A warning to the reader, be prepared...long post ahead...
Last night I had to the opportunity to have a "guy's" night with one of my buddies, Gus. He's getting married this summer [yeah, I get to do the honors] and he was going out to check out the band who will be playing at this wedding. They've all been friends for a while. Gus used to work as a bouncer in his other life [you pretty much don't want to mess with him] before he met Christ.
Anyways, living in Michigan's UP means that you often can travel for an hour or two to get to the next gig, so Gus and I were off to Escanaba, about 1 1/2 hours away form where we live.
The band was called Driver [find them here ] and I have to say that they were probably one of if not the best 80's cover bands I've ever heard; they brought our my inner, spandex wearnin', head banging, falsetto singin' 80's inner rock icon [sorry about the spandex image]. To say the least it was an evening well spent.
As a spiritual leader of a small community of Christ followers, and the father of two energetic beautiful kids, I don't have as much time as I would like to have to go to the bar....yeah you read that right the bar. And, last night reminded me why i miss it.
It's not for what many might think: it's not for the alcohol [ I could take it or leave it], it's not for the "colorful" characters, it's not even because I love live music [which I do]. It's because the bar on a Friday or Saturday night reminds me of worship...yeah you read that right worship.
It was amazing to me, to watch how things progressed and morphed through the night. We all entered the bar as strangers and before we left, we were a community that had really connected with one another [albeit sometimes that connection isn't all that healthy].
What I mean is that people began to loosen up [some because of the alcohol but others because of the camaraderie - yes quite a few weren't drinking at all] and really engaged each other. Space was made for "new" friends and we found ourselves caught up in a secular act of worship. I got to talk to several people I hadn't known [and even got a hug from a HUGE burly guy who yelled in my ear, "aren't these guys great! I hope you havin' a ------ good time!."]
If you stop to think about it, all the elements of a typical worship service were present, from a call to worship ["are you ready to rock Escanaba?"] to a final benediction ["this one goes out to all our loyal fans! Thanks for coming tonight guys. Be safe.].
The "service" was marked with high notes [and of course being a bar, with some low ones as well] but it doesn't surprise me why the bar on Saturday night is often more full than the church on Sunday morning. The bar, albeit at times an unhealthy atmosphere, is a place of acceptance. Sure sometimes people feel the need to "liquor" themselves up to let their guard down, but when that veil is pulled away we can see how hungry we all are for community; for a common purpose and goal, even if that purpose and goal is exceedingly self aggrandizing and self-medicating.
The TV show Cheers had that infamous theme song that bore the line, "don't you want to go to a place where everyone knows your name, and are always glad you came." It seems to me that, as odd as it may be that although that line is used to "sell" a pub experience, it really could and should be hijacked by the church. That the church should be the place where everyone is glad to you came and they express that in a deep knowledge of your name; a symbol of who you are and what you care about.
Yet, sadly, too often or churches, or at least in their human spirit, resemble the exact polar opposite: we don't always want you to come and we certainly don't want to know your name, unless your exactly like us, and are willing to be a big giver in the areas of time, talents, and lest we forget treasures [and yes, sadly, in that order].
So, it seems to me, until the church is willing to embody the inviting and grace-filled life of Jesus; until the church is willing to embrace individuals in all of their messiness; until the church, in the words of Brennan Manning can truly be a place for ragamuffins; then bars will still be bars and people will still seek to find their meaning and purpose on a stool on a Friday night, imbibing other "spirits."
So "rock on" Driver...and thanks for reminding us that we were created for the two-step dance of worship and community. May we the church learn the lesson that you've taught us and seek to emulate the best of what you have to offer, as we allow the other stuff to fall to the wayside.