Local News

Fayetteville pastor's 'Don't Go To Church' message angers some

Posted March 28, 2012 5:04 p.m. EDT
Updated March 29, 2012 8:17 a.m. EDT

— “Don’t Go To Church” – the words are blunt and meant to spark a reaction. The controversial message has been popping up all over Fayetteville – on newspaper ads, billboards, T-shirts and online – but the message has a hidden meaning, those responsible say.

“I’ve worn the T-shirt. I’ve had people telling us we’re going to hell,” said Jeff Isenhour, pastor of Arran Lake Baptist Church. “Church is not a place you go. Church ought to be who we are.”

Isenhour says his congregation is trying to reach out to those with no church home. Instead of going to traditional church on Easter Sunday, they are asking people to come to J.P. Riddle Stadium for a non-traditional service.

Those who go to the event "won't feel out of place. No one will be judging what you're wearing, shaking your hand with a plastic smile or telling you how good it is to finally see you again," according to a video posted on the group's site, DontGoToChurch.org.

The website features a montage of people, including a single mother and a tattooed man, expressing disillusionment with church. The video says 85 percent of Fayetteville residents don't attend church regularly and that 100 percent have a very good reason.

“Do I have to go to a big building to sing 100-year-old songs?” one woman asks.

“Every pastor in this town has heard the same reasons for un-churched people, and we’re just voicing the reasons we’ve heard,” Isenhour said.

Another Baptist pastor, who asked not to be identified, said the message is deceptive and uses a bait-and-switch tactic.

“It might be misleading to people who go to church and think they’re going to something else,” Isenhour said. “But people who don’t go to church, I don’t think it’s misleading.

“We’re not trying to reach church people, we’re trying to reach people who don’t go to church,” he said.