What We Can Learn From A Bar
1 Corinthians 9:20-21
One of the most captivating things about Jesus was His ability to use everyday things to teach biblical truths. Consider the birds of the air, a certain man went out to plant a field, consider the lilies, and a woman who had ten coins were all introductions to some of the greatest teachings the world has ever known.
This morning I want to try to do the same thing. As you can see the title of sermon this morning is “What we can learn from a Bar”. At first it sounds like it should have a punch line, doesn’t it? How is a church like a bar? They both have people passed out in them.
This morning I want us to take a serious look at what we can learn from a bar. Now I’m not interested if you have ever been in a bar or just watched the television show Cheers. But I hope there are some things we can take away with us this morning, and see if we can find some mustard seeds.
If you ever watched Cheers you remember that it was centered on a bar in Boston and the barflies that frequented the establishment. The thing that always intrigued me about the show was the fact that everyone always seemed so happy and excited about being together. And then there was the theme song; do you remember the chorus? “Sometimes you want to go; where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came. You want to be where you can see troubles are all the same; you want to be where everybody knows your name.”
While the song was written about a TV show, I think that sentiment should be the underlying attitude in our church. I believe that the same things that bring people to a bar are the same things that bring people into a church. And while we do have our differences, I believe that there are a few things we can learn from a bar. So this morning I want us to look at three things that bars do well that the church can imitate.
First we have to understand that bars make people feel connected.
People do not go to bars simply to get drunk. If their goal was simply to get drunk, believe me they can do that at home a lot cheaper. People enjoy being around other people in an environment that makes them feel connected to those people. The Church must connect with the world and find common ground so that we can help them connect with our Savior.
Finding common ground with people is called fellowship. Fellowship is not a meal on the grounds. The Greek word for fellowship is κοινων?α (Coin-ni-a) actually means common. When we fellowship with others we connect with them. We find a common ground with them. Jess Moody says, “We will win the world when fellowship, not evangelism, becomes our focus.”
We need to look for what we have in common with the people that God is putting in our path, so that we can introduce them to our Savior. In 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 the apostle Paul said this about finding common ground. When I am with the Jews I seem as one of them so that they will listen to the Gospel and I can win them to Christ. When I am with Gentiles who follow Jewish customs and ceremonies I don’t argue, even though I don’t agree, because I want to help them. When with the heathen I agree with them as much as I can, except of course that I must always do what is right as a Christian. And so, by agreeing, I can win their confidence and help them too…
Now Paul is not saying that we have to compromise our consciences or put on a show in order to connect with people. He is simply calling us to be transparent. When Paul is with the Jews he is comfortable among them, when he is with the Gentiles he is comfortable among them. He is not putting on a show to look like a Jew or Gentile. He is simply speaking to them in ways that they comprehend. We need to look for common ground among the people in our community.
If I try to minister to someone who is struggling and lie to them or lead them to believe that I have no struggles there is no way that I can be effective. And instead of making a connection with them, I encourage their fear that they are broken. If I try to minister to someone about family problems and I tell them I have the perfect family, I will never be able to get to the core of the problem. I need to minister to people and be honest in a way that is understandable.
In the text we just read Paul goes on to say in verse 22 Yes, whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with him so that he will let me tell him about Christ and let Christ save him. That’s our calling as well; we are called to make connections with people so that we can lead them to our Savior.
Next we need to know that Bars make people feel comfortable.
Unfortunately there are a lot of churches that are not very comfortable. While the individual members are pretty comfortable on a daily basis, when we all get together something weird happens. In the last 20 years I worked with a church where I believe that the front doors of the building were a portal to a different universe. In the parking lot folks had normal conversations, and talked about normal things. But once inside the building we only talked about church approved things and used this weird old English language. We talked about Redemption and Propitiations and used a lot of thee’s and thous. It was really kind of creepy.
Now while we don’t have that problem here at Park Central, there are still things that we do that might not make folks feel comfortable. There can be a bit of separation that let folks know where they fit in our pecking order. But that’s not what we see with Jesus. Actually we see something quite different. We read in Matthew 9:10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples.
Jesus was comfortable with sinners and they were comfortable with Him. In fact, Jesus was more comfortable with sinners than He was with the so-called “religious” people of the day. Compare the text we just read with Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”
Do you see the difference? Jesus’ response to religious leaders, who thought they were perfect, was much different than the way that He responded to those who admitted their brokenness. In reality when we get close to Christ, the ones who refuse to admit their struggles and problems should be the most uncomfortable.
I love the fact that Jesus was comfortable around sinners while the Religious leaders were not. Not only do we need to make sure folks who are seeking Christ are comfortable here; we need to make sure that we are comfortable reaching out to them. We need to acknowledge our brokenness; so that we will be able to help others put the pieces of their lives back together.
People need to be comfortable here because we have the cure for sin. The church should not beat people up because they are sinners but welcome them in and give them the honored seat.
Rex Brown said, “The church has become like an Aids clinic that is afraid of people with Aids. The true function of the church is to disturb the comfortable and to comfort the disturbed.”
Finally we need to know that Bars make people feel normal.
One of the struggles us good religious folks have, is that often with out trying we pretend that the world is somehow below us. We think we are better than those pagans out there in the world. We act like the troubles and sins of the world have nothing to do with the church. That we Christians don’t struggle with sins because we have found a magic potion that makes all our sinful desires disappear.
The truth is that there is no potion. Christians struggle with sin as much as the rest of world. The Apostle Paul even admitted his struggle with sin. In Romans 7 he confesses, I know that nothing good lives in me-- I mean nothing good lives in the part of me that is earthly and sinful. I want to do the things that are good, but I do not do them. I do not do the good things I want to do, but I do the bad things I do not want to do.
I think if an Apostle was able to admit that he struggles with sin, that the rest of us should be willing to admit that we struggle as well. You see it’s only when I admit that I struggle and fail at times, that I can glory in the grace of our Savior. We are all sinners and the best thing about the church is the forgiveness of Christ.
I have in my files a story that ran in the USA Today back in May of 2002. It is entitled Daughter of Dancer Kicked Out of Christian School. Apparently a Christian school expelled a kindergarten student, saying her mother’s work as a Night Club dancer clashes with its Christian philosophy. Christina Silvas, a 24 year old single mother, of Rancho Cordova said she took the job as a dancer in part to afford the $400 monthly tuition at Capital Christian School. But school officials decided no reason could justify her daughter’s enrollment.
Silvas, said she thought the church was supposed to accept everyone. She said school administrators called her last week and told her that in response to persistent rumors, a parent went to the club’s website, downloaded pictures of Silvas and showed them to school staff. Silvas said she was told that not only would her 5-year old daughter be expelled, but also that as long as she dances, she cannot attend the church.
Honestly, I have two boys and I understand that their innocence is a valuable thing. I also understand that if they ever give up a part of their innocence they can never get it back. Trista and I work hard to make sure they don’t sell it, too cheaply. And because we work so hard at it, there are people and things that we protect them from. And so there is a side of me that understands what this church and school did. But then there is this other side that goes back to what God says in Romans 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.
I like the way the Message paraphrases that verse. Forget about deciding what is right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is.
I wonder if sometimes Christians and Churches are too busy pointing at the world and their sins, instead of pointing the sinners to our Savior. How many churches do you think Ms. Silvas has attended since her daughter was expelled from Capitol Christian School? Do you think that the experience made her quit her job? I don’t.
Probably a better question would be, are we comfortable enough to let her to come here? Would we allow people to come here and allow God’s loves and forgiveness to change what needs to be changed?
The hardest lesson many of us will ever learn is that God changes people, we don’t. The church belongs to Jesus and our purpose is to serve Him. And we serve Jesus by loving the people He loves in the way that He loves them.
I want to show you a video this morning from a friend of mine Ike Graul. I believe he will help us get a different view of what we are trying to be. (Click here for you tube video)
The idea for today’s sermon came from a sign I saw outside a bar that said, “Our Happy Hour is your cure for the summertime blues.” I was struck by the fact that a bar was offering people a solution to their problems, while the church sat idly by. Jesus’ invitation is very simple in Matthew 11:28 he says Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest.
Everyone who is tired, discouraged, and disheartened should be able to find their happy hour, and happy life living among the people of God. We need to become a place that is relevant.
Questions For You To Consider
What are some ways that we can encourage one another?
What are some ways that we can be more seeker friendly?
How are you going to make sure that Park Central is more relevant?
What role does church fellowship play in developing compassion for others, humility, and the ability to forgive? (See Colossians 3:12-13).
Which requires more humility, to encourage or be encouraged?
Who do think needs the most encouragement in a church or members or visitors?
What does Galatians 2:9 tell us about how seriously the Early Church regarded fellowship?
Why is it importiant for Park Central to be a place where seekers feel welcome?
Why is it importiant that we introduce people to our Savior?