Keeping The Church Sexy?

I have a close friend who laments, “We are always trying to be sexy as a church!”  What this friend is referring to is the church’s troubling preoccupation and concern of how to be sexy – how to keep parishioners attracted and how to lure parishioners back from sexier churches down the street.

To explain this concept a bit more, let us consider John and Susan. 

John is a highly successful lawyer.  One day John loses interest in his wife of 20 years and begins to look at the younger and very flirtatious 24-year-old executive secretary at his firm.  However, John’s wife – Susan – picks up on this.  By the time Susan notices John’s wandering heart, though, it is too late.  John leaves her for the secretary. 

Susan, though, can’t let go of John – and rightfully so.  And so, she became jealous and consumed in her thoughts about the young 24-year-old executive secretary.  As a result, Susan decides not to go down without a fight.  She decides to get botox every three months to smooth out her worry lines.  She whitens her teeth and even schedules a consultation with a plastic surgeon.  And she also begins to change her attire, vocabulary, cosmetics, and youthful personality to mimic the young teasing secretary.  Subconsciously she thinks that if she can be fun, seductive, and mischievous – like the secretary – that she will win John back.  However, what is not evident to her is that the changes in her behavior, dress, cosmetics, and language are devaluing her integrity and beauty – the changes are making her look and behave worse.  Her close friends even begin to worry.  You see, what is happening is that Susan is losing her classiness and dignity as a beautiful woman in her early 40s.  She looks desperate, and her emotions are unhinged, it is evident to everyone that she is making a fool of herself by trying to imitate the 24-year-old secretary. 

Now, as we take a step back and assess John and Susan’s story, what is the problem?  Is the problem with Susan not being as fun, seductive, and mischievous as the secretary?  Is the problem with the executive secretary?  The answer is no!  The problem is not Susan, and it is not even with the flirty and teasing secretary, but it is with John.  You see, John has failed to understand the estate of marriage.  While he may have loved Susan when they were first married, it is obvious by his actions that he has a superficial view of relationships, love, and marriage.  John does not understand the integrity of the marriage vows that he took, for he flippantly tossed his vows out the window when he began to pursue another woman.  And Susan?  Tragically she feels that she is responsible for John leaving – that if she only looked younger that John would not have left.  What a lie!  Marriage is not based on fleeting sexual emotions, and the church is not as well. 

We have to be honest that there are way too many parishioners in our American churches acting like John.  These parishioners bounce from church to church, chasing the church that provides the most amount of sexiness.  Keep in mind that when I use the term ‘sexy,’ I am referring metaphorically to the churches that exude excitement and attractiveness – churches that are more about flirty style and shiny new things than substance.  More often than not, these churches do this to seduce parishioners away from congregations that are less sexy – you know, those boring old irrelevant congregations.  And to make things worse, these ‘so-called’ old irrelevant congregations believe the lie, like Susan, that they are to blame.  That is to say; they begin to think that they need to change their vocabulary, liturgy, doctrine, and personalities (to be sexier) so that they can keep parishioners and woo parishioners back.  However, in so doing, these congregations not only look desperate but lose the dignified beauty of the liturgy and the truth of the Gospel.  Furthermore, by trying to entice parishioners back, these congregations are upholding the lie that church is about being sexy – when this is simply not the truth. 

What does all this mean though? 

It is quite simple. 

The church is not sexy, for it is composed of sinners that will always fail to meet up to provocativeness of the world.  The church will always fail to meet the mark before the popular fads of the day, and the church will even fail to meet the Lord’s mark.  However, it is this very broken, sinful, and often off-putting church that the Lord claims as His own.  Indeed, what many fail to realize is that what makes the church unique, attractive, and exciting is not the sexiness of the church, but the fact that Christ would pursue, love, and die for sinners.  This is the truth.  It is through imperfect people and an imperfect institution that God’s Gospel has been preserved, ministered, and spoken forth to the ends of the earth.   

So, if a person is choosing a church based upon the cutting edge facility, padded seats, edgy logo, hip website, the taste of the coffee, cultural popularity, and the fervent passion of the membership, then they are seeking superficial sexiness that does not exist with regards to Christ’s church.  And what about those churches that are tempted to sell-out to sexiness?  Well, they too are chasing a fleeting sexual appeal that does not exist– and frankly, if it did exist, they could not compete in the realm of sexiness.  This is true for the church, and it is true for John and Susan as well.

The church is about faithfulness to the Word and Sacraments, not sexiness.  The church is about the substance and stability of the sacred liturgy, not flirtatious and temporary style.  And the church is about being called into Christ’s Gospel, not being seduced into a short-lived fad. 

The church is about Jesus and His forgiveness of sins, and this is not necessarily sexy, but it is indeed good, healthy, and essential.    

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