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.