(Photo: Relevant Church)
The nation is abuzz about a young Southwest Florida church's "30-Day Sex Challenge" that encourages married couples to have sex for one month straight and singles to abstain for that length of time.
"It's all about intimacy," said Pastor Paul Wirth of Relevant Church in Ybor City to Fox News. "Life gets in the way ... and we neglect each other. We believe that the Bible tells us that God is the author of love and teaches us how to love correctly. And when we do it His way, He will teach us how to love our spouses unconditionally and meet those emotional needs so that in return, they want to be intimate with us in a sexual way."
Wirth, who is taking the challenge with his wife, Susie, issued the 30-day sex challenge to churchgoers on Sunday during a relationship sermon series.
Although Relevant is just a 3-year-old church, Wirth says the challenge has drawn worldwide attention, most notably from the media, because churches have remained silent on the subject of sex for far too long.
"God is the one who talks about love and authors love, and He knows that He wants us to be intimate and connected with each other on a daily basis," the head pastor told CBS News.
But it isn't only about connecting on a physical basis.
The "teaser," Wirth says, is couples have to begin meeting each other's emotional and spiritual needs. Participants fill out an emotional needs questionnaire that allows their marriage partners to see what's lacking and figure out how to fulfill those needs.
"It's much more than the physical aspect," said Doug Webber, a Relevant churchgoer taking the challenge with his wife, Lorena. "So, it's really helping us refocus on our marriage."
And as couples communicate better and meet emotional needs, Webber says couples are then going to have a great physical relationship.
For the single adults at Relevant Church, the challenge is abstinence for 30 days.
In a culture where sexual activity has become a norm and is considered casual activity, one Relevant churchgoer says, "Our challenge is that us single adults would take 30 days to consider Gods way and remove sex from the equation to focus on who we are, who we are becoming and what is truly defining our relationships," Jason wrote on the church blog.
Days into the challenge, another single named Jarrett realized that "how far is too far?" is the wrong way to think relationships.
"Instead of trying to see what we can 'get' or how far we can go, I think its time we start honoring each other," Jarrett wrote on the blog. "I admit, I dont know exactly what that looks like, but Im ok with that."
Pastor Wirth says the challenge for singles is to take sex, which often takes precedence in relationships, off the table and to first connect spiritually and emotionally.
The challenge has drawn some criticism from religious groups, but Wirth believes they were misguided by the media.
Although the challenge is just a month long, Wirth says those 30 days "will lead to a lifetime."