Hollywood is releasing the film-version of the smut-book, Fifty Shades of Grey, this February. Correspondingly, pastors all around the nation are releasing a smattering of “Fifty Shades” series. Many of these borrow ideas from Ed Young Jr.’s new book, Fifty Shades of They, for which he has also developed a sermon-series (for purchase, of course).
Pastor, if you’ve already purchased this series or are considering doing so and/or doing something along similar lines, I hope you’ll reconsider.
Before you dismiss me, I need you to know that I am not some angry, anti-contemporary church, anti-church-growth blogger who fills his days and nights looking for something to attack and critique. Rather, I am a minister who has served in a variety of contexts, including contemporary and multi-site churches.
As far as I am concerned we are brothers in Christ who have the same goal (to see sinners redeemed by Christ), but differing opinions on the best means by which to attain those goals. So, with that in mind, allow me for a moment to explain why I think you should cancel that Fifty Shades sermon-series you might have been planning.
A Fifty Shades Sermon-Series is Not Evangelistic
Can I share a secret with you?
No one is going to be fooled into attending your church because you’re doing a series similar to the movie title. Not one. It’s not going to happen. I don’t care if your church meets in a movie theater. That’s a bait-and-switch tactic that is beneath a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Besides, let’s be honest. You don’t think anyone will be fooled like that anyway. Quite frankly, if someone actually was to be fooled into attending your church because he thought your church might be showing or teaching anything remotely resembling that of the movie/book, well, then that stands as proof that your church isn’t exactly presenting a godly image to your community either.
You wouldn’t do this to be evangelistic. You do it in order to get some attention.
A Fifty Shades Sermon-Series is Not Creative
I cannot count the number of times that I’ve heard that this type of sermon series is “creative.” The argument is that by borrowing from a phrase that is popular in culture, one is creative.
It’s not creative. It’s kitch. It’s cutesy. It’s as creative as the old, red youth t-shirt that has “Jesus” written in script with the subtitle, “He’s the Real Thing.” It’s the lowest form of creativity. You might as well do a sermon-series based off of the popular movie, “Magic Mike” (which is apparently getting a sequel), and call it “Magic Mark: When Jesus surprises the pants off of you.” Never mind, that’s actually more creative than Fifty Shades of They. But I still would never do that.
Of course, the fact that so many that I’ve heard make the “creative” and “innovative” argument demonstrates the very reality that it’s not creative. They’ve just been told that it is.
A Fifty Shades Sermon-Series is Not Helpful
Friend, getting cutesy with the title of this book is not helpful, even if in doing so, your hope is to open a door to teach about healthy relationships. Just as your title is a knock-off version of the movie, you’re communicating that what Jesus offers is merely a knock-off of what the world offers. You’re telling the world that the love according to God’s plan is a lesser version of what is portrayed in the book/movie. If the adage is true and the medium is the message, the reality that you’re “borrowing” from the movie communicates that marital love as God intends somehow borrows from the greater, truer concept of “love” that the world has accepted.
You are demeaning the very thing you have been called to raise . . . and what is most heartbreaking is that you don’t see that.
The Bible is Controversial
Pastor, if you want to be controversial and draw attention to your church, you only have to stand behind your pulpit or on your stage, open your Bible, and preach what the Bible says about relationships. You need only to preach on the marital love between a husband and a wife according to God’s design.
I assure you, that is controversial enough in this world.
I assure you, that is relevant enough in a world that sends so many harmful, hurtful messages about love and marriage and relationships.
Will that draw as many people as a Fifty Shades sermon-series will?
I really don’t know. But it will draw those who are broken by the vile fantasies portrayed in the movie. It will draw those whose lives are shattered by addictions and hurts and adultery and sexual promiscuity. It will draw in married couples who are limping through life because of the pain that they’ve suffered because they’ve been infected by the very disease that is celebrated in Fifty Shades of Grey.
In fact, a Fifty Shades sermon-series will only exacerbate their pain and remind them of their hurt.
Preacher, don’t do it.