Christian teens today can tune in to religiously themed pop, rap, and even heavy metal. There are biblically inspired comic books and video games. Brio, a teen magazine published by the Colorado-based Christian radio ministry Focus on the Family, offers a chatty, conservative Christian take on traditional teen topics like celebrities, music and makeovers.
In New York City, a nondenominational evangelical church called Journey Church of the City screens mainstream summer blockbusters like The Matrix Reloaded, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and Seabiscuit, and then holds discussions on the movies from a Christian viewpoint.
"A lot of people have the idea that you can only find God in the church," says Nelson Searcy, a teaching pastor with the church. "We believe that if you seek God you'll find him, even in the movies."
Outside Dallas, Lake Pointe Church recently opened a skateboarding park. It's one of several churches trying to draw young people with fun, teen-friendly activities. The "world's first skate ministry conference" recently convened in Canada. The Skate Church has been drawing kids with its mix of skate ramps and railings and sermons since 1987.
Going Too Far? Who Would Jesus Date?
The growing stream of Christian fiction, rock music, and so on worries some evangelicals and fundamentalist Christians, however.
"I think that's a legitimate question to raise," says Mahan, the ministry, media and culture professor. "People get nervous that these new media presentations … become substitutes for the substantive biblical texts."
"If it has to imitate the culture in order to try to convert it, how much of evangelical Christianity is lost?" says Indiana University's Goff.
Most are at least sensitive to the danger of watering down their spiritual message with too many pop-culture trappings.
"Some of it's good, and some of it can go too far," says Sybert, the 19-year-old Christian bookstore clerk. "And it kind of loses its meaning."
Whatever evangelicals make of the trend, they agree it is unlikely to let up.
"I think we have turned a corner," say Mahan. "You can't put the genie back in the bottle."