Gary Davis rides his Harley Davidson to church. Don Martin might not ride a horse to church, but he just as well with his Western-style shirt, cowboy hat and boots.
Both are pastors in affinity churches (it’s an AP story and thus all over the web), congregations designed to reach specific interest groups. Davis founded Church in the Wind, a biker church in Denver, after being told he couldn’t wear his biker outfit in a traditional church. Martin founded Happy Trails Cowboy Church in Taylorsville, N.C. They meet on Monday nights in arenas where rodeos are held (read more about cowboy churches).
The Southern Baptist Convention is leading the way with affinity churches, setting up 1,781 last year alone. And there’s something for everyone: golf churches, bluegrass churches, Gen X churches—though the biker and cowboy congregations seem to be the most popular.
“They’re considered affinity-based because they offer what people like, such as the cowboy lifestyle,” said Richard Harris, vice president of church planting for the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. “When they find somebody that has the same passion that they do, that attracts them.”
While the churches may be catering to interests, the spiritual message stays the same. And some affinity churches appear to connect with other congregations: At Happy Trails as many as 40 “partners” attend the services but are still members of their home churches.
It’s a unique idea, a radical way to shake up the traditional idea of church and not only get more butts in pews, but ultimately Christ in hearts. I tend to like more diversity, but I suppose it’s a starting point, an introduction to Christianity. (link via John Carney)