I think many people might ask, and actually they are, why would you have church in a bar? I think, wow, there are so many answers to this question. One would be: we are the “church,” meaning, the people who follow Jesus are the “church,” the body of Christ, not any building. Therefore, everywhere followers of Jesus go, so goes the church because they are the church. But that’s not really why we’re going to gather in a bar.
Here’s a brief answer that I recently wrote to someone with this question:
Jesus modeled for us to meet people where they are
If you look at Jesus’ life, he spent most of his time among the people. Yes, he spent some time in the temple, but mostly, Jesus was out in the streets, among the workers on the shore, among the poor, the lepers, the outcasts, at parties, banquets, and weddings. He was among the people, the people that needed him, and he was actually welcomed there. Two stories that come to mind:
- Jesus turns water into wine (John 2)
- Jesus’ very first miracle was at a wedding celebration. They ran out of wine and he turned the water into the best wine of the party. Was the point that he was condoning getting drunk? Not at all. There are many points, but one small point is that Jesus shows he was very comfortable in these environments and he did not shy away from being with the people in their partying environments.
- Jesus meets Levi (Matthew) where he’s at and Levi throws him a party with all his friends (Luke 5:27-32)
- This story probably illustrates the goal of our event the best. Jesus walks up to Levi, a known and despised tax collector, and invites him to be his disciple. Levi then throws Jesus a party and invites all of his tax collector friends and other sinners. The religious people of the day ridiculed Jesus and his disciples for hanging out with scum, tax collectors and sinners. Jesus replied, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”
What do these stories illustrate? In short, Jesus calls us to engage the world
Jesus said that “God so loved the world that he sent his son”… the whole world and everyone in it. Jesus also said that we are to “live in the world, not of the world. (John 17)” Meaning, we are to engage the world around us, be in their environments, but not do the same things. We are not called to separate from people but to be among them and bring them to Jesus. Jesus never had barriers to himself. He was always accessible, to outcasts, lepers, partiers, even prostitutes, and he always extended invitations, even though many refused. I believe we are called to be in those same environments, to show people that Jesus really does love them, wants to free them, and give them true purpose in their lives.
Most importantly, for people to know that we don’t have it all figured out, we still make mistakes, but we did find out one thing…Jesus. That he is amazing, the bringer of freedom and true wholeness, and he loves us so much and wants a relationship with every one of us. This is his cause that we’re joining. So many do not know this about Jesus and so we must engage them where they are as Jesus modeled for us.
Some mention some challenges that are very valid. Is drinking ok? Yes, having a drink is ok and even Biblical. Is getting drunk ok? No, it is not. There is a distinction here. We do walk a line in this environment, but it is a line that Jesus walked and calls us to walk, the we may reconcile the world to him.
It’s a short answer, but it gets the ball rolling. Jesus, bring us wisdom as we engage the people you love and died for with your love, power, and truth.