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In a recent issue of Outreach magazine, we posed this question: 'In taking outreach/evangelistic initiatives into places such as bars and nightclubs, do we cross the lines of what's appropriate for sharing the Gospel?' This controversial survey question recently provoked an unprecedented response from Outreach readership. We received an abundance of responses from readers who felt passionate about both sides of the issue. Here’s what some of you had to say:
- Jesus obviously did that. It is a very difficult balance, but bars, etc. are where lots of lonely people go these days, and they aren't coming to our church. One other idea: It might be useful for some church folks to go to a bar, order a soft drink, and just observe people—people pay to go there, and we have a hard time bribing them to come to church. Why is that?
- I feel that's what Jesus did. I see nothing wrong with it. Many religious and spiritual conversations happen at bars naturally. A Christian perspective in an otherwise dark place is appropriate as long as unhealthy behaviors do not seep into the evangelist's own life.
- No, with a “but.” Jesus went to where the sinners are, yet did not participate in their sin. We need to be extremely cautious in evangelizing in settings that can cause us to stumble. For instance, I would never have someone that struggles with the addiction of alcohol go to a bar to share the Gospel, for fear they would fall into temptation. Yet, I feel someone else could possibly minister in that environment under the right circumstances. Nevertheless, caution should be used whenever we place ourselves in those types of situations.
- Philosophically, I don't see a problem with sharing the Gospel anywhere. I think it is dangerous to declare any place a Gospel-free zone. Levi used a party to build a bridge between his Savior and his friends (Mark 2). Therefore, such contexts can be used to share the Gospel. However, the distractions that accompany the bar/nightclub scene could (and have proven) to be too much of a temptation for some. Therefore, instead of a simple yes/no answer, I believe further questions are required to discern the wisdom of trying to evangelize in such an environment. Am I tempting myself (James 1:14, 15; Galatians 5:13)? Is this evangelistic endeavor to the glory of God, or do I just want to do this because it is radical (1 Corinthians 10:31)? Is this the wisest context to accomplish my evangelistic goals (James 1:5-7)? Have I taken into account the perspective of those who love me most (pastor(s), small group leader, etc.)?
- Jesus said you are in the world, but you are not of the world. He also said to shun all appearance of evil. The only way a person can be saved is when the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment. I don't believe people frequenting bars and nightclubs are honestly seeking salvation. It also presents temptation to the person presenting the Gospel.
- I think there is a fine line here for us not to go over. You know the whole "of the world, but not in the world" thing. I do not have a problem with people going into a bar or nightclub to witness. But how are you going to witness in the nightclub or bar? Is it the most effective way for us to evangelize? From someone that used to hang out in bars and nightclubs (before Christ)...I believe that if you walk up to someone and try to witness while they are drunk, it is going to open the door for a confrontation. If the witnessing looked more like a counseling situation (why are they drinking, what are they trying to get away from with all the drinking, etc.), then maybe this would be a better way to witness. How about providing ways to connect with your church as outreach opportunities? When someone wakes up the "morning after" and is hung over...if we were able to give them a matchbook or some other way to connect with our church? Many people question “why” after they go out drinking, and maybe when they realize alcohol didn't solve their problems, then they may try out church and God to solve their problems.
- Evangelism needs to also respect the rights of those who socialize in these places, unless the club was advertising Christian-based music. People go there to socialize in their particular way, which is usually contrary to what Christians would be involved in. The atmosphere would not be conducive to being able to share the Gospel, and this would also be an infringement on their rights—which would largely alienate such attendees even more to the Christian message.
- I feel it is important to get out of the Christian zones—how can you reach the lost if you do not go to where the lost are? Besides, where would Jesus hang out right now? Exactly, bars. We are actually in the process of starting to find a bar to hold a Bible study in ourselves. You should reach out to the sinners, as well as the good Christians. I recently saw a program on TV about some Catholic priests who go to bars where they discuss religion. Many of the young people were favorably disposed to listen when it was on their "ground" and not "preachy." The priests were seen as people who cared and were not afraid to have a beer.
- Jesus Christ purposely placed Himself in the company of all kinds of people and met people where they were. He never invited people to church. But He told the "church" people to go and make disciples; that could be wherever you find them—even in the nightclubs.
- I don't know if "cross the line" is exactly the right term, but as one who was "across the line" at one time in his life, I can tell you that taking an initiative like the one you're wondering about would not have been the way to reach the likes of me. Thanks for asking. Care for a drink? (Just kidding.)
- Where would Jesus go if He were here today? He'd be where the people who really need Him are...at the bars and nightclubs. He wouldn't worry about being seen at places not on the "approved list" for churchgoers. He'd be where the comfy, judgmental Christians would never be caught dead. He wouldn't be afraid to befriend those who were rough around the edges or had different codes of conduct than those in the church. He'd meet people where they’re at and love them into the Kingdom.
- It may have a lot to do with the surrounding culture. I grew up in the South where there was a great resistance to this sort of thing—and my reputation as a pastor might be ruined if I was seen entering a bar. However, now I am in Chicago where there are neighborhood pubs on almost every corner—almost like Starbucks—but they serve alcohol. If someone is uncomfortable meeting me at church, it is easy to meet at one of these establishments. I would think that some establishments (like strip clubs) would be so hostile to spiritual conversation that it would be pointless and even damaging to go inside.
- All sinners are saved by grace, and Jesus says, “Go and sin no more.” We can share the Gospel in many ways with ones that go to the bars and nightclubs, but we don't have to walk into the devil’s garden to do it. Illustration: I'm going to go to a strip club and watch the strippers and share the Good News with them. How long before sight = thought = action = sin. Don’t do it!!! Bars and nightclubs are all the devil's vices!!!
- I have done this in the past; I also ride with a Christian Motorcycle Ministry group, and we do this.
- Many people, both men and women, are like I used to be…They are there in the bar but don't really want to be there. They know there is something better for them but just need the push to look for that better thing. In my case, that better thing was Jesus Christ.
- For the past six years, I have been taking a team of ladies into the strip clubs to give gift bags to the dancers. Many times, we give gift bags to the customers, valets, etc. God has given us incredible favor with the bar owners, bouncers, and managers. Numerous times, we have been asked by the dancers and even customers to pray for them—right there in the club or parking lot! I have many testimonies.
- Christian freedom allows us to partake in such things, and it's meeting people where they're at. We have a successful men's Bible study called “Bible and Brews.” We home brew beer and study the Word. It's great, and many have come to faith through it. Paul said he became all things to all people so that some might be saved. I think it's the opposite that is inappropriate—legalists who ban such things and use God's Word incorrectly to support such laws. All (legal) things in moderation. The "holier than thou" attitude must go!
- The issue has never been not to visit these places; after all, unbelievers do hang out there. The issue to me is when we get "carnal Christians" who participate in the world’s activities, then try to share Christ. "Lay it all down at the cross" and "Follow Jesus" are necessary statements in witnessing, yet when I'm downing “shots” with you and making these statements, it will be really hard for you to see the authenticity of Christ in my life. The lifestyle of living the Gospel is just as important as sharing the Gospel. I do believe that we should bring light into the dark places of our world. The Holy Spirit will empower, guide, and protect us.
- Last year, we took a missions trip to Liverpool, United Kingdom. We went out to do "nightclub" evangelism. I was amazed. We joined a young man (missionary) who sets up in a nightclub to do live music (at no charge to the owners). He sings Phil Collins songs and ends the sessions by singing “Amazing Grace” along with an altar call. (He tells the owners upfront about his ministry.) There was hardly a dry eye in the place. We were able to pray with and minister to many of the people. Yes, some were drunk, some didn't want to hear, but many did. They are out searching, and I thank God we went. I must say, however, that this is a ministry for the mature in the Lord. We went "prayed up.” The spiritual warfare was very intense, but we prepared for it. If God sends you, He protects you. I left there knowing Psalms 139:8. “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.”
- It is very appropriate. Jesus ministered to the tax collectors and the prostitutes, the lowest of society. I think His example should be followed today. I have been leading an Alpha Ministry in local bars for two years. We have been extremely successful (approximately 200 people).
- I believe if we learn to develop our "spiritual eyes" to see the daily opportunities the Lord gives us, we'd probably be so busy with the people He puts in front of us each day that we'd struggle to find the time for even more opportunities. It would be interesting to find out how many people in the bars and nightclubs actually work with a believer, live next door to one, or come in contact with a believer on a regular basis in some other venue (kid's sports, supermarket, gas station, etc.), and the Christian has never mentioned the Gospel. But if we make the people in the bars and nightclubs an evangelistic opportunity, it seems so much more spiritual and “I've kind of taken care of putting in my evangelism time.” When we're intentionally looking for those "divine" opportunities every day, we will witness to the person who goes to the bar or nightclub, but we'll do it where they work, get gas, shop, take their kids.
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