OceanSide church of Christ
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THE BAR CHURCH
Victor M. Eskew
On Sunday, March 24th, the Bar Church will begin holding worship services at 11:30 a.m. at the Memories Bar located at 541 China Street in Abilene, Texas. The services will be brief consisting of prayer, secular and spiritual music (including instruments), communion, and a message from God’s Word. This work is supported by the Southern Hills Church of Christ in Abilene. Ken Smith, a member of Southern Hills, is the brain-child of this work. He is working closely with Vann Conwell, the minister at Southern Hills, to bring this to fruition.
Ken said that he got his idea for the Bar Church while he was talking and praying with people over a drink. The articles that report on this “nontraditional” church inform us that Ken and Vann believe that they are following the example of Jesus by establishing the Bar Church. “We felt like this is the sort of thing that Jesus would be doing, he’d be going to the places where the people were who needed to hear about him” (www.houston,abclocal.com, “Drink up: Texas church to Hold Services in Bar”). Another reason for choosing a bar as the place for a worship service is because these men believe that many people are “interested in Jesus but are turned off by religion or just the idea of walking into an institutional church…At Bar church, we’re interested in creating a place where any person – regardless of their background, accomplishments, failure, or issues – can experience friendship, acceptance, and the grace that comes through Jesus” (www.barchurchabilene.com).
It is very shocking to hear the words “bar” and “church” used in the same name. The two concepts are diametrically opposed to one another. A bar is a place where those who are far from Jesus gather. These individuals come to the bar to indulge their sinful desires. Smoking, gambling, cursing, prostitution, and other sins are also associated with bars. The church, on the other hand, is a place where individuals who love Jesus supremely come together. They do not come together to fulfill fleshly desires. Instead, they come together to praise the God of heaven who washed them from their sins through the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. Yes, the name “Bar Church” is both shocking and offensive.
It appears that those who are establishing the Bar Church want to send a message to those whom might attend the services. Part of that message is: “We accept and love you.” There is another part of the message, however. Whether it is intentional or not, the message is: “You are free to continue in your sins with no criticism from us.” Those who support this work will go to Memories Bar and shake hands and talk with those who come to the worship services. At 12:00 p.m., the bar will officially open and those who came for worship can order the drink of their choice. Yes, they are accepted and they can continue in their sinful practices.
We are told that this is what Jesus did and would continue to do today. Really? It is true that Jesus labored among those who lives were filled with sin. “And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples (Matt. 9:10). Jesus, however, understood His purpose for being there. He went as a Physician unto the sick (Matt. 9:12). Thus, He would in no way encourage the continuation of sinful behavior. He would exhort those who came to Him to repent of their sins. Matthew 4:17 reveals that this was the precise message of the Christ. “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” When the woman who was taken in adultery was left alone with Jesus, He did not say to her: “Let’s go back to the brothel and talk about this.” Jesus commanded her, saying: “…go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).
If the Bar Church is a worthy concept, why not broaden the concept to include other places where sinners can be reached? Many young ladies go to abortion clinics to kill their unborn children. Perhaps we need an Abortion Clinic Church to serve them. There are multitudes of people who are addicted to crystal-meth. They frequent the meth-houses in order to obtain their drugs. Maybe a Meth-house Church is a good idea. Houses of prostitution also fill our land. Maybe we could assemble a good crowd of ladies late on Sunday afternoon at the Brothel Church. Gambling also has its fair share of participants. A Casino Church could be started in a side room of one of the casinos to serve these individuals. Some may think that we are being ridiculous now, but, are we? The individuals who frequent the above mentioned places of sin need to be loved and accepted, don’t they? Many of them are also uncomfortable with religion and institutional churches, aren’t they? If so, why not serve them where they are? Why are the originators of the Bar Church free to open a church at a bar, but those who want to serve others sinners are not free to establish churches with similar intents?
Those who believe the Bar Church is a worthy idea really need to go back to the Bible for further study. The New Testament reveals that the church is composed of “the called out ones.” Members of the church have been called out of the world by the gospel of Christ (II Thess. 2:14). Places like a bar used to be their “sanctuary,” but no more. They have been translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:13). In I Corinthians 6:9-11, the apostle Paul lists ten sins that filled the streets of Corinth. He says that those who engage in such practices will not inherit the kingdom of God. This used to be the lifestyle of the members of the church in Corinth. They, however, had changed upon their conversion. “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God” (I Cor. 6:10). Can anyone imagine these individuals attempting to hold their worship services at the temple of Athena on the Acropolis? Would they dare call their precious gathering the Athena Church? Dear readers, when one becomes part of the church, he is part of the bride of Christ. Our Lord wants a chaste bride (II Cor. 11:20). And, when Jesus returns in His glory, He will be seeking a “glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27). Knowing that holiness is a key concept of the church, who would want to attach a bar to it?
In addition, those who are forming the Bar Church do not understand the concept of the worship services. Worship services are not an evangelistic tool. Worship is a time of edification for the church (Acts 2:42). It is a time when the redeemed assemble to praise God and provoke one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:24-25). It is a time when they receive instruction from the Word of God (Acts 20:7). It is a time when they remember their Savior’s death on the cross of Calvary (I Cor. 11:23-29). Worship is for the church. It is not designed for those in the world.
Bars and churches just do not go hand-in-hand. The church is a holy institution that contains the redeemed. A bar is nothing more than a work of the flesh. As such, divine instructions regarding them are clear. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11).