The pastors of the Restored Church in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania who took out a controversial billboard on Wednesday are responding to the criticism they've recieved.
Pastor Tim Walker and Dan Nichols are receiving criticism for the billboard they took out quoting God as saying "I <3 Sex." In interviews they maintained that the billboard was a way to garner attention about their four-part sermon series in September that will be based on the Song of Solomon. They both felt that a bold approach was the way to go to attract new members and people who had not yet heard about God.
"It's in every single sitcom. It's on the radio. I mean, you go on any major news media outlet and there's stories about sexuality," Nichols said in an interview with WNEP News 16 in Pennsylvania. "If the culture can be so bold, I think the church can be so bold and speak directly on the subject and be up front about it."
Although the pastors are young, one of them, Nichols, is already working on his doctorate at Baptist Bible Seminary, while Walker received his undergraduate degree from Baptist Bible College.
Walker and Nichols spoke with CP and explained the reasoning behind the controversial sign.
CP: How did you come up with the Idea of buying out the billboard and having the quote on there?
Nichols: Well, first of all we got a 75% discount on it which was really sweet. We knew a guy who knew a guy, and we did one for our grand opening last year. It really helped us a lot. We put on there the message "No Perfect People Allowed" because that's one of our core values of the church. We believe that Jesus was perfect for us so we want to point to his perfect life, death and resurrection. And it worked so well, we thought why not try it for the sermon series this coming fall.
CP: What is some of the positive feedback you're getting? The negative?
Walker: We had a really neat response from a girl in my church. She said she was really excited and thankful for it. She was thankful that we talked about the practical issues when you're following Jesus in everyday life, and if she had heard it 10 years ago it would have saved her a lot of pain and hurt.
Nichols: I think the most positive feedback is centered around folks knowing what we're trying to do, which is promote God's original design for sexuality. If they get that, then the positive feedback flows. I feel that a lot of the negative feedback comes from misunderstanding.
CP: Have you guys gotten a bunch of crazy letters and e-mails in response to this?
Walker: Well one negative feedback we got was "Well you look like a teenager and you're stupid." That's literally an email that we got.
Nichols: We understand some people disagree with the way that we've gone about it, and we want to clearly communicate that we understand that others will disagree. I think what hurts is the personal attacks and people saying things that aren't true. Things like we aren't preaching God's word. We just finished going through Galations, Ecclesiastes and James verse by verse. We're all about Jesus, not ourselves. We totally agree to disagree, and we're not upset if someone has a difference of opinion.
CP: What is the 4 part series going to be about?
Walker: Well we have 4 different sermons, the first one is going to be done by Dr. Mark McGinnis, professor at Baptist Bible Seminary. He did his doctoral dissertation on the Song of Solomon. His sermon is going to be called "Sex Is", and he'll talk about how the book gives a view on sexuality. The Second one pastor Dan is going to do and that will be Sex In Marriage, which will look at what the book has to say about sex in marriage. The third is the one I'm going to do called "Sex and Singles" which will focus on not awakening love before it so desires. And finally the last one will be done by Pastor Dan called "Homosexuality: Disagreement Doesn't= Hatred". Then we'll have a panel discussion on September 28th to answers people's questions.
CP: What is something that you would want to say to folks who are curious by the billboard or those who are put off by it?
Nichols: Well for both sides I'd ask them to listen to the sermons. You can't put a whole sermon on a billboard. The purpose is to draw attention to the series where we will be explaining in full detail why we believe that God loves sex, and why the bible says that.
Walker: We're not trying to make the Bible relevant, the Bible is already relevant. We just want to bring some attention to the relevance its had for thousands of years.
Nichols: We have surrounded ourselves with many older, wiser, and more mature godly men in our lives. We have done a lot of study and a lot of research, and also a lot of prayer and we're trying to be led by the Holy Spirit. We're not into gimmicks, we're not into tricks, we just feel like we need to boldly proclaim the scripture and that sex is wonderful and beautiful but only in God's original design.