There has been some recent conversation in the blogosphere concerning XXXchurch.com. I won’t take the time to portray the vision of this internet ministry for you here, though I certainly suggest that you give the website a look.
So what should Christians make of a ministry that visits porn conventions and hands out Bibles (or, The Message, a Bible “paraphrase”) that contain the phrase “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” displayed on their front cover? Well, first let me state that I definitely give these Christians the benefit of the doubt. They are, to me, innocent until proven guilty. My assumption is that they are genuine Christians with a love for the gospel and a burden to see the lost saved. That is certainly commendable, and that is not something I here question.
Rather, the question that lies before us concerns their method of evangelism. How far is too far?
Before we even take the “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” Bibles into consideration, my primary concern is the fact that these Christian individuals visit porn conventions. Obviously, such conventions do not encourage sanctification. What business, I ask, does a Christian man have visiting such a sin-nurturing environment, regardless of how noble his intentions may be (and what the wives and mothers of these men think of this, I can only imagine)? Seriously, where should we draw the line? I’m sure that none of these guys would be willing to get in bed with a prostitute to preach the gospel to her. And the fact is, Jesus’ internalization of the commandments revealed when he told us that even looking at another woman in lust is spiritually equal to adultery tells me that we should avoid this type of situation just as much as we would avoid finding ourselves in bed with a woman to whom we are not married. As Christians, our mentality should not be one of pushing the envelope, walking the line, playing in fire and pretending we won’t get burned. Rather, I think we should be more like Joseph: when he found himself in the situation he did, he did not remain to teach Potipher’s wife a theology lesson. Rather, he fled as fast as he could, leaving his coat behind. If our eyes cause us to sin, cut them out. Do even allow an opportunity for sin.
But let’s now examine this method of evangelism on its own merit. Let’s say, for example, that this ministry didn’t attend porn conventions (though it does). Rather, let’s say that it simply gives out these Bibles through the mail or some other medium. In other words, should the phrase “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” ever appear on the Bible?
Obviously, this phrase is after two things. The first is shock-value. And I understand this. Jesus himself often used shock-value in his teaching, portraying the great antithesis between the religious ideas of his day and the gospel of grace (though his shock-value examples were certainly never quite like “Jesus Loves Porn Stars”). Shock-value is something that is generally utilized in gospel tracts, to get someone to actually pick them up and read them.
The second thing that is attempting to be portrayed is the “Jesus, friend of sinners” concept. This is certainly a Biblical concept. But we must not be gospel-uninformed. Jesus doesn’t, contrary to the thinking of many people today, accept you as you are simply because he loves you. No, as you are his wrath against you is infinite. As you are, you are depraved and absolutely needing his grace. Christ accepts you, and he saves you as you are because he views you as you are not. Christ doesn’t love porn stars; he hates them, just as he hates murderers and children who disobey their parents. But the good news is that he satisfied God’s wrath on the behalf of those who would believe. And so, Christ, viewing you not as you are but as he is, saves you and transforms you into his own likeness, for God’s glory. This is the gospel, and I find the phrase “Jesus loves porn stars” to be a very inadequate summary of it.
Our sovereign God is certainly capable of using this method of evangelism, and perhaps he already has. But I think that, rather than seeking to push the envelope in our creativity (though creativity in evangelism is certainly a good thing), we should seek to present an accurate gospel to the lost in a way that reflects the Biblical model, not in a way that offers a confusing and potentially misunderstood message.