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Brandon: Preaching sermons that sizzle the soul

Pastor Forrest Pollock ventures into topics many view as untouchable: sex, gambling, alcohol, racism and debt.

By JAY CRIDLIN
Published August 27, 2004

Forrest Pollock stood before the Bell Shoals Baptist Church congregation Sunday and confessed he was sweating bullets through his seersucker suit.

"I am walking on very thin ice out here," said Pollock, the church's senior pastor. "But I'm going to ask you to walk out with me."

From there, he launched into the meat of a sermon that touched on everything from Joe Redner to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy to "miniskirts that would make Madonna blush."

"Whenever a preacher has the audacity to preach on sex, there are always raised eyebrows, well-meaning Christians who will say that the pulpit is the inappropriate place to talk about such an intimate subject," he told the congregation. "I couldn't disagree more."

Pollock's Sunday sermon was the first in a five-week series on topics the church is calling "The Untouchables." Sunday's topic was sex; other sermons will address gambling, alcohol, racism and debt.

Church officials are pulling out all the stops to sell the series to prospective members. The weekly bulletin and a giant banner above the church choir loft bear the series' fiery logo.

A statement on the church's Web site reads: "Some issues are too hot to handle. . . . Don't miss these sizzling new biblical messages . . . and be sure to bring your oven mitts."

"Really, all we're doing here is preaching the Bible," Pollock said this week. "But we're packaging it in such a way that the unchurched person can come and realize that the Bible has very relevant things to say to them."

Pollock's first-ever sermon on sex drew a larger crowd than usual. The 7,000-member church sent out 50,000 mailers to area homes to promote "The Untouchables" and saw an attendance upswing of about 400 people, Pollack said.

Pollock said this wasn't a case of Bell Shoals Baptist using sex to sell itself. But he said the church does see attendance boosts for sermons on timely issues, such as a recent series on the apocalypse.

"I think a case could be made that I'm sensationalizing any sermon, if I deal with something that people are genuinely interested in," he said. "All I did was say, okay, here's what's happening in the media and the world, and here's what the Bible says."

Pollock's sermon Sunday touched on a range of issues. Sex is a natural and pleasurable part of marriage, he said, and married couples could and should have intercourse for fun, not just procreation.

He also outlined a host of what he called "abuses of sex" - practices running the gamut from revealing clothing to premarital cohabitation to homosexuality to rape and incest.

He said he had no fears about offending audience members.

"The gospel, by its very nature, is divisive," he said. "I feel like people today genuinely want people to tell them the truth, even if it doesn't square with political correctness."

The church made child care arrangements for parents who did not want their children to hear the sex sermon. Pollack's six children, who range in age from 5 to 12, were in the audience.

"There was nothing that I said that I felt would harm the sensibilities of my kids," he said.

For the most part, congregants walked out of the first sermon happy.

"Pastor Pollock always preaches on something that he really, truly feels the community needs," said Jenny Roney, 26. "It is a touchy subject, but if nobody brings it up, how are we going to know about these issues?"

Roney brought to the service a friend who she said needed to hear the message about sex. Pollock is hoping more congregants do the same.

- Jay Cridlin can be reached at 661-2442 or cridlin@sptimes.com

[Last modified August 26, 2004, 11:26:13]

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