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7 bizarre ways religious leaders have raised chuch awareness
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Church attendance has slowly been declining in the United States, according to Pew Research Center, but that has only fueled congregation leaders to get more creative in their quest for bringing new members and funds to their churches. - photo by Leah Perri
Church attendance has slowly been declining in the United States, according to Pew Research Center, but that has only fueled congregation leaders to get more creative in their quest for bringing new members and funds to their churches.

During the first weeks of October, Reverend Rick Cole of Capital Christian Center raised funds in an unusual way spending two weeks as a homeless man on the streets of Sacramento, the Huffington Post reported. During his two weeks, Cole raised $100,000 to fund a winter shelter program. Cole commented that the insight he gained from this newfound perspective was invaluable.

"Im having conversation after conversation that just moves my heart," Cole told the HuffPost. "It makes me wonder, will I have the same care for these people when Im driving by them in my car as I do right now when Im walking with them every day? I hope this will burrow so deep inside of me that I will be a different person at the end."

Cole's efforts yielded tangible results as he reached his goal and the funds raised provided the resources needed for the Winter Sanctuary program, a place for homeless people to seek beds and meals during the chilly winter months.

But what about some of the more unusual and often bizarre ways that leaders have brought awareness to their churches?

Reverends and pastors continue to toe the line between godly activities and gimmicky stunts to gain members and funds, and we have compiled a list of leaders who are using various unorthodox methods to spread faith messages and bring in new followers.

Losing weight, Bible style

Religion News Service described one of these "stunt pastors" as Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church. Warren promoted weight loss through "The Daniel Plan," a 40-day plan for him and those in his congregation to follow. The plan was based on the Book of Daniel, and both promoted scripture and healthy lifestyles. The stunt appeared to be a success, as 12,000 members enlisted in the plan and the congregation lost a collective 250,000 pounds.

Weight loss appears to be trending in churches across America, causing skeptics to question the motives of such programs and plans; is it for God or for bringing new members to the church? Christianity Today listed a variety of "fitness-driven churches" that have sprouted up in recent years promoting weight loss plans. Programs like Firm Believer, Bod4God, WholyFit, Body Temple Wellness and Body Gospel are just a few of the programs promoting the message of smaller wastlines and deeper senses of faith.

Whatever these program's motives might be, Warren reminds critics that healthy lifestyles are just as important as healthy souls.

"You think that God is only interested in your soul? No, he is interested in your body, mind and soul," Warren told USA Today in a 2013 article. "Jesus went into each village teaching, preaching and healing. The Daniel Plan has to do with healing."

Stunt-man pastors

"Action sports outreach ministries" are actually a thing. In the same article, RNS reported that Kingdom Stunters, a motorcycle stunt team "with a desire to reach the lost for Jesus Christ," travel and put on flashy shows involving jumping buses in church parking lots, complete with flames and other special effects, in hopes of spreading the gospel.

Founder Michael King shed more light on just how these high octane shows promoted faith and gospel.

We want to show people the only way to be reconciled to God and pray that God would draw them to that goal, King told UnComon Chirstianity, a Christian blog. That is our heartbeat; the stunt show is merely the method that allows us to share that message.

Carrying the cross around town

Sometimes the mission to carry God's message to the masses needs a street level approach. The Blaze reported on Robert Wood, a 55-year-old man walking through towns and cities, dressed in robes with a cross strapped to his back, all in an effort to show Americans that it's time to look to the Lord. Wood has been making these journeys for over 20 years, and has no intention of stopping.

"It's been 22 years," Wood told the Blaze. "I'm not stopping unless the Rapture comes and I die in the road."

Glass box pastor

In 2009, NBC reported on Pastor Ben Daily of Calvary Church, who promised to spend three days in a 6 foot plexiglass cube on the roof of his church in Irving, Texas, if more than 4,000 people attended the church's service the following Sunday. His church met the challenge, and he spent the next three days in a box, albeit with air conditioning, electricity, a laptop and food.

"This might be cheesy, but what can I say? I am passionate about the church getting out and being the church, not just within our walls, but outside of them as well," Dailey wrote on his website, according to NBC. "It's time for the church to get out of the box and let our world know that we serve a great God and have fun doing it."

Clowns for Christ

A methodist ministry in Ohio has been clowning around for close to 17 years in hopes of spreading God's message. The Huffington Post and Vindy.com recently reported on Judy Zyvith, the coordinator for "Clowning around for Christ" for Boardman United Methodist Church of Ohio.

Zyvith told Vindy.com that herself, along with other "clowns" of the church, use visual arts, costumes and cute skits to tell Bible stories for the younger crowd. For adults, Zyvith noted that the clowns bring smiles to every member's face as inspirational messages are shared.

Zyvith's hope is to "break down barriers" within the church, as she told HuffPost that "you can do anything in a clown costume," at least within the boundaries of a church setting.

Faith from the rooftops

Sitting on a rooftop can yield results, if you wait long enough. The Telegraph wrote of a planned 10-day rooftop vigil by Reverend Malcom Hunter of St. Michael's Church in London. Hunter's stay on the roof was fueled by his hope for raising money for the church's repair, but his stay was cut short, both in length of time and funds raised, as the weather turned stormy and Hunter called it quits.

Seven days of coupling

Sometimes religious leaders feel the need to relay the message of a healthy marriage, and do so in some creative ways. Reverend Ed Young out of Fellowship Church in Texas urged his church members to follow a "congregational copulation" plan, according to the New York Times. Young asked married couples in his congregation to follow him and his wife in "Seven Days of Sex," a plan that puts emphasis on the benefits of an improved sex life for couples.

"If you make time to have sex, it will bring you closer to your spouse and to God," Young told his church. "You will perform better at work, leave a loving legacy for your children to follow and may even prevent an extramarital affair."

Young answered critics by commenting that this was not a gimmick or a stunt, just a way to honor Scripture in everyday life.

"Just look at the sensuousness of the Song of Solomon, or Genesis: two shall become one flesh, or Corinthians: do not deprive each other of sexual relations." said Young.
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