July 22, 2008
The Life You've Always Wanted (in Bed)
Does God want you to have a better sex life?
In February 2008, Relevant Church of Tampa, Florida, issued a "30-Day Sex Challenge" during their sermon series on relationships. Married couples were exhorted to have some form of intercourse - and singles to abstain - every day for a month.
Last month, New Direction Christian Church (Memphis, Tennessee) conducted its own "40 Nights of Grrreat Sex" program. The pastoral staff handed out daily planners with suggestions for mixing things up. They set up a blog so members could ask questions - and presumably offer advice - anonymously. I hope they also have plans to increase their children's ministry budget in the coming months.
And it's not just churches. In the Christian publishing market, the body of explicit sex manuals for Christian couples is growing. Ironically, about the time secular commentators have begun to voice their concern that our culture is overstimulated, the Christian church says, "I've got an idea; let's have more sex."
Of course I understand the difference between casual sex and intimacy within a godly marriage. And in some ways, I find this trend toward openness about human sexuality to be encouraging. Having grown up in a conservative church in a conservative part of the country, I know Christians who feel guilty about having (not to mention enjoying) sex with their Christian spouses. This certainly should not be so.
On the other hand, where does "church as sex therapist" lead? In the upcoming issue of Leadership, Sam O'Neal reports that Relevant Church's sex campaign resulted in a 15 percent increase in attendance. Is that transfer growth or conversion growth, I wonder? (Not growth precisely, but you know what I mean.)
I don't mean to criticize either of the ministries above; there's certainly nothing wrong with churches celebrating sexual intimacy within marriage. And I don't know enough of the details to critique either of the "campaigns." But to comment on evangelicalism's apparently growing fascination with sex, I have to wonder what this looks like to nonbelievers.
For example, as I understand it, there is some disagreement among Taoists concerning the role of sex in spiritual development. Some say that sex uses up chi (which one must reserve in order to become immortal), so they abstain. Others say a person can actually gain chi during intercourse, so have all you want. From an outsider's perspective, if I were going to choose a form of Taoism ? well, it's a simple choice, isn't it?
There's a part of me that wonders whether nonbelievers will look on Christianity, from an outsider's perspective, and say, "Well, if my options are ?take up your cross and follow me' or ?have sex every day,' I'll take option two, please." What you win them with is what you win them to, or so they say.
I'm curious to hear what you think. Is this "tell 'em what they want to hear"? Or are we finally beginning to understand God's design for sex in marriage? Does an emphasis on sexual fulfillment (or financial security, or anger management, or ?) distract from the gospel? Or is satisfaction of all sorts an element of the gospel message of restoration? Let us know what you think. And remember--keep it short and keep it clean.