Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Being Present in our Community's Third Places

Filed Under: Because it needs to be said....
Over at Dream Awakener, there has been a great series of posts on Christians and pubs and mission. It is built on the idea that pubs are 'third places,' that is, places other than home and work where people gather. And where people gather, there Christians should be. "Churches and communities of faith should encourage members to frequent local pubs/bars as a social context in which they can get to know and build strong relationships with people who are there." Now, this is sure to be controversial among some evangelicals, especially in the south. I once heard a campus minister say it was a sin for a Christian to even walk into a bar. Well, that is Pharisee-ism, not Christianity.

Anyways, check out these thoughtful series of posts:

Pints & Saints, Part 1: Introduction
A Place Where "Everybody Knows Your Name"

Pints & Saints, Part 2: What's on Tap?
Understanding the Scene

Pints & Saints, Part 3: Jesus & Alcohol
What did Jesus do when finding himself in situations where "ministry opportunity" and alcohol intersected?

Pints & Saints, Part 4: Drinking with Calvin & Luther
How did Calvin and Luther view wine, beer and alcohol?

Pints & Saints, Part 5: "Light Beer"--Option One: Subtle Mission Praxis
Connecting to the world as resident aliens

Pints & Saints, Part 6: Pubs as Third Places
Pubs and bars as missional outposts

Pints & Saints, Part 7: "Craft Beer: Formalized Mission Programs
Creative and organized ways to connect with people in pubs

Pints & Saints, Part 8: Conclusion
Trying new and risky ways to incarnating the gospel into the culture

Rev. Tod Bolsinger, one of the few remaining lights in the PCUSA, tells of a time when he was in a bar and had an opportunity to ask the Fight Club question, "So, how's that working out for you." Great story.

I was in a conversation with another minister who hits the bars every Thursday night with folks in his congregation to drink beer, socialize, build relationships, & share the Gospel. He was telling me about one bar that he goes to that is owned by a lesbian couple. They have begun calling him their Pub's Pastor.

We need more stories of redemption like these.

How does this strike you?


RevGoT said...

We'll have to pick out a place to be "regulars" at. Look forward to seeing you in a few weeks.

ninepoundhammer said...

I think the idea has a great deal of merit; as Willie Sutton said when asked why he robbed banks: 'Because that is where the money is.' We have to go where the lost are in order to share the Gospel with them, that is for sure.

However, it is not without danger. As Paul wrote in Romans 3:7-8, we should not do something that is wrong in order to achieve good. We know what sort of things go on in many of these places--half-naked girls, drunkeness, foul language, etc. Now, I like a good cold beer just as much as the next Reformed Presbyterian guy but I don't want to put myself in the midst of sights that might cause me to lust, or be desensitised by foul language. 'Bad company corrupts good character.'

My father faced this as an undercover cop. He would often find himself in strip clubs in the midst of a case. The purpose, of course, was good (to arrest criminals) but his eyes and ears were under continuous assault. It was quite a moral burden to him to be sure.

It reminds me of the evangelists who claim the pornography realm as their ministry. They travel to porn conventions to talk about Jesus--yet, what they are exposed to is disgusting to no end. Is that efficacious?--and for whom?

Is there a happy medium? More than likely. Where it is is difficult for me to say. As for me, however, I would be more apt to eschew the bar scene in order to protect the covenant with my eyes and seek another fertile ground for sowing the Gospel.

I have found in my life that, when I think that I am immune to the sin and stimuli around me, that is when I fall victim to it. John Calvin advised us to have a transforming effect on the world; I find that it is often the opposite when we submerse ourselves in it.