It's an ironic headline, considering how hard this Florida beach town is trying to tame Spring Break. Panama City has more churches than it has bars—but one church has positioned itself more like a strip club than a sanctuary for the season. Yes, really.
The Panama City News Herald shows photos of The Life Center's banner inviting youth to naked paint parties and slumber-party Sundays that promise the "sexiest ladies on the beach." The everyday party is called Spring Break Amnesia. It's been running since Feb. 28—and a pastor who was recently arrested on charges of giving drugs to a minor and forcing himself on her masterminded it.
Making the most of a potentially profitable opportunity, the "spiritual community" even installed an ATM out front with an "iDrink" banner. That got the attention of Bay County Sherriff Frank McKeithen, who called it a "blatant slap in the face" to taxpayers and law enforcement.
"When you think you have seen it all ... the church is converted into a night club every night," McKeithen said. "You should be warned that it is X-rated. You can even buy sexually explicit T-shirts at the site. Lets not forget how creative the reverend has gotten just in case you forgot your cash. There is an ATM machine located at the church entrance for your love offering. This is supposedly a youth ministry, but we will let you decide."
An Unholy Frat House?
A Saturday event hosted by the Kappa Alpha Psi & Omega Psi Phi fraternities at the church bills itself "for the pretty and the nasty." On Sunday, youth can head to "Slumber," a pajama event "hosted by the sexiest ladies on the beach."
Monday brings you "Anything But Clothes" to showcase your artistic side. The party continues Tuesday with "Mardis Gras," Wednesday with "Wet n Wild," Thursday with an "Illumination" rave party" and so on. Tickets are $20 for "nights you can't remember with people you won't forget."
This is more shocking than the special event at a Tulsa church last October that included beer. You might remember me writing about "Beer and Hymns Sunday" in a Christian church at which outreach pastor Evan Taylor wanted to "rattle the cage a little bit." The beer-sipping stunt capped the experiment at a three-beer limit.
All I can do is shake my head. But McKeithen did more than that. The Life Center will now have to pay property taxes while officers investigate the church's practices. Of course, the church maintains its innocence, claiming "sometimes the news gets it wrong!"
"The Tabernacle is a community that serves NO alcohol and bans illegal drugs for the youth to go during Spring Break at night to interact with each other in a fun safe environment up to 5 AM," a statement on the Spring Break Amnesia website reads. "Help us get the word out about our safe place to go instead of wandering the strip club at night."
'I Feel It's an Abomination'
It seems the youth love it and Life Center is raking in the cash. Jordy Brewer, a spring breaker from Kentucky, told NBC news: "I feel it's an abomination. How can this be a house of the Lord but at the same time participate in so much sin?
That's my question exactly. The Bible says to "abstain from all appearances of evil" (1 Thess. 5:22). Certainly, these sexually charged gatherings, at best, appear evil. The church may ban illegal drugs but if you're hosting rave parties you've got to consider lost souls will wander in taking the latest street drug.
What's also disturbing is that Life Center pastor Markus Quin Bishop, 54, was arrested last September and charged with delivering a controlled substance to a minor and felony battery, according to the Panama News Herald. He was also charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
"On Sept. 11, Bishop allegedly provided the minor with marijuana in an attempt to intoxicate her before professing his love and kissing her against her will, according to his arrest affidavit," the paper reports. "Bishop then began kissing the waist area of the minor. She exited the pool in an attempt to get away from Bishop, but he followed, police allege. Bishop walked up to her and began kissing her on the mouth, according to BCSO's investigation."
Again, I'm shaking my head. Where's the fear of the Lord? Why are some churches looking more like bars and strip clubs than holy sanctuaries? Why are pastors getting minors high and making sexual advances toward them? Why are so ministry leaders falling into sexual immorality, for that matter, and why are denominations allowing practicing homosexuals into leadership?
We need to repent. Yes, you and me. We need to posture our hearts like Daniel and repent for the sins in the church even if we're not the ones committing them because if one part of the body suffers, all parts suffer with it (see 1 Cor. 12:16). The body of Christ is suffering, it's sick and wading in sin. The Great Falling Away is underway. We can sit and point fingers or we can fall to our knees and intercede for the church. I choose the latter. How about you?
Want to know more about the next great move of God? Click here to see Jennifer LeClaire's new book, featuring Dutch Sheets, Reinhard Bonnke, Jonathan Cahn, Billy Graham and others.
Jennifer LeClaire is senior editor of Charisma. She is also director of Awakening House of Prayer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and author of several books, including The Next Great Move of God: An Appeal to Heaven for Spiritual Awakening, Mornings With the Holy Spirit, Listening Daily to the Still Small Voice of God, The Making of a Prophet and Satan's Deadly Trio: Defeating the Deceptions of Jezebel, Religion and Witchcraft. You can visit her website here. You can also join Jennifer on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.
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