“Bar Church”

By Weylan Deaver

933Bar Church is the brainchild of Southern Hills church of Christ in Abilene, Texas. The sobriquet was chosen because, starting March 24, 2013 some of their members will begin conducting worship services at a local bar called “Memories” each Sunday morning at 11:30. Both Southern Hills and the new Bar Church have websites (quoted in italics below) extolling the virtues of such a novel approach. Their online list of questions and answers is revealing, if not disturbing.

Southern Hills plainly states, “Bar Church is a satellite location of Southern Hills, and therefore under the oversight of our eldership.” Explaining why a bar was chosen as the right location, they say, “Many people believe in God — or are curious about God — but have legitimate barriers that keep them from traditional churches. By meeting in a bar, we hope to remove some of those religious barriers and free people up to connect with God in a nonthreatening location.” Elsewhere they add, “We believe it’s something Jesus might do.” Really? Perhaps Southern Hills’ concept of “traditional churches” is not the same as the New Testament’s definition of congregations of the Lord’s church. It is difficult to imagine the Savior suggesting that some folk have “legitimate barriers” keeping them away from his church. It is just as hard to imagine Paul encouraging the saints at Corinth to consider assembling at the pagan temple of Aphrodite on Sunday mornings, among the cult prostitutes, in order to be gathered with as many sinners as possible when they worship God.

Furthermore, since when did Sunday worship services become all about evangelism? Worship is about saints glorifying their God — not an outreach effort for sinners. The latter has its place, but we have too long emphasized the lost during Sunday assemblies, at the expense of worship’s true purpose. Worship services are, primarily, for the saved.

Nevertheless, Southern Hills explains, “We wanted to locate Bar Church in a bar in order to place ourselves in a position to be in relationship with people who: 1) were fed up with church; 2) had dim views of church and especially church people; 3) perceived themselves to be unworthy or far from God.” Doubtless, people in those categories need the gospel, as do all. But is it really the purpose of Sunday worship that a Christian seek to surround himself with those who cannot stand the Lord’s church, and then try to encourage them to worship with him? Does Bar Church realize the lost are not even qualified to worship in Spirit and truth? Yet, their goal is to offer denizens of the local bar “carefully chosen secular music along with the singing of hymns and praise songs, prayer, sharing the Lord’s Supper, the collection of an offering, and the presentation of the Gospel.” Though there is nothing sacred about a church building, there is something very wrong about endorsing the unholy. And, while God never told early Christians to go into an idol’s temple and serve pagans the Lord’s Supper, God did say, “Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you” (2 Cor. 6:17, ESV).

It gets worse. Southern Hills states, “Due to the fact that we anticipate that many of those who attend Bar Church will have no background in acappella singing, we will use instruments for the purpose of making the singing of hymns less threatening and providing a musical sound path for all to follow.” What Christian even thinks in terms of a cappella singing being “threatening” to anyone? But, not wanting bar-goers to be threatened by simple voices praising God, they will add instruments to make the atmosphere “less threatening.” It is also telling that “carefully chosen secular music” will be part of Bar Church. Southern Hills seems to believe the end does justify the means, but without realizing the end they seek is unattainable by the means they propose.

Of course, the obvious question is whether there will be drinking in Bar Church. Yes, there will. Per Southern Hills’ website, “Bar Church meets in a bar, so alcohol will be present and available beginning at noon on Sundays. With Bar Church’s stated mission to meet people where they are, we anticipate that alcohol most likely will be consumed sometime during the meeting of Bar Church.” All are welcome at Bar Church. You need not even bring your own bottle, since alcohol will be served. In case you are under legal drinking age, “The Bar Church planning team will have a process in place to carefully check ID as people are entering Bar Church. We will use a system similar to the large X’s that bars place on the hands of underage patrons to insure they are not served alcohol.” Who knew that would ever be a concern when assembling for worship? Southern Hills does not indicate whether the Lord’s Supper will be served before or after the liquor goes on sale. Nor is it clear whether Christians will be ordering drinks, or only guests. Perhaps enough beers could help convince a bar customer to respond to the gospel. Then again, a glass of whiskey might cause a patron not to feel threatened by a cappella singing, in which case Southern Hills could leave off the instrumental music altogether. Win-win, right?

An apostle warned about those whose Christianity was so tainted that, “because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (2 Pet. 2:2). We cannot imagine the Lord smiling down on an assembly where alcohol is consumed alongside his memorial supper, where sinners “fed up with church” are still able to be part of one, where worship is corrupted in the name of evangelism, where the gospel is watered down but the liquor not, and all in a location specifically chosen because it is peopled by those who have or want nothing to do with the Lord’s church. At some point, a misguided plan becomes a mockery of all that is sacred. And well-meaning Christians can take an idea so far beyond Scripture that it becomes blasphemous. If Bar Church is, indeed, a righteous outreach of Southern Hills church of Christ, then we ask, in all seriousness, why not Brothel Church?

31 thoughts on ““Bar Church”

  1. Excellent! How our Lord must weep when his followers resort to such a thing as “Bar Church.”

  2. I just finished John McArthur’s book, ‘the Truth Wars’ and speaks considerably about the emerging church movement that is conforming to the postmodern culture instead of preaching biblical truth; he calls this movement the false teachers that the book of Jude warns us about…

  3. I commend Weyland Deaver and his Biblical Notes. I knew his grandfather, Roy Deaver, when he was writing Biblical Notes in 1965. Those notes are now a treasure to all who had the foresight to save them, either in their hearts or on paper. It is difficult to measure the worth and influence of the gospel in written form, for it can last from now on through generations yet unborn. I would not be surprised if unconsciously what I am now writing these last five years in the Paper Pulpit in the Sunday Ft Worth Star Telegram, has roots not only in Scripture, but also in truths published in Brother Deaver’s Biblical Notes.

  4. I am amazed at what my brethren come up with under the guise of “doing church in a non-threating way.” I commend all my brethren who continue to love the Lord and carry on worship services according to the New Testament. We are here to please God, not ourselves, or the lost world. Worship is just that, worship of God be the redeemed.

  5. So thankful for Weyland Deaver for bringing this to the attention of the brotherhood. It is so revolting what this so called “church” is planning. They have drifted far from GOD’S word. I can understand there willingness to help and teach people but that would come under evangelism.. The worship service is towards GOD, not man. The devil sure is working hard these days, when he can trick elders into believing “bar church” to be a good thing. I will pray that they do not succeed to bring the body of CHRIST down to this
    “pig-pen.”

  6. Thank you for your article. Sickening what is happening in some congregations, especially in Abilene!!

  7. I normally do not read articles that are critical of congregations of the Church of Christ; however, I am so alarmed by the picture painted in this article that I am thankful I took the time to read it. I add my thanks to the writer of the article. I would be hard pressed to identify every error that can be found in the concept of the “Bar Church.” I wonder how long it will take for the sponcering congregation to notice that the congregation is shrinking and the “Bar Church” is growing? Paul knew what he spoke of when he warned, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1Cor 15:33).

  8. It blows me away that a congregation is doing this especially in the bible belt. I seen this on our local news in So. IL this morning. This may give people who are non-Christians the wrong impression of the Church of Christ let alone give us a bad reputation. I pray that this congregation will get their senses back and realize they have gone the wrong direction in doing this. Having a worship service in a bar is not the way to win souls.

  9. “A Pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself. A spiritual man is hard on himself and easy on others.”

    Sad that you took the time to write this. Worse, I took the time to read it.

    May we do our part and see each other on heaven.

  10. If Sunday mornings are only for believers, we need to stop offering and invitation, cause that promotes people that aren’t save to put on Christ Sunday mornings!! What you are saying is that this is not the right place for it.

  11. Weylan, Once again an excleent article. It is so sad to see worship in the Lord’s church being so apostasized. It is also sad to see you criticized as a Pharisee merely for presenting the truth from God’s word. Seems to be the “pet” response towards anyone who stands for the truth or rebukes error that may cost someone their soul. It is far more loving to stand for the truth in order to save a soul than it is to “appear” loving by tolerating error. True love at times involves rebuke (perhaps Shane should read Titus 1:3). Shane should ask himself who loves a child more – a parent who sees his or her child running toward a cliff and does nothing or a parent who sees his or her child running toward a cliff and chastizes and warns the child of its dangers. Obviously, the parent that admonishes the child is showing more love because of their concern. How much more important and more loving is the warning when it involves a spiritual cliff. Keep up the good work Weylan.

  12. This is so sad, and alarming at the same time. To think that elders of a congregation of the Lord’s church, who are to oversee the flock, would resort to this. Unfortunately, it shows the lack of knowledge of God’s word, or a blatant disregard for scripture. I will pray that the elders of this congregation come to understand God’s plan for Christians to worship Him, that they may be saved. I know God is not pleased with this.

  13. Not to be cliche…but as a follow of Jesus Christ, we should ask ‘Where would Jesus go?’. This is an amazingly sad post. Can you please explain who the ‘sinners’ are that you reference? Can you please explain Jesus’ first miracle? Can you please clarify what was served at the Lord’s Supper (when Jesus instituted it)? Can you please explain “Does Bar Church realize the lost are not even qualified to worship in Spirit and truth?”…who is “qualified”?

    Can you imagine how shocking it was that Jesus spent time with prostitutes rather than those who were ‘qualified’? Can you imagine how absurd He was for sharing a meal with a tax cheat and an adulterer? I can’t believe He had the audacity to allow demon-possessed people to talk to him.

    Let’s be clear about who goes to a bar…especially those who would go on a Sunday before beer is served. Judge and call them sinners all you want. Kathy, Gary, Ted, David, Weylan and others: they are who Jesus would spend time with. I actually think He would rather be with them than us. These are people like my brother, my sister, my uncles, my best friend’s brother…people who will NEVER go to a church…sadly, because of people like you.

  14. Matt, “sinners” would be those who are not saints. Saints are those who have been immersed into Christ, are now forgiven, indwelt by God’s Spirit, and transferred from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of light. Sinners are those who are not Christians. They are not in God’s Spirit, and are not living according to God’s truth, and thus are not qualified to offer acceptable worship to God. If you imagine that all people are on equal footing to worship (i.e. that everyone is qualified in his present condition to worship God), then you greatly misunderstand how the Bible says God views Christians vs. those who are not. Christians are washed, sanctified, justified, saved–sinners are none of those.

    If you are suggesting that Jesus produced a drink at Cana that would help folk become intoxicated, in spite of all the New Testament teaches about our duty to be sober, then we would disagree there, as well as on what your concept of a Christian is. The fact that Jesus had association with sinners in no way suggests that he treated them as acceptable in their sins, or implied that they were ready, in their sinful state, to worship a holy God. Yes, there are many who will never go to a church because they do not love God’s truth, and none can go to heaven without loving the truth. No one is suggesting that sinners cannot be spoken to, or that we should not try to reach out to them. But bringing a worship service to them, in a location designed for the active practice of sin, as though they were fit to offer worship to God, is not the right strategy. If you can set up a worship service in an open bar, then you may as well set it up in a brothel, in a casino, or in a homosexual bath house.

  15. Appreciate the article. Appreciate the supportive comments. Saddened by the shallow criticisms of the article. Shane needs to read Matthew 23. And why is it so difficult for Matt and other critics to understand that as a Christian, if I am committed to worshiping God in a sacred environment according to His directives, and if I am also committed to reaching the lost without compromise, that these are separate activities and do not have to be mutually exclusive?

  16. As one who grew up with a church of Christ mom who invested 20+ years reaching sinners in prisons…and as a young boy having worshipped with these sinners in that unholy of places…I have a simple question:

    How is Prison Church (prison ministries that include a service) acceptable to any you, based on your position/responses above? Please be thoughtful. This is a real question.

    Surely you are aware of the vile things that occur in prisons and the people who frequent them…

  17. Kevin’s is a great observation that evangelism and worship are neither identical nor mutually exclusive. Just because I don’t ask someone wallowing in sin to lead me in prayer does not imply I have no concern for teaching him the gospel.

    Matt, in response to your question about worship services conducted in prisons, I would say the prison is home to its inmates. So I would not draw a parallel between that and a bar where people voluntarily go for the purpose of engaging in sin. No doubt, many over the years have been converted to Christ while incarcerated. Until they get out, they cannot attend worship with the saints on Sunday. If there are Christians in a prison, I would have no objection to their conducting their own worship service, or to outside Christians coming into the prison to help conduct a worship service with them. My problem (whether in a prison setting, or a bar setting) is with the concept of gathering people who are not Christians, and treating them as though they were (i.e. inviting them to participate in worship, including even taking the Lord’s Supper). Beyond that, I believe setting up such a practice in a bar only invites additional, legitimate criticisms (not least of which is the actual consumption of alcohol at Southern Hills’ “bar church”).

  18. ” Just because I don’t ask someone wallowing in sin to lead me in prayer does not imply I have no concern for teaching him the gospel.”

    This is ridiculous. At this point, Mr. Deaver, I have to ask you if you have taken the time to actually talk to your brothers who are leading this service. It seems that before you write fantastic gossip, you take time to get the facts.

    If, as a result of your appropriate approach to these Godly men, you can verify that drunks / unsaved will be leading prayers or sharing the Lord’s Supper, please feel free to update us all. I am nearly certain that you are writing things about this service that are simply false.

  19. Matt, I do not know whether a drunk will be invited to lead prayer or not. Nor did I say such would happen. What I said (as you quoted) was that my refusal to ask such a person to lead a prayer did not imply my non-interest in teaching him the gospel. Before you accuse others of writing “fantastic gossip,” perhaps you could investigate further, yourself. The Southern Hills church of Christ website says, “Bar Church gatherings will include carefully chosen secular music along with the singing of hymns and praise songs, prayer, sharing the Lord’s Supper, the collection of an offering, and the presentation of the Gospel.” Their website also says, “Bar Church meets in a bar, so alcohol will be present and available beginning at noon on Sundays. With Bar Church’s stated mission to meet people where they are, we anticipate that alcohol most likely will be consumed sometime during the meeting of Bar Church.” Per their website, “Due to the fact that we anticipate that many of those who attend Bar Church will have no background in acappella singing, we will use instruments for the purpose of making the singing of hymns less threatening and providing a musical sound path for all to follow.” That implies they will be encouraging bar patrons to participate in worship via singing with “a musical sound path for all to follow.” Now, you tell me, Matt: Do you think the Bar Church leaders will carry the Lord’s Supper into a bar “to meet people where they are,” and then refuse them if they want to observe the Lord’s Supper?

  20. Hello Michael, I do appreciate your article regarding the ‘Bar Church’. When brethren lose their ‘mooring’, there is no telling how far they will drift from the truth. I wrote an article, A RESTORATION OF THE RESTORATION on my blog that deals with a new church being started in a bar in the city of Nashville. You will find it at this address: http://broraymondelliott.blogspot.com/ Brotherly,
    Raymond

  21. Thank you brother Deaver for simply ‘staying inside’ of Scripture on your response to Matt…When you open the gate, and let one (1) innovation in, there is no way then to keep any other one (1) out. When once the authority of God’s Word is abandonded… There will be no place to stop! Neither the church nor any individual Christian has authority to make any ‘compromises’ relative to any commands or guidelines outlined in God’s Word. Obedience to the gospel…demands that false teachers/teaching should be ‘marked’ for teaching error! If we do not ‘expose’ the teachings and practices of those who are seeking to modernize and liberalize the Lord’s pattern for His church, many of our young people, and some of our young people will be led into soul-condemning error….. Yes, we must stay Inside of Scripture!

  22. Thankfully, through my questioning of Bar Church, I stepped out and attended, instead of forming my own uneducated opinions about it. There was no alcohol served at Bar Church. There was, however, a multitude of love shown through people at this place. There is no doubt that God has blessed Bar Church, and no uptight preacher can take away from what they are doing there. Jesus said simply to love one another and love God, and Bar Church is doing just that.

  23. Luke, if taking information from their actual websites produces “uneducated opinions,” then make of it what you will. The article you criticize was posted some nineteen months ago. Whether or not there was alcohol served on the day you were there, the church’s website said, “we anticipate that alcohol most likely will be consumed sometime during the meeting of Bar Church.” And, if everyone present were sober the whole time, it would still be objectionable based on reasons given. I’ll ask again: If Bar Church is, indeed, a righteous outreach of Southern Hills church of Christ, then why not have Brothel Church?

  24. I agree that the questioning of something like Bar Church is warranted. What would you say to those who would have never received the gospel at a conventional church, but found Christ through this endeavor?

  25. You are assuming that the gospel is being taught in its purity, while I’m suggesting such an approach as “Bar Church” starts off with compromising God’s message. The Bible does not talk in terms of a “conventional church” vs. an unconventional approach. It has a lot to say about holiness and what accords with sound doctrine, and abstaining from every form of evil, and keeping your conduct honorable and not being like the world. Besides, every sinner is obligated to find God’s truth and God’s church. Worship services are not for the lost, but for the saved to glorify God. It is misguided to treat worship as though its focus is the lost. The lost need to get out of the bar and get on with obeying the gospel, after which they will actually be able to offer acceptable worship to God.

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