3 minute read

30-Day Sex Challenge?

Last Updated: April 2, 2015

Luke Gilkerson
Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Your Brain on Porn and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

Many churchgoers are in the liturgical season of Lent, a corporate time of fasting, self-denial and prayer, leading up to the events of Holy Week. But the married members of Relevant Church in Tampa, Florida, are planning on having lots of sex right up to Palm Sunday.

Pastor Paul Wirth issued the 30-Day Sex Challenge to his congregation: “Relevant Church is proposing a challenge encouraging married couples to purposely engage in sexual activity for 30 days and singles to intentionally forgo sexual activity for 30 days” (from Relevant’s website).

Why the 30-Day Sex Challenge?

Relevant Church leaders brainstormed ways to help couples deal with their top concerns: sex and money. After finishing a series on finances, they figure, now it’s time for sex. Pastor Wirth told media that the challenge is aimed at revolutionizing intimacy in marriages, and revolutionizing thinking among singles about what really makes relationships work.

The Buzz

The buzz about this in Tampa is growing. Those that expect the church to say “God hates sex” are having their assumptions overturned. Wirth said, “That’s just not true. I really believe that God wants us to have great sex.”

The church’s proposed billboard ad for Adamo Drive about the 30-Day Sex Challenge didn’t get past the censors. Posting the 30-Day Sex Challenge website was okay, but the tagline, “Are you up for it?” wasn’t.  Neither was the content of a their promotional video that showed a few bellybuttons and a guy without a shirt. Relevant Church tweaked the billboard and video. Now the tagline reads: “Let’s talk about sex in an honest, meaningful way.”

Reactions from church members vary. “Our married people are far more fearful than our single people,” said Wirth. They know that the challenge isn’t to simply engage in physical intercourse but to connect spiritually and emotionally. The church is challenging married couples to embrace a Biblical picture of intimacy. Jarret Haas, the visual arts director of Relevant, said, “Sex is about more than intercourse and that’s what we’re trying to tell people.” “It’s just refreshing to have somebody finally talk about it and finally bring things up,” said single church member Becky Mahan.

My Reaction to the 30-Day Sex Challenge

Most of my reaction is forthcoming. Initially my post-modern-generation brain likes edgy programs and eye-catching ads. Nothing wrong with being a little edgy, right?  Jesus was edgy. And certainly the church needs to dismantle once and for all the myth that God hates sex.

But perhaps the American church as a whole needs to reexamine its banners and buildings, how it taps media and mass marketing to reach new audiences. I’m reminded of Derek Webb’s song, “Ballad in Plain Red”:

just keep selling truth in candy bars
on billboards and backs of cars
truth without context, my favorite of all my crimes
‘cause everything’s for sale in the 21st century
and the check is in the mail from the 21st century
what works verses what’s right
hey what’s the difference tonight?

Only time and eternity will reveal the effect of our marketing strategies in the church. My prayer is that the banners and billboards drive people to a pulpit or a Bible study where they will hear the whole truth.

Mass marketing strategies aside, I am eager to read the community blog from Relevant Church members about their reactions, their feelings, and their sexual encounters—or lack thereof.  It will be interesting to see if this approach proves to be a fruitful first step for their members to connect spiritually and emotionally.

I am hoping, especially for the singles, that their challenge to abstain from sexual intercourse also encompasses all forms of self gratification, such as use of pornography.

I really appreciate that Relevant Church is offering their attendees a format to journal their thoughts throughout the sex challenge. Members can print off the pdf booklet from their blog site and use it as a day-by-day devotional journal of their reactions. The booklet also offers couples and singles thoughts about their top 10 emotional needs and ways to communicate them. I appreciate it anytime the church gives practical tools for Christians to be more introspective and focus on quality relationships.

In general I think the challenge is humorous and eye-catching, but it will be important that the program not be presented as just another behavior modification tool. Habit-forming psychology aside, Paul said that the strength of sin is the law: tell my flesh what it can’t do or what it should do and it wants to rebel (Romans 7:7-12). Letters and laws written on tablets of stone (or billboards) bring death. The Holy Spirit brings life (2 Corinthians 3:6). If the sex-challenge is just another repackaged law (“just do this for 30 days and your life will change”), at most it will expose the root of broken sexual thinking and behavior and reveal the inability to live godly without Christ. This isn’t a bad thing of course, just like the Law of Moses wasn’t a bad thing. If used properly it should point to Christ as the one who saves.

My prayer for the Sunday morning attendees of Relevant Church is that amidst their challenge they are met with the life-transforming message of Christ, who’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). I pray the married men come face-to-face with Jesus who is the model of love for their wives (Ephesians 5:25). I pray the singles will discover a Jesus who offers real freedom: “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).

Best wishes to Relevant Church’s leaders as they navigate their congregation through the next 30 days.

  • Comments on: 30-Day Sex Challenge?
    1. Kris Scorup

      I want to share an excerpt from Clifford and Joyce Penner’s “The Married Guy’s Guide to Great Sex.”

      “Whenever sex becomes goal oriented, the body’s responses will be affected, and enjoyment will be stifled.”

      There is a danger in goal-oriented sex. By setting a goal (30 days), it is easy to turn sex from intimacy into a burden. . . I don’t think that that’s healthy.

      If you plan on participating in this challenge, please leave room for compromise – don’t let the challenge build strife between you and your partner. Remember, the GOAL of the challenge is to promote intimacy, not to conform to a rigid prescription of sexual activity.

    2. I agree with your concern about the challenge. I learned from Tim Alan Gardner’s book, Sacred Sex, that sexual intercourse is not about orgasm but oneness. I agree that goal-oriented sex is probably going to bring more harm than good in the long run. My prayer is that these are the types of things that will be discussed openly during their 30 days challenge.

    3. Relevant Church BTW is part of the Emergent Church cult movement.

      our churches are becoming like the ones mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 and I am sick of it.

      2 Timothy 4:3-4

      For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

      They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.


      Ed Hindson on what will happen After the Rapture of the Church




    4. saw this at:


      and it more than likely is right at how bad at our churches are becoming

      It Won’t Be Long Now…

      It is only a matter of time before we see couples in bed, “on stage”, in churches to celebrate sex.

      Two years ago I predicted that we would have the equivalent of pagan temple prostitutes in evangelical churches.

      Except in church, it will be married couples (for now) demonstrating it all in public.

      You’ve been warned.

      The clip from YouTube below a promo for Revolution Church’s sex campaign last summer.

      (One of hundreds of churches engaged in this sort of thing.) I give it 3-5 years before we have the real thing in church somewhere.


    5. Kevin

      Yet none of these things earn God’s favor — Abstaining from sex, having good and proper sex in marraige, fighting against abstaining from sex by telling married couple to have sex, etc.

      I don’t know…I just feel that this all COULD be good, but since it seems to be a backlash to Roman Catholicism (“right up till Palm Sunday”, etc.), is it really being done in the right spirit? Is it being done in devotion to Christ, or simply to fight a doctrinal system?

      (Also, I’m not Roman Catholic, but someone who needs Christ.)

    6. Kevin,
      The comment about “right up to Palm Sunday” was my own twist on the irony of the timing of their sex challenge. I don’t think their challenge is at all linked to the liturgical tradition of Lent.
      Luke Gilkerson

    7. Jarrett

      Really well thought out blog entry. And thanks for actually looking at what we are doing instead of jumping to conclusions like a lot of people. Also, just thought i would share some derek webb love with you… that guy is awesome.

    8. heidi

      My name is Heidi
      I am deeply disturbed because the Relevant Church has become like a whorehouse. This is a sexual perversion to the ALMIGHTY GOD! May God save your wretched sin-sick SOUL! By God’s grace and mercy may, you receive JESUS.

      • Lisa Eldred

        Heidi, I will admit to only having a base familiarity with Relevant Church. However, based on what they’ve written in their “What We Believe” page, I don’t believe their goal is to reinstitute the pagan temple prostitution described in the New Testament (at the church of Corinth, for example). On the contrary, I’d hazard the guess that they want to remind people that the command “glorify God in your body” includes a healthy sexual relationship between a husband and wife (not sex outside of wedlock, and not even abstinence within a marriage “except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer“). As they describe for their 2013 challenge, “great sex isn’t primarily about sex at all, but about meeting each other’s spiritual, emotional, and then physical needs.” It’s certainly provocative, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to unholy.

    9. Paul

      I would say with the apostle Paul: the ONLY reason to marry is to be able to have sex! Hence the PRIMARY goal of marriage is to have sex with your spouse! If you do not desire sex, or can control your desire for it (and who is able to do that?), do NOT marry. IF you are married, your body belongs to your spouse, and you should sexually satisfy your spouse whenever he or she wants. It’s as simple as that. The only exception is when you BOTH agree to not have sex for prayer, but that is ONLY allowed for a SHORT period.

      Hence the 30-day sex challenge is a step in the right direction, but it also it is taking it a step too far: you should (only) have sex if either of you so desire. Having sex does help in (physical) bonding by means of oxytocin release.
      Sex is good for you and your relationship!

      See 1 Co7:

      ““It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.”

      “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

      “But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.”

      “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.”

      “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.”

      “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control”

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