*In Smithfield, NC drivers were doing double-takes on North Bright Leaf Boulevard last week as a message from “Satan” flashed across a billboard screen.
“Don’t visit www.comingnovember2010.com,” warned the black-and-white ad, bearing the signature of the devil. Mephistopheles’ message also appeared on a local radio station’s website.
But after typing in the website address, the curious quickly learned that Lucifer wasn’t behind the advertisement.
The website redirects to the homepage of The Bridge Church, which is launching its Smithfield campus with a service Thursday at Johnston Community College.
“We’ve had a ton of hits on the website,” said the church’s office manager, Jamie Cooper, adding that by the middle of last week, 2,100 people had gone to the site.
Cooper said the church got the idea from another church’s eye-catching ad campaign. The Bridge Church is hoping the ads build a buzz – and draw a crowd – to Thursday’s service.
Smithfield will be The Bridge’s third location. Its home church is east of Princeton, and it already has one satellite in Goldsboro. Cooper said that by worshipping at the community college, the church can bring in young people.
“It’s definitely to reach out to the students,” she said.
Services in Smithfield will be in the Paul A. Johnston Auditorium at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month. By next summer, The Bridge hopes to move to a permanent location and hold Sunday services and Bible study. The church will offer a children’s ministry from the start.
Though affiliated with the Pentecostal Holiness Church, The Bridge offers a nondenominational, contemporary service.
“We’re not like any Pentecostal Holiness Church you’ve ever been to,” Cooper said, noting that the pastor wears jeans, a praise band plays, and videos and dramas are common.
When The Bridge started its Goldsboro campus, the number attending quickly grew from 75 to 300, Cooper said. With the Satan advertising campaign and door hangers, Cooper expects a big turnout on Thursday.
“We’re expecting big things in Smithfield,” she said. “We feel like he’s called us to be there.”