"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi

Monday, August 20, 2012

Would you go to church in a bar?

  Every Sunday morning (or Saturday, depending on your faith), people all over America gather at their place of worship. Buildings with pretty lawns and landscaping, many with steeples and stained glass windows, people are wearing nice clothes and are neatly groomed.  Sometimes there may be visitors who are invited by members and they have the same appearance and discipline. This is the traditional viewpoint of Sunday morning in church-going America. After all, isn’t this the same way that Jesus went to church in His day?

  Uh, not exactly. We don’t read a lot of examples in the Bible of Jesus going to synagogue every week. We know He did and that He was well educated in the Old Testament and the tenets of Judaism, however, we don’t have a weekly attendance report from His Temple. During the three years of Jesus’ ministry, we read more often about His meeting with the “ordinary people” of the area, those who were typically looked down on by the nice church people of the area. Those who were probably talked about as the people left Temple on the way to their favorite restaurants. Prostitutes, tax collectors, common merchants, the blind and lame and many different ethnic backgrounds; these are the people Jesus hung out with on a regular basis.

  In a few weeks I have the opportunity to speak at a church on Tybee Island. The Tybee Church has captured my imagination and my heart for several months now as I’ve watched their live-streamed times of worship, followed them on Facebook and received their weekly email newsletters. I know they are very active in feeding the hungry and other ministries on Tybee. And now comes the coolest part of all. They meet in a bar on Sunday mornings. In fact, they are known more as The Bar Church than they are as Tybee Church. And I like their style. Real people. Real worship. Where they are.

  A local tavern opens up their doors on Sundays for some of the “looked over” people of the island to have a place to worship. Dress is beyond casual; if you aren’t wearing shorts, flip-flops and t-shirts, you will look pretty out of place. There is no printed order of worship brochures handed out, no offering, no pulpit with huge cross in front, no ushers or committees. Just a bunch of island people who want to worship Jesus and reach out to those in that beach island who need to know Him. The Tybee Island community. 

  Their pastor leads worship from a keyboard and occasionally a guitar along with a band of musicians with the occasional child coming up to shake a tambourine or beat on a bongo. No one cares if the rhythm is a little off; the child is helping to worship. If you are lucky, you’ll be there on a Sunday that the children sing during the service. It is a blessing beyond words. If someone wants to share something, the floor is open.

  For quite some time now, I have been looking for something more than the traditional church (and I don’t mean traditional in style of worship, liturgy or music). I mean traditional like my first paragraph. I have felt the need for experiencing true worship with people who are not too proud to admit they make mistakes, screw up in life and may have been involved in things that would shock most people. Like me. God loves these people just the same as He loves the people in the red-brick steepled buildings who are often too proud to admit their imperfection.

  Anyway (and this will be continued after my visit), I was invited to come speak and I cannot wait to meet these people of God who are vastly different from any I’ve known. To see how a unique congregation worships and reaches out to others. To see God meet His people in a bar with a flip-flop wearing congregation.

  And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.


At 11:42 AM, Blogger Alisa said...

Sounds like my kind of church.

While I am glad you get to go speak, I am more excited for you to be a part of their worship.

Will look forward to hearing about it in a future post.

Hope you have some cool flip-flops to wear!

At 1:11 AM, Anonymous http://arechristian.blogspot.com said...

I am looking forwarde to hearing how it went. I have had worship in a lot of places but never a bar.


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