For the record, I don’t frequent bars. But I do watch a lot of movies. And if Hollywood—that bastion of truth—has taught me anything about bars, it’s two things the church should embrace:
1. People in bars talk to each other. OK, so maybe it’s because a little alcohol works on our inhibitions, but people talk. They talk to whoever walked in with them, the bartender, or just the random guy sitting on the next bar stool. They talk problems at home, hassles of work, or whatever. They talk about life.
2. People in bars accept you just as you are. This is the part that fascinates me. People will talk about themselves, and those listening just listen. No judgments. There’s a sense of shared humanity: we’ve all got problems and we’re in this together.
Sure, people at church talk to each other, but there’s often a superficiality to it. We talk about the Bible, we talk about Jesus—and in all we talk about, we want to appear spiritual. We want to look like we’ve got it all together. After all, if we’re Christians and we love Jesus, shouldn’t we have it all together?
We don’t have it all together.
And because we don’t have it all together—but we assume other believers do—we don’t want to open up, lest we look inferior or unspiritual. We’re afraid people won’t accept us as we are—or worse, they’ll reject us. So we pretend. And when it comes to praying together, we talk about a distant relative’s gall bladder rather than our own doubts and struggles. Unfortunately, this lack of openness means we miss out on the deep sense of family and fellowship—sharing all things in common—Christ intends for His church.
I lead a small group Bible study. One week as we closed in prayer, one of the group members requested prayer because she had been struggling with feeling down all week. At the end of our prayer time, another person commented, “I didn’t know she struggled with that too. I sometimes get down, but I didn’t want to say anything.” A connection was formed that day, and it created more openness in the group.
I always thought the theme song to Cheers would be a great theme song for the local church. Just for the moment, don’t picture Norm on a bar stool; picture Norm on a church pew. Shouldn’t the lyrics of this song reflect a key motivation for going to church?
Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same.
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.
When we come to Christ, we come to His family. Let’s be family, talking and accepting each other.
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Rom. 15:7).