What happens when God gets between the sheets?”

A question considered beyond the pale by a prior generation is now the basis of a marketing campaign for New Day Church, a new Indiana congregation. Hyping a sermon series on sex and religion, this startup congregation bets on the old adage that “sex sells.”

This church is not alone.

– Ed Young, pastor of the Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas planted a king-size bed on his platform and challenged the congregation of 20,000 to a week of “congregational copulation.” In his “Seven Days of Sex” series, Young argued that God thought up sex in marriage, and the church should emphasize it.

– Mark Beeson, pastor of Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana, jumped on the sex bandwagon with, “The Greatest Sex You’ll Ever Have,” sermon series. “Sex wasn’t invented in a dark alley behind a porn shop,” touts the promotional material for the series. “It’s part of God’s design. In fact, this may shock you but God wants you to have great sex.”

– Heath Mooneyham, pastor of Ignite Church in Joplin, Missouri, has taken this message to another level. Billboards are popping up around this town urging married couples to have more sex: “God Is Pro Sex, It Should Be Exciting.” The church has opened a related website:

Proponents of such series line up arguments such as: the Bible has much to say about sex; the world’s misconceptions about sex need dispelling; many married people are dissatisfied with their sex lives; and, most importantly, the message makes the church more relevant to the unchurched.

Others don’t buy it.

Philip Goff, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis, sees this as a continual evolution of churches to meet the felt needs of parishioners.

“One of the things many of these new churches are trying to do is imitate culture to bring in people instead of 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.”

Louis Ruprecht, the Williams M. Suttles chair of religious studies at George State University has some reservations.

“If this sounds eerily close to a Viagra or Cialis advertisement, and I, for one, think that it does, then this points to the many ways in which evangelical Christianity is not driving policy or cultural criticism, but rather is being driven by these larger cultural trends, but rather is being driven by these larger cultural trends.”

My thoughts? Well, such series seem a tad desperate. Driven to prove that “this is not your daddy’s church,” pastors and churches numbly veer into conforming to a culture rather than transforming it.

Discussing sex is appropriate in the right settings such as premarital classes, marriage encounters, and such. Promoting sex to fill pews is sad.

By the way, whatever happened to preaching Jesus?