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Meeting Jesus in a Bar

Just a few weeks ago I went to a bachelor’s party for a wedding I was in just recently. It wasn’t anything too wild and crazy. Went to a hockey game, went to a sports bar and then to an Irish pub. I don’t think the Scriptures “outlaw” alcohol (or obviously I wouldn’t have gone). But I don’t want to talk about what is the way of Jesus when it comes to alcohol…that is for a different day. I hadn’t been to a bar since I had to go for my old sales job.

It was a sad night for me. Since my decision to get into Christian ministry, I have been around situations like this very rarely. I forgot how sad the bar scene can be. People lead lives that focus solely on the weekend to go out and get drunk. Of course they probably would look at someone like me and think that I am stupid for trying to live for God. They would say that it isn’t a very fun life. Let me paint the scene. I saw one guy passed out on a chair, others working on trying to get this girl or that guy onto the dance floor. I’m not going to say it is wrong to go to bars or to drink beer…I mean look at this story…I was at a bar. What I am saying is that I was shocked about how far I’ve distanced myself from people like this. I do not run into people like this in my everyday life. My life has relatively zero impact on the life of a weekend partier.

So you’re thinking…”okay, you were at a bar. So how could you think the bar scene is sad.” I find it sad that there are so many people so disillusioned and yet they are largely untouched by Christians who can give hope. I’ve heard stories of church meetings in bars in Portland. I know some people who are relatively outraged about this. This is because they feel the church is then saying that what happens in bars is considered ok by the church. I don’t agree with this statement, because as I think about my night out on the town, all I could see were people who would never walk into a traditional church setting.

How do we reach these people? Is showing up on Sunday and hoping they come to our church enough?

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  • colorwheel

    Oooo, hard topic. If someone is in a bar, just seeking companionship with other people, looking for someone to listen to their story, their life’s issues, then yeah, they may have open ears to listen to your input. But, if people are borderline alcoholics, then you’re dealing with more issues that just telling them the “good news”. It comes down to some hard questions. How much do we REALLY want to get involved with those who have their “fellowship” there??…(where everybody knows their name)….Perhaps it could be a small guy’s group that would feel a calling to go and just “care”, whatever form that would take. (as with the prison ministries, not for everyone) Definitely it would need lots of prayer cover.
    Just inviting these people to church seems like a mismatch in meeting a need. Where they’re at in their lives, they most probably need a true friend. After establishing a caring relationship with someone, then you can share the important things in your life and have a trusting, listening ear.
    Your sensitivity to those around you in that environment is commendable. Obviously, you have a heightened awareness to the spiritual condition of people’s hearts.

  • GodSide

    I think to Jesus earth would be a lot more like a bar and less like a church. Imagine what it must have been like for the Holy One to leave Heaven and come to earth…I think He must have felt a little out of place, much like Tyler in a bar.

  • mirandita

    yeah that’s hard. i know what you’re saying, but the church still has a really long way to go before ministering to regular people like those who get drunk in bars. the church in general is so conservative and frankly, close minded, that even if they wanted to minister to these people, they wouldn’t have the slightest clue how. i think the church doesn’t know how to do a lot of things like this so they opt to do nothing instead.

  • chad

    I actually believe that there are many in the church who are stepping out to minister to these people. There is even a church in little old Corvallis, OR that meets in a bar/club. It is a plant from Jefferson Baptist.

    I don’t think the problem is that the church (as a whole) doesn’t know how to reach out people in these situations, but rather we struggle to convey the importance of this to our more established members.

    We know how to minister… we just need to learn how to get everyone on board. Many Christians are scared of moving out of our comfort zones. We may use tradition, or “doctrine”, or personal opinions as an excuse; but in the end we are just scared to interact with such “heathens”.

    Personally, I love bars!

  • Ross Gale

    I’ve been meaning to talk to you about your alcoholic problem. :D

  • chad

    Define ‘problem’…

  • mirandita

    While there may be some that are actively outreaching, I think the overwhelming majority of Christians aren’t extremely motivated to outreach. Sure if it’s easy or doesn’t take up too much time, they’ll consider it. If we have to ask multiple times for helpers in Children’s Ministries, or cleaning crews, or power point people, and this is INSIDE the church walls, then how can we think they’d willingly go to stressful situations like a bar to minister? I’m trying to not sound pessimistic but realistic on who really WANTS to further the kingdom and offer the news of hope and salvation and who wants to say they do but not get up and actually DO.

    With that said, Chad and Jessica, you guys are examples of Christians who put aside your own needs and actively outreach, stepping out of your comfort zone multiple times. That’s an inspiration.

  • Stephen Barry

    Tyler,

    Man, this is a loaded issue. Or maybe it isn’t. It’s certainly a hotly debated one.

    All I know is that Jesus found people where they were, and loved them without limit. He loved them without judgment.

    You raise a great point. We can put together power-packed weekend church services with wonderful songs and a fantastic message, but if the majority of our neighbors and workmates aren’t coming to church, it’s not all that important.

    Dan Kimball raises some similar questions in his book, “They Like Jesus But Not the Church.” If our friends and those outside of the church aren’t going to come looking for Jesus inside the doors of the church, I wonder how we can bring Jesus to them? How do we AUTHENTICALLY, LEGITIMATELY AND EFFECTIVELY be the hands and feet of Jesus?

    I’m not sure I have answers. But thank you for getting my wheels spinning. This is something I get pretty fired up about, and I’m glad that there are others out there asking these questions.

  • Tyler

    I guess the point that I struggle with is that how far is too far? It is important to go into people’s worlds, but if we begin to not bring honor to God in the way we do it…then we have not done God honoring ministry.

  • http://www.myspace.com/kimiktigersheba Angus

    I’m one of the ‘old fogies’ Gordon Macdonald ‘works’ with in who stole my church? Which is what brought me to your site to start with. This is a good issue to deal with & an important one. There are no ‘4 easy steps’ to Evangelizing the bar crowd. All the above comments have had at least one intriguing take. If one were to collect them, seek some independent Godly wisdom( pastors & stable elders & someone who has been doing this work for extended time together with prayer & partnering–Even though I am well used to the bar scene I have not gone for a number of years & probly would not go by myself–unless the Spirit Expressley Indicated He would & Wanted to Move & Protect in a Special Way. Backsliddeness or lukewarmness is one reason it is not being done. What will my parish brothers & sisters think(fear) is definitely a Factoring reason & yeah, as above under motivatedness & a true lack of knowledge of what one is getting into are all mitigating reasons we/us/I(?) are not reaching out to bar crowd. It is an arena I am not afraid to step into but I would definitely have to Pray much about. How do you minister adequately to someone impaired & under the influence.? This is my first visit here but I like your style(young man!) & will definitely be back. A.

  • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler

    I don’t think I would worry so much about how to teach or reach out to someone intoxicated. All the examples of churches in bars I’ve seen show that they meet at a normal Sunday morning time, and then have lunch (and beer) after the service. I think the idea is to put people’s guards down about what church is.

  • http://www.bradruggles.com bradruggles

    Great post! I think we need more Christians in bars. My personal opinion? That’s where Jesus would be if he were here.

    Brad Ruggles

  • Dee

    An ounce of genuine concern in a bar is worth more than your weight in wildcats if you’re trying to evangelize. Jesus isn’t really trying to get us to do something for him but to be for him. To do something is easy but to simply be for Jesus is difficult. There are a lot of people who want to do something. But to be for Jesus every moment at home, when no one is looking, that’s different. This is just the same as people wanting to be delivered from the penalty of sin but not the power. They don’t like the effect of sin which is guilt, they want to remove the guilt but to really walk away from the root of sin cost us everything. It demands we apply the death principle in every aspect of our lives, “for if we have been planted in the likeness of his death we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection.’’
    If you really want to help someone, then plead with God, recognizing your lack of love, and ask for a broken heart, then God will impart to you the sympathy and the opportunity, and He will convict you if you pass by on the other side like the Levite who thought the job of the good Samaritan was too disagreeable, to risky. Until we are dead to our own concerns these duties are to risky. In fact we will never bear fruit, at least the kind Christ is looking for until we understand the principle of “taking up our cross daily”, for Jesus can’t live inside you and do the work unless everything in the natural man is dead.
    One genuine look, one word that is real can cause someone to think a long time about the interaction they’ve experienced.
    If your just beginning to help bar people then start out seeking the neediest, the unnoticed, the least attractive, the poorest, and the most depraved. I guarantee you can do something to improve a moment of their life with the kindness the emanates from Christ. Start there, but don’t start until you’ve seen your nothingness, and you know that “without me ye can do nothing”, for Paul didn’t labor “but the grace of God that was with him.” John 15:5 & 2 Cor. 15:10
    And remember to be for Christ is actually Christ living in you, it’s not Christ giving you life, it is actually Christ life in You. If Christ is in you then you can minister at any bar, if not then we need to plead, and cry out to get a glimpse of our real condition.
    Blessings,
    Bro. dee

  • http://www.hotmail.com TC

    Im not sure if people are still able to read comments to this post but I will leave one in the hopes you are. First and foremost; if we are each individually LOVING our Lord God with all of our hearts; THEN WE EACH will be more full of Gods love and then able to minister to those who do not know him. I am not sure WHY anyone would go in to the bar to begin to minister.. Mainly because most people in the bar either will not remember WHAT you are saying or care to listen. BUT these are people that you know at your office, at your dr, at your childrens school, at your college, at your bookclub, in your neighborhood, at your car dealer, – the list goes on and on.. ITS NOT A MATTER of do “we” go into the bar (unless it is a specific request that calls for it and then again – its between you and God as to what the relationship you have invested in is calling for from Gods perspective). BUT other than that; the relationship OUTSIDE of the bar is where someone is listening to you only AFTER typically they are watching you. Does YOUR yes mean yes and your no mean no? Are you extending grace to them when they are coming to you with their “sin” (and reminding them that even you the “christian” has thougths UN JESUS like and are as much a sinner as them), are you compassionate? do you go the extra mile when someone needs help in the office or are you the first one out the door then on a blog wondering how to help these coworkers in the bar when God presents you 100 opportunities a week to develop a relationship that might impact them enough that they are curious about why (or maybe why not – thats your question to answer) you seem to care about them in a way noone else ever has and maybe just maybe this has something to do with the faith in Jesus they have heard you reference (NOT shove down their throats)… Honestly; its simple; I had 2 people try to impact me for Jesus. One made me run from God for 4 years (to the extent that I had a say yes but I knew not a thing of him but her voice speaking on his behalf) because she presented God as a judging punishing God. The other person developed a relationship, always consistent, always compassionate, always interested, always encouraging and one day; I wanted to know why… I followed him to church and never saw him after that.. He moved soon after and I started seeking.. Because of him, I was able to believe that Grace is real and that Christ can show love through his followers in the way that only Christ can IF that person is seeking God wholeheartedly and listening to where HE says to meet the “sinner”…. Its about relationship – FIRST with our Savior – THEN letting that relationship pour into the relationships here that God is telling us to cultivate… Rebuke without relationship WILL equal rejection… I believe your intentions are right and there is a specific time that you may have to walk in to a bar (I still do) and then – you walk with God.. You dont have to party, you dont have to sing hymns, you dont even have to mention Christs name – you have to love… Thats it…

  • Dee

    Question: Should a woman not going “two by two” attempt ministry in a bar?”

    In wisdom Jesus gave the admonition of going two by two, for help, aid, and more, Mar 6:7 And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits…”

    Although within the wrong setting it would never be wise
    for a woman to attempt ministry to the opposite sex in a bar, we can never
    say that God isn’t leading someone in an area where our eyes can only
    discern foolishness. If you were ministering to another woman then that is
    more understandable and yet if God was calling you to this, you alone know
    if it wasn’t presumption but the will of God.

    If you feel like quitting the ministry maybe it is because someone didn’t respond to you in the manners of Christ.
    Look—– Jesus was our example in all things, and He was an earnest
    and constant worker. He commenced His life of usefulness in childhood. At
    the age of twelve He was “about his Father’s business.” Between the ages of
    twelve and thirty, before entering upon His public ministry, He led a life
    of active industry. In His ministry Jesus was never idle. Said He, “I must
    work the works of him that sent me….” The suffering who came to Him were
    not turned away unrelieved. He was acquainted with each heart and knew how
    to minister to its needs. Loving words fell from His lips to comfort,
    encourage, and bless, and the great principles of the kingdom of heaven were
    set before the multitudes in words so simple as to be understood by all.
    Jesus was our example in all things, and He was an earnest and constant
    worker. He commenced His life of usefulness in childhood. At the age of
    twelve He was “about his Father’s business.” Between the ages of twelve and
    thirty, before entering upon His public ministry, He led a life of active
    industry. In His ministry Jesus was never idle. Said He, “I must work the
    works of him that sent me….” The suffering who came to Him were not turned
    away unrelieved. He was acquainted with each heart and knew how to minister
    to its needs. Loving words fell from His lips to comfort, encourage, and
    bless, and the great principles of the kingdom of heaven were set before the
    multitudes in words so simple as to be understood by all.
    The claims of Christ upon our service are new every day. However
    complete may have been our consecration at conversion, it will avail us
    nothing unless it be renewed daily, but a consecration that embraces the
    actual present is fresh, genuine, and acceptable to God. We have not weeks
    and months to lay at His feet; tomorrow is not ours, for we have not yet
    received it, but today we may work for Jesus. Today we may lay our plans and
    purposes before Him for His inspection and approval….This is God’s day,
    and you are His hired servant.
    Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider
    the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; who was
    faithful to him that appointed him . Heb. 3:1, 2.
    If these words encourage your heart to respond to the call of
    Jesus for unselfish service then it is because God is calling you to the
    ministry, the Spirit is leading you, find somewhere, anywhere where your
    heart can value souls, more and more each day.

    blessings

  • Dee

    Will Satan tremble if a real Saint enters a bar?

    If God isn’t calling us there he will laugh and immediately set a path for our destruction. He knows our weakness, we may not fall today, but he is a patient Lion waiting to spring. However, even today there are men and women whom Satan can find no responsive chord in their heart to the slightest temptation, they would rather die than sin, and only as they continually (not intermittently) but constantly abide (cling) to Christ and recoil from sin they are safe. When a man lets go of Christ and practices a known sin he is “weighed in the balances and found wanting.” He is outside of Christ.

    Look—– There was another whom Satan could not swerve from the right way. The childhood, youth, and manhood of John, who came in the spirit and power of Elijah to do a special work in preparing the way for the world’s Redeemer, were marked with firmness and moral power. When the voice of this prophet was heard in the wilderness, saying, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,” Satan feared for the safety of his kingdom. The sinfulness of sin was revealed in such a manner that men trembled and became alarmed. His power over many who had been under his control was broken; and some, by repentance of their sins, found the favor of God, and gained moral power to resist the temptations of the great adversary.

    Here it is, almost nothing preached today makes men fear for their soul, conviction, recognition of guilt, is bringing people to the point of decision, without these promptings by the Holy Spirit speaking to the individual everything is worthless. A man’s mind must be awakened to the point of conviction or he sleeps on, what must I do to be saved must be involuntarily cried out as in his mind he is brought to the future judgment to give an account.

    blessings

  • http://comeupseven.com Jonny Pockets

    How do you reach those people? You could start by not assuming, and projecting, that your lifestyle is so much better. How can you wish to create an open dialogue with these people if your initial approach is from such an obvious ivory tower?

    Oh, and the entire Alcoholics Anonymous program is built around your faith; I think it would blow your mind to see how many of these people actually are showing up for your traditional church setting.

    Your heart is in the right place; let your voice catch up.

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