Would Jesus Do Church in a Bar?

Would Jesus Do Church in a Bar?

by Dale Reeves

Story Pastor


A few years ago after coming in second place in a “Hairy Chest Contest” on a Carnival cruise (it was more about the dancing than the hairy chest), I walked into the SkyBox Sports Bar on board the ship to watch some NCAA basketball on the large flat-screen TVs. I had just sat down when a young man at the bar yelled out to me, “Hey, you’re the dude in the contest. You should have won. You got robbed! Let me buy you a drink.” In case you care to know, I lost to a big hairy dude (think Austin Powers chest hair) from Puerto Rico.

I joined my new friend at the bar and he started sharing his story with me. His fiancée had broken up with him just before the cruise so what was supposed to be his honeymoon turned out to be a solo voyage for him. I gave him props for coming on the ship on his own. As he revealed more of his story to me, I eventually let him know that I was a pastor, and suddenly the bartender was leaning into the discussion. Before the night had ended, I was praying with my friend about his life and his future and I would say we had some church right there in the bar on a cruise ship. I’m not sure if the bartender was a follower of God, but I’m gonna say yes—because Jesus declared, For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20, NLT).

Our church is getting ready to launch a “house church” at a place many people would not expect to go to for a church experience—a bar. Some people have asked questions like these: “Why would you want to take church to a bar? People don’t want the church to come there.” In letting people in the community know about the upcoming launch at 10:15 am on September 1, we’ve met with a variety of interesting responses, from “what a joke,” to “issues galore,” to “whatever it takes; this is a great idea” to “haven’t been to church in a long time; this piques my interest.”

Why are we doing this? Here are a few answers from some of those involved in the planning. Nick Ford, a member of Christ’s Church in Mason and one of the volunteers helping launch Church at the Bar, says this, “Ten years ago when I was at a bar at 10:30 on a Sunday morning, I wasn’t there to hear the gospel, but I would have listened. I needed it.”

Amy and Mark Altemeier are the owners of the Monkey Bar and Grille located in Maineville. They affirm, “Our intent for our business from the very beginning was to help people. We talk to many people every day who are hurting and need hope. People need God, and we feel like we need to be doing something to help lead them to him.”

Real people helping real people. Jesus’ critics didn’t like the fact that he spent time with the dishonest tax collectors, misfits, and other “sinners” of his day, so when they asked why he was eating and drinking with these kind of lowlifes, Jesus responded, “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” (Mark 2:17, NLT).

Contrary to what some people believe, church people do not have it all together. People who go to church are involved in various types of recovery, are dealing with broken marriages, blended families, bad habits and addictions, rebellious kids, weird family members, and all kinds of physical, emotional, and mental issues. Lead pastor Trevor DeVage says, “We’re excited to be invited into the Monkey Bar community, to a place where churches don’t usually go, tointeract with people where they are in order to share Jesus’ message of hope.”

The Monkey Bar and Grille, located at 7837 Old 3C Highway in Maineville, is in fact, a community. Beginning September 1, on Sunday mornings right on the banks of the Little Miami River, Christ’s Church will livestream our morning worship experience through CC Live, the online campus of the church. As online pastor Joey Santos says, “We want to bring church to where the people are.” But beyond the worship service itself, we want to help foster the owners’ goal of building solid community among those who come to hang out there. Staff and volunteers will be available to chat and pray with people during and after church services.

I recently read a blog entitled, “Why Do People Love the Bar,” in which five reasons were listed that explain why people go to bars. Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Variety(no matter your lifestyle, there is a bar out there for you)
  2. Want to Talk, Don’t Want to Talk?(bars can be full of people but there’s no obligation to talk; sometimes you can just be part of a collective conversation and nod your head; sometimes you do not want to talk to anyone but you don’t want to feel alone either)
  3. A Place to Vent(whether you are celebrating something or fighting depression, there’s no judgment here; it’s a place to express yourself through the good or bad times)
  4. Introvert, Extrovert, We Love Them All! (you can be expressive or you can just sit and listen to others)
  5. Camaraderie(people love bars where they know the owners, the bartenders know their name, and they have their drink poured as they walk through the door; people share details of their life there that no one else knows)

It is in bars where stories and advice are doled out and anyone can join in a discussion, where mutual trust and friendship can take root. As one patron shared, “No one cares where you’ve been and no one cares about your mistakes, everyone is just looking for the same thing—a cold drink and a fun story to listen to.”

In my opinion, that’s exactly what the church of Jesus Christ should be about. The Bible talks a lot about the kinds of things we should be doing for each other, what are often called the “one another” commands . . . we should be loving, being devoted to, honoring, accepting, instructing, encouraging, greeting, forgiving, submitting to, bearing with, spurring on, confessing our sins to, praying for, and serving one another . . . all things that could happen in a bar.

Do I believe Jesus would do church in a bar? Do I believe weshould do church in a bar? Absolutely! Where two or more are gathered . . . I’m ready for my next cruise.

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