A few weeks back I wrote about some of my confusion with the state of Christianity in America these days (see: Jesus Wasn’t a Good Citizen). Then a friend recently sent me an article that provided a nice glimpse of hope, albeit from a strange source. What’s the source you ask? A website called Liquor.com.
The title of the article was “The Complicated Journey from Holy Studies to Hospitality.” But the subtitle says a lot: “These bartenders, all alumni of evangelical Christian colleges, found the bar industry to be a better source of community and connection than the church.” In the article, writer Rich Manning tells the stories of current bartenders who came from Christian universities and are now finding meaningful community in the bar scene.
Those of you who’ve followed my journey the last few years can see why this is of interest to me. Through our interactions with Communion Wine Co, I’ve found the wine industry can be a great source of community and connection as well.
Some of the statements in the post are a bit shocking considering it’s on a website devoted to alcoholic beverages. But I was pleasantly surprised by the author’s analysis of the church.
“When the church functions as it should, it can be a force for good. The faith’s core teachings of love for all and helping others in need can still function as a healing balm... However, when the church fails, it fails hard, particularly when Christ’s message of love gets buried by people preferring to intensely focus on fear or consequences.”
To which I say, Amen.
Another thing Manning captures so well is that this shift in community focus is not a departure of belief in Jesus, but an adjustment to what the church can sometimes become.
“For the bartenders who did walk away, their rejection of the church doesn’t necessarily coincide with a rejection of Christianity’s principles as espoused by Jesus… Rather, theirs is a renouncement of the institution itself—specifically, the people who have corrupted and warped Jesus’ message of love for all to fit their own agenda of hatred, intolerance, over-the-top legalism, and a politically charged preoccupation with wrapping the Bible in an American flag.”
It’s an encouraging reminder to me that when one expression of the church may stumble, others will rise up. Wherever the Christian faith is obscured or abused, the church will suffer. But wherever people gather together for authentic connection and look for something beyond themselves, Jesus can be there too. If the traditional forms of church don’t provide an authentic Christian community, people will find other forms to take their place.
“This idea of God holding court in a pub points to the common ground that exists ideologically between the bar and the church. Setting aside the drinks and the dogma, both places are designed to intentionally build strong communities—which is achievable only by taking a holistic approach, truly loving thy neighbor by showing compassion and exhibiting kindness and support to all in need of such benevolence.”
Click here to see Rich Manning’s post in its entirety.If the traditional forms of church don't provide an authentic Christian community, people will find other forms to take their place. @Liquor Click To Tweet