*It’s hard out there for a…church.
With 23 percent of the U.S. population unaffiliated with any organized religion, and people who identify as Christian within the religious spectrum going from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent between 2007 to 2014, creativity is the name of the game in attempts to attract new members.
But pastor Lawrence Bishop II is determined on growing his congregation by any means necessary. Even if that means becoming a stuntman.
In an attempt to attract new believers, the 48-year-old preacher built a bullpen in his huge Ohio church, and then climbed on the back of a snorting bull, right in front of his congregation, and rode that sucker.
He lasted about three seconds before the bull succeeded in throwing him off.
He may have been battered and bruised, but he climbed back to safety and preached his sermon; inviting new members to come on up.
And that they did, at least 300 of ’em, en masse.
Not bad for a Wednesday night service.
Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio is not hard to find from the I-75 freeway. After all, you won’t find many churches with a 52-foot statue of Jesus that reads “Hug Me Jesus,” because of his open arms.
Bull riding became a viable tool for attracting new believers; and that is why the ministry decided to bring it inside the church’s walls.
“You know, the Bible said to compel them to come in, and so that’s what we’re doing,” Bishop told “Nightline.” “It didn’t say how to compel them. It just said compel them to come in, so … this is a tool.”
Founded decades ago by Bishops’ late father, Lawrence Bishop, Sr. and his wife, Darlene, the church is no stranger to breaking the mold of tradition.
“Solid Rock is fun,” Darlene Bishop said. “It’s not like going some place and you dread doing it, and you think, ‘Well, it’s over for the week now. I have to wait ’till next Sunday.’ People love to come to church. It’s an exciting place.”
But the pastor didn’t just choose bull-riding out of the blue. Before becoming the church’s second pastor, he actually did the sport professionally.
“I don’t know if many churches have a cowboy for a preacher, but it sure makes it exciting because there was never a dull moment with my husband or my son that has taken his place,” she said. “We call our church an extreme church because we don’t do anything just normal. My husband used to say the seven last words of a dying church is ‘never seen it done this way before,’ and so that’s what we’re known for is doing things to extreme.”