be. We need to make Him hip, cool, relevant, and cutting edge.
Most of this garbage isn’t coming from the younger generation. It’s coming from pastors in their late 30s and middle age. Are they having their own sexual issues? Do they need a little counseling? Are they trying to prove their manhood? Who are they trying to impress? Are they insinuating “If your sex life was like mine, you’d be happy”? Is that really what we were called to preach? Do they want people to see them as a man of God or a hip guy who knows sexual terminology? Get over yourself and get back to Jesus.
Where did we get off track? What happened to, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself”? What happened to, “If we preach not Jesus, we are accursed”? Where’s the belief in the power of the Holy Spirit, working through the Scriptures and an available witness?
Sex sells. It sells beer, cars, shampoo, trucks, tools, clothing, and now sermons. What a country. No wonder the Muslims hate us. They see us flaunting sex from houses of prostitution to church pulpits and have come to the conclusion we are an evil nation. You can hardly blame them.
13 thoughts on “The R-Rated Church: Selling Sex in the Shadow of the Cross”
Mike, good column. In the quest to become “worldly cool” I am afraid too many are really looking more like spiritual fools.
It breaks my heart to see churches stoop to levels such as these to gain people. The power of the Gospel is and has always been sufficient enough, we don’t need to add to it nor take it away
Finally . . . a breath of fresh air to hear the truth spoken. Thank Mike for the much needed word!!
The objective is to bring the message that, causes repentance, the only message that does that is the message of Christ, all others only tend to do so. The Church isn’t a market place, its a people forgiven and who haven’t forgotten what it was like to be lost. I believe if we keep our minds on Christ we will keep our message about Christ. I’ve noticed in my preaching when I bring the message of the cross people are rescued, thats the result I believe we’re after.
A minor point of distinction: if we are going to preach the Word, as we should, we better quote it correctly. The Bible does NOT say, be ye holy AS I am holy. It says, be ye holy, FOR I am holy…
1 Peter 1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
Outstanding post there Pastor Catt! I couldn’t agree with you more! Thank you!
As a parent to a youth, I appreciated the series the youth pastor did on sex. Thank you for this article, good stuff!
Brother Michael you were spot on. That is the Truth I have been searching for in a Church for a long time…
While I don’t endorse or condone any of the messages, I’ll let God do that since each pastor answers to Him. I should point out what i’m sure you know, that the point is to draw in those who might not otherwise come and hear. In so doing, they are expectant that the power of the gospel will impact their lives, and i’m sure you know this too that many have come to know Christ.
Yes, we can go overboard, but what is more shameful is the way Christians and especially leaders bite at one another.
Our pastor at a huge Midwestern church kept making sex jokes from the pulpit. I called one of the deacons and complained saying this is a church, not a comedy club, and these remarks are inappropriate. We eventually left this church and are now happily worshipping at a great church. Vote with you feet!
I think you make some very valid points in your blog and I was with you until the last paragraph. I’m sure selling sex doesn’t add to our appeal with Muslims, but even if we were a nation of committed, practicing believers, Muslim extremists would still hate us. They hate Christ and those who worship Him. They don’t even tolerate Christians in their own families and nations, much less in a nation they have deemed “the great satan”.
I’m with Janna, I was with you until the Muslim comment. They hate us for lots of reasons, non valid.