An old Marine Corps buddy of mine, to my pleasant surprise, (became a Christian) after he was discharged. I say surprise because he cursed loudly, fought hard, chased women, drank heavily, loved war and weapons, and hated chapel services.
A number of months ago, I ran into this fellow, and after we’d talked awhile, he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You know, Chuck, the only thing I still miss is that old fellowship I used to have with all the guys down at the tavern. I remember how we used to sit around and laugh and drink a pitcher of beer and tell stories and let our hair down. I can’t find anything like that for Christians. I no longer have a place to admit my faults and talk about my battles-where somebody won’t preach at me and frown and quote me a verse.”
It wasn’t one month later that in my reading I came across this profound paragraph:
“The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit that there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give his church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality-but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people secrets, and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers. With all my heart,” this writer concludes, “I believe that Christ wants his church to be unshockable, a fellowship where people can come in and say, ‘I’m sunk, I’m beat, I’ve had it.’ Alcoholics Anonymous has this quality-our churches too often miss it.”
Now before you take up arms to shoot some wag that would compare your church to the corner bar, stop and ask yourself some tough questions, like I had to do. Make a list of some possible embarrassing situations people may not know how to handle.
A woman discovers her husband is a practicing homosexual. Where in the church can she find help where she’s secure with her secret?
Your mate talks about separation or divorce. To whom do you tell it?
Your daughter is pregnant, and she’s run away- for the third time. She’s no longer listening to you. Who do you tell that to?
You lost your job, and it was your fault. You blew it, so there’s shame mixed with unemployment. Who do you tell that to?
Financially you were unwise, and you’re in deep trouble. Or a man’s wife is an alcoholic. Or something as horrible as getting back the biopsy from the surgeon, and it reveals cancer, and the prognosis isn’t good. Or you had an emotional breakdown. To whom do you tell it?
We’re the only outfit I know that shoots its wounded. We can become the most severe, condemning, judgmental, guilt-giving people on the face of planet Earth, and we claim it’s in the name of Jesus Christ. And all the while, we don’t even know we’re doing it. That’s the pathetic part of it all.
Written by Charles Swindoll 1983
My mind (DM) was thinking about this illustration this morning on the way to where we do church. I am fortunate to be able to hang out with a few people each week where it does feel “permissive, accepting, and inclusive, and unshockable. 🙂
I do tell these people secrets on a regular basis… and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. I come home most days feeling known, and loved.
I am aware that those of you that read this blog come from a wide array of backgrounds spiritually, and because of it, I tend to downplay this component of my life. I hate it when people try to force their worldviews down my throat, and I work really hard not to do so with you the reader.
Sometimes however, when I’m interacting with some of you, there have been times when I’ve wished I could bring the spiritual up in a non-threatening way.
That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
If you’re willing to play- summarize where you are at spiritually in 20 words or less. Thanks! DM