Cities, please raise your hands: Which of you most needs a new church?
Philadelphia? Why bother in a place claiming it’s brimming with “brotherly love”? Los Angeles? Seemingly redundant in a city billing itself — albeit ironically — as “The City of Angels.”
But Las Vegas, aka “Sin City”? Come on in, all ye you-know-what-ers.
“When you come to Sin City, you don’t have to convince someone they’re a sinner,” says Jayne Post, co-founder and co-pastor of Sin City Church — technically in Henderson, but there’s more than enough Sin City cachet to go around. “They’re praying to win those jackpots, so you’ve already got a praying group that knows they’re sinners — and God is ready.”
Such a philosophy embodies that old business maxim: “You do your best business on Main Street.” Still, that doesn’t suggest that our city’s nickname gives us a corner on the market of sinners seeking the redemptive power of prayer.
“We prayed over the name,” co-founder and co-pastor Rhonda Baker says. “We are not perfect people. Even though we are inside the church, we still have a ways to go. Knowing that, there could be a Sin City Church on every street, in every alley, in every town in every nation.”
Yet it’s this nondenominational Christian church that double-dips on defying tradition. “Women do lead churches, but we found out we’re the only two women, together, who have planted a church in America in its entirety, that we know of,” Post says. (Tossing in a third novelty: In her off-pastoral time, the statuesque Post is co-creator and co-star, with her husband, Eric, of “Marriage Can Be Murder” at the D Las Vegas, playing the ditzy platinum blond hostess with a double-entendre tongue in the interactive comedy/mystery dinner show.)
“They’re trying to give not just a voice for Christians to grow, but to make a statement that they are two women proclaiming God’s voice — and the voice of women in Las Vegas,” says co-pastor Bill Hanna, who completes the leadership troika, all three having previously been on staff at Central Christian Church in Las Vegas.
Adds Tim Veit, a member of the steering committee: “It’s a unique vision God has given them. It will be interesting to see how men here react with senior pastors who are women.”
Using a logo that features a background snapshot of the Strip and declares both its mission and newbie status — “Loving People to Life since 2014” — Sin City Church was created last March, renting space at DJ’s Community Christian Academy. In late November, it moved to the campus of the Somerset Academy of Las Vegas elementary school at 50 N. Stephanie St., just off the 215 Beltway.
“Within two weeks of deciding we were going to do it, we had our building and our first meeting, starting with a Facebook page and $25,” Post says. “I’m getting my master’s in business from the Harvard Extension School, and that’s not how you start a new business in the natural (world). But in the supernatural, God said, I’ll see that faith, and I’ll bless it, and he has.”
Warmth and fellowship flowed freely at recent services, held in the academy’s gymnasium. Sports banners line the walls; rolled-in metal benches form pews on the hardwood floor; a table offers “Love People to Life” T-shirts and Sin City Church license-plate frames for sale; another for “tithes and offerings” is set up nearby.
“The warmth comes from being smaller, but I think it also comes from being led by women,” says Sherrie Wood while manning the for-sale table. “We’re the more huggy-feely gender. We’re very affectionate here.”
Smiles and embraces fill the time before the service, but they carry over when prayers are preceded by an invitation from Baker and Post — both casually clad in jeans — to get up, shake hands and greet fellow congregants. Following a “Happy Birthday” singalong to January celebrants, a five-member “worship team” leads renditions of “Glory to God, Forever” and “The Stand,” accompanied by Christian rock background tracks over loudspeakers. Lyrics scroll by on a video monitor, which also flashes an image of a cross, its reflection shimmering in a pool of water.
Then the pastors take over, sprinkling their lectures with one-liners and ad-libs. Juxtaposing the opening of Christmas gifts with another kind of present, Baker employs a prop: a large, gift-wrapped box with a bright red ribbon that she opens to reveal a placard reading “Holy Spirit,” leading into her theme of “the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Following her at the pulpit, Post discusses the challenges of nurturing the best in ourselves. “We listen to everything in America, but what do we really hear?” she says. “In this new year, I hope we hear God. Sometimes we have to be still for God to get a word in.”
Encouraging a sense of community and turning Sunday worship into 24/7 real-world action is the church’s stated mission. “The goal of most churches is to have community, but somehow or other we’ve talked our way past it,” Hanna says. “The majority of Christians are churchgoers but they don’t seem to have the capacity to act out their Christianity in their environment. We’re trying to provide an opportunity for Christians to be Christians, to know that what we do in here is what they should do out there.”
Toward that end, 10 percent of all church donations are dispersed to local, national and international charities and organizations, including: Speedway Children’s Charities, Nevada Donor Network, Wednesday’s Child, Global United Missions and Opportunity Village, to which volunteers are also dispatched. Volunteers also visit homeless shelters, and patients in hospitals and hospices.
“We’re always here if we’re needed,” church member and volunteer Andrew Lovett says. “We have a phone tree if something is going on, if someone needs us to take care of something. Whether it’s physical or monetary, we just want to be there for the community.”
Although the pastors take “prayer requests” from congregants who are dealing with any number of issues such as health, money, employment and relationships, it’s what Post calls “boots on the ground” help to which they are committed.
“We rely on people to let us know their needs: How can we lavishly, generously love you on behalf of Christ? What do you need? Food? Vacuum cleaner? Airfare to somewhere?” Post says.
“You have a kind heart, you want to do something, and we help you do that thing. We need to bring back that Jesus was willing to get down and dirty with people where they are, and not wait for them to clean up and come.”
That would make for a pretty angelic Sin City.