This past week I went to a bar in Philly to support a friend who was guest bar tending. The more guests he got to come out that night, the better chance he had at landing a job. Before I go further let me address the fact that I went to a bar for my readers who might have a problem with it. I say this in love. Get over it. Really, if you have a problem going to where people are, then you need to re-read the gospels. Let us not forget that Jesus was an ACCUSED drunk (Matthew 11;18). We really need to get out of this mold that going to a place where sin happens (which really is everywhere we go) somehow tarnishes our testimony. But that is for another time.
Anyway, as I was saying I’m not personally a big bar/club person for a few reasons. The main one being that I don’t drink, the second one being that the atmosphere of a lot of bars/clubs isn’t one I like being in too long, and third WHERE ARE THE FREAKING CHAIRS?! This particular bar I went to was more like a night club. They had a big room with a live band playing cover songs while people danced, and then there was a another room that was more like a standard bar area which is where I was for the majority of the night. Although, as the night progressed the club trickled in to where we were. By the end of the night you had to scream to talk, and people would randomly just start dancing right where you were standing. Can you say awkward?
I observed something though. Something that really hit me. This was all about community for the people at this place. They were craving relationship with other people, they were craving validation from other people, and ultimately they just wanted to be heard. They wanted to know they were being listened to. I people watched probably the whole night. I watched guys who were drunk hit on girls. I watched girls who were drunk dance like they thought they actually could, and then I watched people sip their beer and dig deep in to a conversation about their life. I over heard people talking about bad breakups, their work life, their family, how much they hated their job. I heard bad jokes, I saw guys with egos so big they couldn’t fit in the room, and I saw women so insecure it was terrifying. This was a place full of people different ages, different colors, different personality’s, different perspectives, and with different reasons for being there. Some wanted to be there just to hang out and talk, other’s were looking for someone to go home with, others just wanted to dance, and found the need to hop up on the bar to do it (awkward moment number 2). What I’m getting at was there were all different types of people, but there was a common theme in all of them. Everything they were doing was with other people. There was this innate desire in them to be with others. Imagine being at a club or bar with no one else. No one to serve you, no one to talk to, no one to dance with. Just lights, loud music, and alcohol. It wouldn’t be the same. In fact it wouldn’t be anything close to what you were going there to do. Being with other people is key to who all of us are as humans and it is essential to recognize that the reason a bar or club is usually so popular is because of the massive amounts of people that go. Even though we don’t even realize it, interaction with people is one of the driving forces behind the success of the industry. People can buy alcohol and drink at home, people can crank up a stereo and dance anywhere. It’s not that those things that I just mentioned are exclusively at a bar or club, it’s that there are other people doing it with you.
The problem with the bar/club scene is that ultimately it is empty. Relationships are skin deep (literally), guys go to try and get with girls, girls want to dance to show the world that they are beautiful. It’s a complete distortion of authentic community and human relationships (not in all cases granted)). Conversations only go so far. Alcohol soon takes its (desired) affect and the music is so loud and provocative that the atmosphere is hyper-sexualized. It’s not reality anymore, it’s an escape from reality, it’s an attempt to forget about the problems of the day and to drown them in your drug of choice (alcohol, sex, music, women, men, etc).
This is an opposite approach to God and his design for relationships. Because instead of trying to escape reality, God invites us to experience true reality. As humans we were designed for two relationships. The first one is relationship with our creator, the second one is relationship with each other. There is a catch. The catch is that if we aren’t restored to our relationship with our creator we can never fully be in relationship with each other. Relationships with people hinges on relationship with God. Miss God, miss people. There is evidence of this all over the place. Almost everything humans do has SOMETHING to do with other people. Who likes doing most things alone? Not many of us, and even those of us who do still need some human relationship in our life. We as a church must realize how important human relationship is to our faith. If God is true, and God is ultimate reality, then we need to realize the way God designed us to live in wholeness.
We have the opportunity to show the world what real relationships look like. We have the opportunity to wake people up to wholeness, not empty living for the weekend, but real moment by moment connected to God living. But first it has to start with us. We need to wake up from our slumber and start connecting with people in real ways. I’m not talking about the 5 minutes of “turn around and shake hands with someone”. I’m talking about deep relationships that span life, not just Sunday mornings. If we miss this, we miss a huge part of the gospel. If God designed us for two types of relationships, one with God, and one with each other, then we need to start talking about the other half of how we were created to live. The New Testament mainly addresses how to live with people. The Sermon on the Mount, Paul’s letters to the churches, all deal with how to interact with each other, how to live life together, and how to be connected with each other through Jesus.
The world wants community, the world wants people in their life, the world looks for places to meet new people, to talk about life. The question we have to ask ourselves is are we willing to go to those places and start to transform the atmospheres from emptiness to wholeness.
I end this with a short story. That night at the bar, I reconnected with a friend I haven’t seen much of in a few years. We spent the majority of the night talking about music, life, and eventually Jesus. We talked about theology, Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity in general for probably 2 hours where he eventually told me that he re-committed His life recently but it still at war with himself. We talked about it and wrestled through the thoughts and ideas he had regarding God and Christianity. It was a great night in my book, because everywhere we as Christians walk the kingdom of God walks. That night me and three friends brought the kingdom of God in to that bar, and people were changed (including myself) because of it.