Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Right PLACE to Share Christ?

In my previous blog post, I suggested that as Christians we need to be careful about WHERE we go and the ACTIVITIES we're involved in with our non-Christian (I also used the term "pre-Christian") friends. Specifically, I suggested that hanging out in bars (or other questionable places) can be problematic for believers, since there are usually temptations we should avoid.

I received an excellent response to my comments from a pastor (who I am blessed to know as a friend and colleague in ministry) who serves in a smaller community where sometimes the bar is the only place in town to get a sandwich or connect with people. (This was true when we lived in St. Edward, NE, as well; the two places in town where you could sit down and have a decent lunch were the Hitching Post Bar (& Grill) or the City Cafe, which was connected to the Polka Dot Lounge.) 

He made some valid points with passion and clarity, so I asked his permission to share his comments, which I'll follow up with a couple thoughts in response. (And thanks, brother, for letting me share your wise words!)

I like your BLOG... and the layout and photos are great... but I would like to comment on one item: the bar! I have another perspective.

In some locations the bar is the ONLY place to hang out! To eat, to get a diet Pepsi or iced tea... and the only place where a Christian may have constant contact with acquaintances who NEED to HAVE a Christian friend.

While I agree that hanging out in the bar to drink and ogle the opposite sex is a very bad habit to develop, and some bars are nothing but trouble... not every bar is like that.

My church members would tell you that I have made a quantifiable mark on this community by hanging out in the bar. While there, I am clearly identified by the patrons as "Pastor," so that everybody else knows that I am there too! As a result the language has improved, the atmosphere has changed and quite a number of people come and sit with me to ask their religious and philosphical questions. Several have started attending church. Several have requested that I do their funerals. Two have accepted Christ on their death beds!

THAT's why I hang out at the bar in (name of town where he serves). However, if the bishop moves us in the future... somewhere like Lincoln or Omaha... (who knows?) I'm going to find a good bar to hang out in! Because hanging out in this one has made an incredible difference over a three year period.

I don't like foul language, men hitting on women & vice versa, or loud obnoxious arguments... but in three years that has died down quite a bit... because most of the people know there's a Christian pastor in the bar who preaches what he believes and believes what he preaches. Sometimes they try to "shock" me... but my failure to react generally produces an apology. It has actually been fun!

Not to mention that there are a bunch of people who don't have a pastor. That's my OTHER congregation.

I appreciate the perspective my friend has offered.  It emphasizes an important point or principle:

What is your intention for going to a place (bar, etc.) where Christians would not normally hang out?  Are you going there "armored up" in prayer - with the intent of being salt and light, or are you going there "broken up" and planning to drown your sorrows or look for comfort and encouragement from the wrong person?

Answer these questions honestly, and you'll know whether it's right for your to be there.

My pastor friend has shared that there is potential for serious ministry to happen in unlikely (or maybe the most likely!) places. Jesus didn't shy away from such places or persons. He spent a lot of time sharing his passion for the least, the last and the lost, and connecting with them and their needs.  It all depends on your intention; your spiritual maturity and your willingness to be used by God.

So....are you taking Jesus with you when you go to such places?

That's the ultimate litmus test.

Stay connected...

Pastor Mike


  1. Tom and I find it more and more difficult to socialize with our non-Christian (although they feel they are Christian friends). With our Christian friends there is a thread that holds us together. We can talk about anything and hear each others views. However, with our non-Christian friends they are aware of how involved we are at church and that our beliefs are extremely strong. So the evenings are usually uncomfortable. We feel like we have to watch every word we say so as not to have them think we are pushing our beliefs on them. We'd like to go back to being close friends, but it just feels impossible.

    Some of our neighbors even have a problem with us. We are known as the "church people". They make comments and giggle and continue talking among themselves.

    On the other hand we have had the nicest visits with people in restaurants. They notice that we pray before our meal and once in awhile they will strike up a conversation with us.

    We just find it hard to connect with non-Christians. Any ideas?


  2. **Slight correction- there are now three decent places to eat in the small town of St. Edward, NE. A good friend of our family opened up a cafe called "The Grapevine" inside a house, right on main street. The food is delicious, home cooking. If you're passing through- don't miss a unique opportunity to experience mid-western hospitality!

  3. Dad- you talked about serious ministry in unlikely, or the most likely places. Recently, as I ride the trains back and forth, I've been urged to talk with other train-commuters. God has put on my heart that all these people, bustling to and fro, maybe could use some encouragement, someone to talk to, or even an interesting conversation with a foreign girl who doesn't quite make sense (after all, I'm not fluent!) God's also shown me that this won't be easy, as my language skills are limited, but if I want to take this opportunity seriously, I need to prepare myself.
    DAD- I'm so glad you said "Are you going there "armored up" in prayer - with the intent of being salt and light?" *Preparation is VITAL to our sharing Christ in every situation. 1 Peter 3:15 says "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."
    So, with the help of some Japanese friends, and Adeng, I'm going to make some small "business cards" with bible verses, encouraging words, and our church place and time on them.

    **Do what you can with what you have, everywhere, all the time.**

  4. Thanks for the encouragement, Pam and Annie!

    And Annie, you're right - we're supposed to "always be ready" as Peter says. And we also always need to remember that the Holy Spirit arrived on the scene before we did, and when we are willing to be used, the Spirit will help us, and stir people's hearts and minds to hear and receive what we have to share. We don't do the work, the Holy Spirit pours out God's grace into the situation, and we are simply a vessel God can use as a "container" for the Spirit and grace!

    And my apologies to Sherry Cruise, owner and operatore of the Grapevine in St. Edward - it is a great place to have lunch!

  5. I have recently finished the Book, "They like Jesus, but not the church." The author, himself a Christian pastor agreed with Pastor Mike's friend. He prepared his sermons in a coffee shop close to the church. As a "regular" he formed friendships with the owner, the baristas, and other "regulars". Even though many were non-believers they found this minister and his views "interesting." Sometimes total strangers saw the Bibles and commentaries on the table and asked if he was a pastor. When he said he was, they asked if they could pull up a chair and ask him a question they had always "wondered about."

    What that pastor was doing was mingling with non-believers. Isn't that exactly what Jesus did?

    As a teacher, I mingle with non-believers every day. Some are teachers and paras; some are students. I pray and ask God to give me opportunities to do what I can, within the boundaries established by my employer to share the love of Christ with them. And I have received many opportunities In fact, I should warn you - Before you do this, you better be prepared. It will happen! Have a great week!

    Tom Collins

  6. Great thoughts, Tom! Thanks for challenging us - and thanks for the reminder about that book. I haven't read it, but it's created quite a buzz among people who are paying attention to cultural trends today.

    (This seems like a good time to say I always welcome hearing about books that are challenging you and are worth checking out! We will all benefit from that.)