Last week I wrote a post on Christian freedom and drinking (found here). The post resulted in a lot of feedback, all good. Some wanted more though. The question “Can I go to the bar?” surfaced a lot. Many asked if I would write a post dealing with that question.
I asked Jason Leonard of “The House" at University Tenessee-Chattanooga and Becca Arrowsmith of "The Inn" at Washington State University to help me out.
The last post is mine.
Here it is…
As a disciple of Jesus, I would never go in to a bar…
unless my child was abducted and being held there as a hostage. Or if there was some health emergency and I had some skill set to help. Or perhaps if one of my friends was asking for directions, accidentally walked in and didn’t come out for two hours. Or maybe if some agnostic friend of mine said he would love to talk to me about Jesus, but only in a bar. Or if my church was doing some “theology on tap”, Bible study at a local bar. Or if I wanted a beer and was 21. But if I were breaking some law, tempting me or others in unhealthy ways or intentionally misrepresenting the name and power of God, I would never go into a bar. Listing all the reasons why I would or wouldn’t requires quite a bit of space…
Would it be easier to say “I’ll follow Jesus, even where bars and beers are concerned?”
Jason Leonard is a campus minister in Chattanooga, TN. He is married, has two kids, a dog, and a problem with keeping his mouth shut. He is particularly passionate about the redemption of our minds and the perseverance of hope.
So Why are you Asking?
Student: “Can I or should I go the bars? What do you think?”
College Pastor: “I’d be interested to know why you’re asking the question. Moreover, I want you to know why you’re asking the question. Is it because you want my consent? Is it because you want me to say ‘I go to bars too!’? Do you want me to say ‘no God fearing Christian would step foot in a place like that …?’ I know Christian legalistic snobbery is as common as alcoholism, so there’s a fine line to tread when we ask question like this.
Bars cause me to think – with some people it’s the way you grasp that beer that makes me wonder if/how you grasp Jesus, and sometimes I think bars are a great space to share life.
Let’s not spend time rebelling against Christianity’s social do’s and dont’s, but let’s also not buy into the age old myth that says when it’s me it’s different. Why not turn to God honestly, and say, “Why am I even asking the question?”
Becca currently lives in Pullman, WA ministering to students at Washington State University. She is the Director of The Inn at WSU, a campus ministry of Pullman Presbyterian Church. She absolutely adores lime popsicles, a variety of music, ceilidh dances, reading, and hopes to ride her bike more.
What is Shaping You?
When you step into a bar you instantly encounter many things. People you know and people you don’t know. The mixture of a dimly lit room and neon lights. Pitchers, full and half-full, pints being poured. Laughter. Conversation. Maybe you smell smoke.
It’s a gathering, but more than that… it’s a community and communities are formative, they shape you. What I mean is that every community has certain values, virtues and practices that they celebrate and encourage people towards.
The church tries, with varying levels of success, to push and provoke its members towards Christ-likeness. Practices like Bible study, sacrificial service, hospitality, fasting, and prayer, point church members towards the Christian belief that Christ is in fact Lord.
So what are the values, virtues and practices of the bar scene? What does the bar scene push people towards? It’d be tough to answer in this short post but one thing is clear: for those that let the bar scene lead them, for those who are grasped by the bar scene—the road leads the erosion of the soul. I’m sure you’ve seen this happen.
You’re either being led or leading. Jesus hung out with a rough crowd but He led them towards authenticity and redemption, they didn’t lead Him.
So who is leading you?
What community is shaping you?
The bar scene?
Are you leading others or being led?
A Few Ways Forward
- Self-Knowledge and Authenticity. The devil isn’t incredibly innovative, he just hits you where you’re weak (Ephesians 4:27). When you know your weakness you know how to guard yourself. If you know that alcohol is an area where you’re weak you won’t go to the bars, that is if you’re serious about following Jesus. But the key is self-knowledge and authenticity. Know where you’re weak and be honest with yourself.
- Be Open to Challenge. Some of my best friends are those that are brutally honest with me. You need to be open to a friend challenging you, especially when the friend is seeking to point you towards Jesus. Don’t write friends off, listen to them—it’s what friends do (Proverbs 27:5).
- Don’t Hide from God or Community. Ever since Adam and Eve, humanity has had a tendency to hide in shame (Genesis 3:7). But Christ’s death on the cross has created an openness—made reconciliation—between humanity and God. So, if you do mess up don’t hide in shame, allow the Holy Spirit to reorient you towards Jesus (John 16:8).