The Nashville Tennessean reports on a new trend among emerging churches: taking the Gospel to the bars. No, this does not mean that churches are sending evangelistic teams to engage people with the gospel outside of bars. No, this does not even mean that churches are just encouraging their people to go to local pubs to build relationships with the locals for evangelistic purposes.
Instead, the article reports that churches themselves are moving into bars and night clubs. In other words, this is where they are meeting to have their ‘worship’ services. For instance:
Clay Baggett believes that the church can seem judgmental and unwelcoming to a sinner. Not so in his ministry at The Lift Nashville, where a disco ball spins over plush VIP booths and a stripper pole lingers in the background.
That’s why Baggett started a church service this year at Code Blue, a nightclub that has retained all the accouterments of its former life as a strip club. A service is held there on stage each Sunday night, and between 20 and 100 young adults have been gathering in the club to hear Baggett’s message.
Reading the article falls right on the heels of a conversation that I had recently about a church in Alabama beginning to do the same thing. So, the trend is clearly not localized to the Nashville area. In fact, if it is beginning to happen in the south, then you can be sure it is happening elsewhere. Here are a couple of deep thoughts (not by Jack Handy) about the phenomenon:
- This trend is dangerous. If the goal of these churches is to reach people who are living this lifestyle and lead them to Christ in order to save them in a way that will free them from the sinful habit patterns in their life, then this is a dangerous way to do it. Why? Repeated exposure during ‘worship’ to the means through which sin previously gripped them is not smart. In other words, it is not helpful to the new believer seeking to overcome his porn addiction to be listening to a preacher while a ‘stripper pole lingers in the background.’ Having 100 beers from around the world available during the church service is not helpful to the recovering alcoholic. Two words: bad idea.
- This trend is stereotypical. The purpose of these new outreach strategies is to reach people where they are. As a result, it stereotypes a segment of the population with their primary identity being found at a bar or night club. But is this really the case? Are there loads of people in our culture who find their primary identity in where they drink? Granted that there are some, but it is a small segment of our culture. So, it seems to me like this type of approach is creating a niche of people just so it can try to reach them in a cool way.
- This trend is isolating. If the body of Christ is intended to express itself at the local level through a representative cross-section of all those who are in Christ, then a clubbing congregation is missing the point of the local church. Why? Because it is isolating one target audience and segregating them from all others who are not of the same age range and lifestyle capacity.
- This trend is syncretistic. In an effort to be culturally relevant, it is actually being culturally syncretistic. It is integrating aspects of culture that are not lasting and not transcultural into the fabric of the local church’s worship of Christ. In an effort to reach the world, this approach becomes too much like the world.
I can’t help but find it ironic that, while many churches across America and Europe are being closed and converted into night clubs and bars, people are starting to use night clubs and bars as churches. Who would have guessed that?