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Evangelizing? Or Pandering?

August 16, 2010

27-year-old evangelical Christian, Brett McCracken, has an article in the Wall Street Journal where he reflects on the difficult time many churches are having holding onto their young adult members. According to a 2007 study McCracken cites, “70% of young Protestant adults between 18-22 stop attending church regularly.”

McCracken then surveys the various ways in which churches around the country have attempted to appeal to young adults. His examples get more and more shameless until there’s this:

One of the most popular—and arguably most unseemly—methods of making Christianity hip is to make it shocking. What better way to appeal to younger generations than to push the envelope and go where no fundamentalist has gone before?

Sex is a popular shock tactic. Evangelical-authored books like “Sex God” (by Rob Bell) and “Real Sex” (by Lauren Winner) are par for the course these days. At the same time, many churches are finding creative ways to use sex-themed marketing gimmicks to lure people into church.

Oak Leaf Church in Cartersville, Georgia, created a website called to pique the interest of young seekers. Flamingo Road Church in Florida created an online, anonymous confessional (, and had a web series called, which featured a 24/7 webcam showing five weeks in the life of the pastor, Troy Gramling. Then there is Mark Driscoll at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church—who posts Q&A videos online, from services where he answers questions from people in church, on topics such as “Biblical Oral Sex” and “Pleasuring Your Spouse.” Really?

Here’s how McCracken sums up his read of all that:

If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that “cool Christianity” is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don’t want cool as much as we want real.

If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it’s easy or trendy or popular. It’s because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It’s not because we want more of the same.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Michael Adams permalink
    August 16, 2010 3:20 pm

    17 – 22 year olds not attending church is nothing new. That is the age group that questions nearly everything in life as they try to determine the direction their own lives will take. Can we offer them honest and meaningful answers rather than trying to make them a statistic?

  2. Murray permalink
    August 16, 2010 3:44 pm

    I’ve been a Christian a long time and am daily confronted anew with the awesome message that I’m ok with God because of grace, what Jesus did for me.

    The good that does for my soul and the ripple effects out into my life are stunning in their impact.

    The problem in reaching people can always be found in the message. The basic message of Christ is very, very powerful and transformational. Show me where this isn’t happening and I will show you where either something was taken away from the basic message or added to it, in either case confusing the basic issues involved with it and taking away its power. Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof, in other words. (2 Timothy 3:5)

    Christ can and does transform people into something much better than the person they were when He found them. Churches that have moved away from the transformative themes will inevitably pay a price with those who are sincerely seeking to fill the God shaped void, even if they are not able to articulate it that way.

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