Jesus at the Pub: Dangerous Cocktail?

The controversy divided the congregation. “You want to start a ministry in a pub? Jesus would roll over in his grave!”

Aside from already rolling over–and out, I suspect Jesus is just fine with the pub outreach. But I know not everyone agrees. In fact, when people see a pub ministry depicted in our documentary When God Left the Building, some react quite negatively. One church leader told me he would not show the film at his church because of this scene. “What kind of witness is that?” he asked. “Especially when the Bible is so clear about the evils of alcohol.”

Before I could remind this man of Jesus’ first miracle, he brought it up. “I know Jesus turned water into wine,” he said. “That’s always bothered me.”

I asked, “If Jesus were standing right here, what would you say to him?”

He said, “I’d ask him, ‘What were you thinking?!’”

Others who’ve seen the film have reacted differently. For instance, Pastor Leon Bloder in Eustis, Florida, asked his congregation, “Where do you think Jesus went?” And though some members were dubious, the church decided to start a Lifetree Cafe ministry at a local wine bar.

Now, every Monday night people from the community come to this bistro, order drinks and food, and settle in for a guided discussion that leads to biblical and Jesus-centered conclusions. It’s often standing-room-only. “We have a lot of people that don’t want to come to church, but they come here,” Bloder said.

Though there’s no agenda to lure the wine bar patrons into his church’s pews, Bloder sees how this outreach–and others–have helped the church grow in many ways. Over 90 percent of his members are now actively involved in ministry. “We tell our people: we are the church, wherever we go,” he said.

But that concept of taking God out of the church building threatens many rigid church folks–especially if it disrupts longstanding tribal rules and traditions. Many churches and denominations would rather deteriorate and die than tamper with their traditional image. Bloder said, in the American church at large, “there’s a fear that we’ll lose our identity if we change.”

Traditions are fine, until they impede the work of Christ. In order to be “in the world, not of the world,” we need to be IN it.

Listen to my entire conversation with Pastor Leon Bloder here on the Holy Soup audio podcast:

 

(Learn how to get the film When God Left the Building here or on-demand here. See more about Lifetree Cafe here.)

49 Responses to “Jesus at the Pub: Dangerous Cocktail?”

  1. I believe when we boil things down, we’ll realize that Jesus met and continues to meet us where we need him. If that’s in a bar, wine bar or a shopping mall it’s appropriate. Sometimes I wonder what things would look like if we took part of a church service and treated it like a staff meeting… Meaning the laity reports back on what ministry successes outside the church building they were part of. After all, were to go into all the world making disciples of all nations.

  2. I’ve posted this before but it needs repeating. The building and paid staff are nothing more than tradition. Loving people where THEY are is what Jesus did and what He expects of us!

  3. While doing a missionary trip to Israel I encountered a man on the street who was obviously very upset with me. Since I don’t speak Hebrew I had a hard time understanding what his problem was. I was working with someone who spoke Hebrew and he translated for me and it turns out that he had the same fear described in your article. ” We will cause them to lose their identity”. I guess one needs to understand what and in whom they’re identity is found.

  4. Being IN can easily morph into being OF. We are called to the role of missionary (light) not to the role of mission field. If we are not careful the world will convert us and the people we send to them. Stay on mission wherever you go (even in your home watching the world’s media) and always speak the truth in love. (I speak back to the TV.) Our silence will be seen as an endorsement of the world view being proclaimed (even by our subconscious mind), and will give people hope that they can persuade us to their views and lifestyles. As Christ followers, we are the persuaders, the missionaries — living in the world to promote God’s heavenly cause!

    • And Jesus played it safe? If our regeneration and baptism is so frail, then we might as well not follow Jesus into what is ultimately his world.

      Spurgeon said about the gospel that it’s like a lion – you don’t have to defend it, just open the cage door.

      • Jesus stood His ground. He loved unconditionally but He didn’t allow the world or public opinion to get Him away from His mission or to compromise His values. That’s not “playing it safe.” That is assertive humility. All Christ followers are called to be lights IN the world, not reflectors of the world.

      • With respect I think you’re playing with semantics there Steve, I think you can engage in witness within a pub setting without in any way compromising your faith or succumbing to worldliness (reflecting the world). Done that.

        I think the last line of the blog says it all.

        Blessings by the way and let’s agree to disagree.

      • I agree. We can indeed “witness within a pub without in any compromising” our faith. I’m only saying that if we are not careful, we can become the ones who are being influenced rather than the one’s who are doing the influencing. I believe that one of the problems with contemporary Christianity is that we (including me) are saturated by the world and it’s point of view and not very influenced by the risen Jesus and the Bible’s point of view. When I read Acts, I see Christians who were very different from the society around them. However, today many polls show that Christians have basically the same values as society in general.

  5. Tim commented on Facebook: “I wonder, as someone who is in recovery from alcoholism, how this is perceived by the recovery community, and how it potentially leads to some type of exclusivity. I don’t have any issues with Christians enjoying alcohol responsibly in accordance with their own Christian Liberty, but folks in recovery can view this as a barrier to their own journey into Christian community and potentially a stumbling block in their own recovery.”

    • I think it doesn’t matter. Recovery is for people who drink to excess, or who do drugs. Those people can never drink again. A Christian man or woman who understands how this might work, and has no problem with alcohol could easily participate.
      As far as your concern that “folks in recovery view this as a barrier,” I have known quite a few of those. They often “fall off the wagon” of their own accord, and they typically have no issues with others using alcohol. they just know THEY can’t do it. YMMV, of course, but the people I have known would be OK with it, if they understood its purpose, and that it’s controlled.

  6. We the church are a “sent” people. Let us not forget that we are ambassadors (wherever we are) with our lives and faith on display, always ready to give a defense for the hope we have, with gentleness and respect.

  7. Because of my own background, I haven’t been in many pubs, but I applaud this. Jesus is the perfect subject for the pub.
    God bless everyone who does this. If I can get my head around drinking a beer with friends in a pub now and then, I might do it as well. With the amount of alcohol I consume, though, I’ll have to call a cab after the first one…
    My background, by the way is “Total TeeTotal,” but thank God for the men and women who are unafraid to be with “ordinary people,” and don’t just live around “Church People.”

  8. I really enjoy a good IPA with friends, and our conversations often go to my relationship with Jesus. In that relaxed, easy atmosphere, we can talk about Him in ways that might be awkward in other situations.

    I respect the position of Christians who abstain from alcohol, and defer to them when I’m in their presence. However, I know how to drink responsibly, and I don’t bind myself to their decisions.

  9. There is certainly no biblical mandate that prohibits drinking a glass of wine or a beer in respect of your Christian conscious, but does this action glorify our Heavenly Father in any fashion? At the end of your drinking is there a positive and uplifting glorification of Jesus in it? Let us do everything as unto Christ and to glorify our Father. Sure, go to the pub and hold your conversations about Christ, but why are we partaking in this alcohol consumption of a product that has been remade and repurposed through the centuries as a product to yield much higher alcoholic percentages for the distinct purpose of altering ones reality and present mood and state of mind. This is what we have to consider when choosing to drink or take part in any activity that’s sole purpose cannot be used to glorify God.

  10. Love this! Great idea…..thanks for sharing. Paula

  11. Speaking personally, I have no problem with witnessing in a bar or to my friends over a G and T or a beer on a hot day, but I have a serious problem with taking it into a church setting where ritual and tradition is important. However, and most importantly, celebrating the Eucharist that is non-alcoholic is very important to me. If my witness encourages or supports those with alcohol-related issues, then it is just plain wrong! We have two AA groups that meet in our church and for us to encourage them by our faith-stance in contradictory behavior, is unfaithful.

  12. Ruth commented on Facebook: “We had a Bible study in a bar for awhile. Ironically, most of the guys drank soda, but they were there! Led to a lot of great conversations with the regulars, from what I heard. (It was a men’s session.)”

  13. Aarrghhh, Thom, you sure know how to pick the subjects! (Thanks by the way!)

    Jesus didn’t worry about whether He was giving tacit approval to alcohol.
    He didn’t worry about sending the wrong message.
    He didn’t worry about whether He or the Father was being ‘glorified’ by it or not.

    He did care for people, had a heart for the ‘nobodies’, and made disciples of them. He met them where they were at, encouraged them to follow Him.

    The Pharisees were the ones who tis-tisked about whom He was hanging out with, or where He was hanging out, or what ‘message’ He was ‘sending’. Jesus didn’t have much use/respect for these folks…

    Alcohol was part of communion, whether by design or by default it certainly didn’t diminish the picture.

    Only the stuffed up ‘churchians’ get as exercised by the alcohol issue. The world hardly thinks about it other than to assume that it must be a bad thing since the churchians say it is.

    Does it really even cause offense? To the weaker brother that is? Nope, don’t use that one either, it is a bit like the meat offered to idols thing but still, Paul woudn’t condemn either side, but did suggest that we’d best follow our own conscience rather than worry about someone else.

    But let’s get to the real issue.

    Are we out in the world making disciples? or hidden away in our churches complaining about the world and hiding out from it? Jesus wasn’t. Are we worrying about what’s on the outside of the cup or what’s inside the cup? Making disciples is messy. Reaching a lost world is messy. Jesus’ example was to be someone who didn’t let people’s ‘stuff’ get in the way nor did He remind them that He was a cut above them.

    We could take a lesson….

  14. Before you throw the first stone at this idea , keep in mind a lot of lives have been destroyed in Churches. I would bet everyone of you here could give an example of that.

  15. My question is: Are the one s that are doing the missionary work thru the week at the Pubs going back to their own churches or is it their church when they are going to the Pubs..
    The Bible does teach separation from things of this world.

    • It surely all depends on your definition of ‘church.’ Imho (and huge numbers around the world) most institutional churches don’t qualify according to the NT Scriptures… It’s certainly not the ‘building’ or a ‘service’ led by professionals once or twice a week…

      • I do agree that what most people see as the church is not the church. But where does a new believer go that is saved in these Pubs. Do they still stay at PUB ministering and possibly doing some of the things they were delivered from and telling the people to change. Ain’t that what has turned people off of church is that the people who are going to church are doing the same things as the PUBS and Dives. Wouldn’t the same thing be said of the new believer.

  16. There’s a ton of ministry opportunity out there, outside of the church. It’s just in places most church people don’t want to go, but Jesus would have gone. It’s in the dive bars, in the strip joints, in the storage sheds where homeless live, etc. These are the people Jesus calls us to serve and to know.

    • I am not so sure Jesus would have went into Bars or Prostitute Houses and dives. You see Jesus did Miracles and healed people and the people came to him.
      Mark 16:15-18King James Version (KJV)

      15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

      16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

      17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

      18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

      Was Jesus a friend of sinners? The Scriptures never said he was.

      Who was Jesus a friend of?

      Do some Bible study and you will find out.

      • So Jesus “ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners” but wasn’t their friend? (Lk. 5:30-32) I wonder why they loved him so much, enough to follow him for the rest of their lives…

        Some of us have done some Bible study – a lot depends on what glasses one wears…

      • This scripture does not say He was a friend of sinners. Just because you eat and drink with someone does not make you a friend?
        Have you ever thought about it this way, the reason that sinner and publican anted Jesus to come eat with them, was that He always drew a crowd when he came. Most of the time had His disciples traveling with Him.. They could boast I had Jesus come to my house. Yes, Jesus took advantage of the situation and minster the Gospel to them.
        Jesus never said He was friend to sinners?
        Keep on checking.
        James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

      • Here another verse for you – Jesus spends lots of time with sinners. Here’s a verse – Mark 2:15-16 – 15 (NRSV) And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. 16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” There are other examples. Here’s a good blog post that deals with the idea of Jesus being a friend of sinners – https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2014/03/04/jesus-friend-of-sinners-but-how/.

      • Like I say. Jesus never said He was a friend of sinners. Just because you eat with someone or you invited into their house does not make you a friend? Jesus did take advantage of situations to proclaim the Gospel and that is what we should do.
        James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

      • Hey Scotty, absolute baloney. But God bless you anyway!

      • Here is who Jesus said was his friends.
        John 15:12-16 King James Version (KJV)

        12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

        13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

        14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

        15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

        16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

        Look Who called Jesus a friend of sinners amongst other things, that he was not guilty, because Jesus was sinless.

        Luke 7:30-36 King James Version (KJV)

        30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.

        31 And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like?

        32 They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.

        33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.

        34 The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!

        35 But wisdom is justified of all her children.

        36 And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.

        Get some bread and mayonnaise and make you a sandwich

  17. Marty commented on Facebook: “Been rethinking this through the night. I’m officially changing my stance. I’d go. I’d lead such a discussion if I were walking by His Spirit instead of in my own fears and limitations. He sent His disciples into the highways and hedges, to those connecting places, nearer the demonic and the lepers…why wouldn’t he want me there ?”

  18. Larry commented on Facebook: “No! Jesus would never visit a bar… unless it was full of prostitutes and tax-collectors (aka sinners). :-)”

  19. Lynda commented on Facebook: “Martin Luther used bar songs and turned them into hymns! He also met believers or potential believers right where they were, just as Jesus did. May it all be used for His Greater Glory!”

  20. controversialchristian1 Reply June 2, 2016 at 11:28 am

    There’s a balance to be made. The church is NOT the building, but actually those who come together to worship Jesus. Lots of people feel church is not for them. It can be cliquey, judgemental and a bit middle class. Would you bar Jesus out of a pub? Didn’t He make the best wine, after all?! God can reach out to anyone anywhere.

  21. I don’t think there is the bad stigma about bars now. Back in the 70’s, early 80’s, my particular Baptist denomination were very much against going to bars or movies dancing, living out of wedlock and sex before marraige. When the Christian Rock or contemporary came along, they were against that also. I think things have changed. The question is whether it is good or not.

    Even though old ways seem over bearing and restrictive and made out to be so bad now making Christian haters and all, Wasn’t society a lot more moral, ethical and peaceful then?

    • I am a member of the Assemblies of God and we believed and preached against a lost of these thing, as did the Baptist. I still believe in the old time way and those things were sin back then and still are sin to me.
      The reason why some do not preach against such things is they are wanting numbers and the Assemblies of God does have some large churches now days.
      But I prefer being on the other side of the track.as they said in the old days.
      The Assemblies of God is no longer a Pentecostal denomination, because more than 50% of the member do not have the Baptism of the Holy Ghost with evidence of speaking in other tongues according to Acts 2:4..
      I am not going into a doctrinal exhortation on this subject.
      But the Assemblies of God have back slid and they are very worldly and it makes me sick.
      I have been Pentecostal all my life and I guess you would call me 3rd generation Pentecostal, because my grandfather and my parents were Assembly of God.
      I don’t think Jesus would just go into a bar or place of ill repute on His own, But I think He would go in if invited.

  22. I still say what matters is the intent of doing something. Like I said before many people have had their lives destroyed in Churches , which were strictly alcohol free zones. We could start with sex abuses, misogyny, money fraud, and just plain abuse of power. No influence of alcohol was needed to commit these sins. People commit these sins freely, while being stone cold sober.

    • Wayne: That is the sad part. That people are hurt at church, where there shouldn’t be such things. But that does not make it right.
      I do not go to church like I used to, because church has got to be where it is an entertainment show instead of a ministering place. It is like going to a rock concert.
      But I don’t go to rock concerts in the secular world either.
      You hear most a social Gospel preached to motivate those in the pews. But the church as a whole no longer preach against sin and the power you need to overcome sin.
      That is why sinful acts is prevalent in the church.
      I feel that a sinner when he comes off of the street into a church, His spirit should be troubled because the power of God would be so real in the church.
      Not many people knows what it means to feel the annointing or the power of God in a service, because it would scare the average churchgoer, because they have not been taught about it or experience it and IT IS REAL.
      That is why the people cried out for Jesus when he Passed by, because they knew there was something different about them.
      Christians are to be different and separated from the world and the sinner should not comfortable around them, if they are filled with the Spirit.
      The reason why most people are hurt, is because the people have not lived a disciplined life and the people in the churches are living the same kind of lives as those without..
      I could go on
      But the thing is the average church member is not saved. If they were their lives would show it.

  23. controversialchristian1 Reply June 3, 2016 at 11:10 am

    Jesus went out into the world, He didn’t hide away in a building full of religious people holding their noses at the great unwashed, the unclean and the ordinary masses outside doing what they had to do to get by. My friend is a Christian and an ex alcoholic. This type of meeting is obviously not for him, or anyone else who is/was an alcoholic either. Even I don’t really like rowdy pubs full of people getting blitzed, but I can drink moderately now and again.

    I find a lot of what passes for Christian faith and life irrelevant and sometimes boring, and I am a practising Christian. What those outside the faith think is anyone’s guess, but I suspect it is largely negative. Jesus went amongst ordinary people everywhere, and largely rejected the religious because they didn’t know Him although they often claimed to be superior to ordinary common folk. Is there a lesson there? Not all those who God calls are the religious. I don’t enjoy religion, I have a relationship with Jesus. He mixed with all types of people. So should we.

    • I agree. I think there is a tendency to place “Church ” up on a pedestal just because it automatically assumed to be a morally superior place. That is a false assumption. It is possible to find higher moral standards in a Neighborhood Pub than in some Churches.

      • controversialchristian1 June 4, 2016 at 10:48 am

        The story of the Good Samaritan is really God telling us that good people aren’t necessarily from the ‘right’ backgrounds, don’t necessarily have to be formally religious or be anything like churchy people to simply be decent and compassionate. Sometimes those born in the ‘right’ backgrounds with wealth or good educations, or just those who appear to have it all together can be the most selfish, and ironically those least able to empathize with others. I understand this only too well. I come from a very working class background where there are indeed some very rough, ready, tough and uncouth people knocking around. They go to the pub rather than church. Being educated, I have felt I don’t fit in anywhere, but in general I think there are more genuine people from poorer backgrounds than wealthy ones. There is at least more honesty, in my experience in a sinful pub goers, than a particularly pride filled church goers. God sees the heart, after all.

      • Let me share this with you from a minister friend of mine who is 86 years old. He gave up a career in Country music to preach the Gospel.
        Bro. Bill Carter had a contract with MGM records which is a major record label.
        Bill Carter
        3 hrs ·
        “Could you visit my boys in that night club in Burley and ask them to come back to the Lord?” I listened to the plea of a fine pastor in Emmett Idaho. My reply was that I would not go into the place of drinking, but on the way to Utah, I would roll the window of my van down, reach my hand toward the town and ask God to bring Gary and Jim White back into the fold. The boys had been raised in church and Brother Jim “Buddy” White was one of the best Christians I had ever known. I kept my promise as I traveled toward the red hills of Utah and prayed for a miracle.Divine Providence brought me back to Emmett a few weeks later to another church besides Brother Buddy’s. This time I had ridden a Greyhound bus to the revival and was using the church P.A. system to play my accompaniment tapes through. On an off night,when there was no country music in Burley, the White brothers and their sister showed up at our revival meeting..The convicting power of the Holy Ghost filled the tabernacle and the boy’s sister,weeping, suddenly ran to an altar of prayer. Those big old boys saw their sister crying and all at once, something touched them too. I saw all three of that wonderful pastor’s children crying out to God! There was a dramatic change in those lives that night and the next day, a hasty trip to Burley, brought the sophisticated sound equipment from a night club in Burley to a revival meeting in Emmett. We sang together and cried together all the remaining days of the Emmett crusade…Today, both the White Brothers are pastoring churches..Do I treasure this memory? Oh yes….Just to see prayer answered from a rolled down window of a van and to see the convicting power of the Holy Ghost at work in lives, always brings a joy to my old 86-year-old heart…..Memories today from the old Troubadour.

  24. If it is so bad to have a Bible study in a pub/bar because we are so afraid the believers will be encouraged to drink, or alcoholics will be encouraged to drink more, then we shouldn’t be having them in restaurants or coffee houses either. It will encourage people to eat (more) gluttonously, or over-imbibe in caffeinated beverages.

    • Are you like the Pharisees?
      Luke 7:33-35
      King James Version (KJV)

      33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.

      34 The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!

      35 But wisdom is justified of all her children.

    • Don’t take his bait, he thrives on it!

  25. This is just like a ‘convo’ in a pub!!! I’ll have a virtual pint of beer please (English, not American beer!!!), and a packet of hedgehog flavour crisps! What are you having!??

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