I recently wrote
about going to Tybee Island and speaking in a church known as the Tybee Church,
also known as the Bar Church, because they meet in Benny’s Tavern on Sunday
mornings. Before I went, all I knew about
the church was what I had seen on YouTube and what I had been told by a good
friend from college who lives on Tybee and goes to the church. In fact, all I
knew about Tybee Island was from reading Beverly Wittler’s columns about her
love for the island community. Now I know why she feels this way.
I arrived on the
island mid-afternoon on a gorgeous Friday afternoon. I found my motel easily
and spent the afternoon catching up with my friend, strolling the beach and the
streets of Tybee. It was a different experience because before now I had only
been to a beach town as a tourist, not a “local.” However, walking around with
a local person kinda automatically put me in the same category and I began to
meet the often unseen local residents of the island.
Before long we ended
up in front of Benny’s and Dedra took me inside to let me see where the church
would be meeting. It was a bar. A dark, smoky, smelly beach town bar. My first
thought was basically, “uh oh.” However, as my eyes adjusted to the light, I was
being introduced to Betty. She was a lady I had seen just a few weeks earlier
on the online church service being prayed for, hugged on, cried over and just
loved all over because her daughter had just passed away. I could feel the love
and care from that group of people all the way here in McDonough.
“Wow,” I thought.
“That’s an amazing group of people to be surrounding this dear woman and
praying for her…..and in a bar.”
However, as I sat
at the bar (on a Friday afternoon this was a fully functioning bar….not a
church) and listened to Betty tell part of her story and what the church and
people meant to her, I felt a presence of God gently entering that corner of
After seeing the
stage area to the side where the bar bands play during the week and the church
band plays and speaks on Sunday (often the same band), we left and I immediately
saw an older man sitting on a bench watching traffic and the people passing by.
Naturally, Dedra knew him (she knows everybody between Savannah and Jacksonville,
I believe), and she introduced me to Bob. We sat with him for a bit and, again,
I heard a lot of his life story. The most miraculous thing that has stuck with
me day and night since then is that he is thirty-years sober. He, too, is a
regular at the Tybee Bar Church and shared the following with me.
“I like to go early
on Sunday morning when the guys start to transform part of the bar into a
church. I did a lot of sinning in this place during my life, and others still
do every day, and it is my time of healing to see this place of sin become a
place of God. It’s what keeps me strong,” shared Bob.
Well, I am out of
space, and you haven’t even met the preacher, so I’ll just have to continue
this another time. But, let me just say one thing. Folks, my life changed at
Tybee Church. They stole my heart, as I have said. I met people who love those
who are often unloved; people who have such a simple childlike love for God (a
good thing) and love to come together once a week; people who love and take
care of each other and their community. That’s what church is.
And for today my
friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.