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Video: Texas congregation launches ‘Bar Church’ to reach outside its walls

Bar Church from Southern Hills Church on Vimeo.

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The Southern Hills Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas, is launching “Bar Church.”
The church explains on its website:

Southern Hills is a church committed to the vision of being God’s Community Front Porch: Inviting, Including and Involving people in the life of Jesus. As we’ve grown into this vision, God has repeatedly led us to follow Jesus outside the walls of our church building to serve and share life with people — many of whom are not connected to God or a church family.
In the past few months, God has led a group of Southern Hills members to make plans for something we’re calling Bar Church. The mission of Bar Church is to take the gospel of Jesus to people who are unwilling, as a result of feelings of unworthiness or prior negative experiences with a church, to participate in a traditional church gathering within a traditional church setting. We believe it’s something Jesus might do.  Watch the video below to see more.

  • Feedback
    All evangelistic brethren need to know that the Outreach church of Christ in Hamilton TX has a booklet “The Good News From God” which is free to give to the Lost. “Dennis Ensor” , In Spanish, also.
    ken hargesheimer
    March, 7 2013
    This is a great concept Southern Hills. The little book that Ken mentioned in his comment might work well with this bar ministry.
    You can download the electronic version (English or Spanish) of “The Good News From God” evangelistic book at www.outreachchurchofchrist.com.
    Outreach church has made the giving away of this book, in paperback form, a ministry of our church. Request your free copies at [email protected] or directly from Dennis Ensor, a shepherd at Outreach at [email protected].
    May God bless your great ministry. Dennis
    Dennis Ensor
    March, 7 2013
    This is so utterly absurd. It would be comical if it were not so sad. Every Christian should be anxious to reach out to sinners. There are parolees, ex-cons, and former drug abusers in the congregation I am privileged to preach to each Lord’s day, but we certainly did not frequent brothels, bars, or other dens of iniquity in reaching out to them. Isaiah proves accuate again (Isaiah 5:20-21).
    Orion Mitchell
    March, 7 2013
    I suppose there will always be detractors who try to dismiss proactive Kingdom work because it doesn’t suit their idea of “ministry”, and I’m so glad that my brothers and sisters in Abilene- whom I worshiped with for many years- are being missional within their community by being the hands and feet of Jesus WHERE THE LOST reside, instead of standing around waiting for the lost to show up at their doorstep. (Truly, that is an absurd concept.)
    This is biblical.
    This is missional.
    This is the very thing Jesus did during his day, and to prove another point, the Church MUST look at today’s culture and adapt their ministry to reach others. Gone are the days when people flocked to church buildings just because former generations did it that way. To be the church, you have to go to the Lost. Seems I read that somewhere in the Sermon on the Mount.
    In His grip,
    -Troy M. Stirman
    McKinney, TX.
    Troy Stirman
    March, 7 2013
    Orion- Why not go to where they are? They are not going to come to you. I think what Southern Hills is doing is smart. People have been trampled on by “christians” and many see the churches of Christ as unwelcoming. Bar Church shows the willingness of the church of Christ to get out of their house of worship and meet the people. We need to support Southern Hills instead of discourage them, anything that helps even one person find salvation will be considered successful.
    Tia Stafford Dugan
    March, 7 2013
    May God truly bless your efforts. My first thought was that you broke the mold…but perhaps you’re just putting it back together the way Jesus made it in the FIRST CHURCH place
    janice beeler
    March, 7 2013
    I agree that we must go where the sinners are in order to reach them. That churches of Christ are beginning to do this is encouraging. I would caution those who find this a problem that the Pharisees saw the same problem when Jesus went to Matthew’s house to eat and associate with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus did not partake of their sins. Neither can we, but the opportunity to reach out to those that are lost can not and must not be passed up. The fact that we must associate with sinners is why Paul cautioned us to consider ourselves lest we also be tempted. If we don’t associate and don’t reach out we will never be tempted, but we will also never reach the lost.
    Wesley N Dawson
    March, 7 2013
    Jesus might have gone to Matthew’s HOUSE, but he did not teach his disciples to go to places of public intoxication. I have never read a passage where Jesus went to a location where the INTENT was to become intoxicated, pick up a one-night-stand, or perpetuate other sexual sins. Please do not quote John 2 – that was a wedding held most likely at a private residence, not a commercial bar.
    For those defending this practice, at which point would you say “enough?” I wonder if anyone would be allowed to enter the bar during “bar church” if they were under the age of 21. If not, why not? If you have to be an “adult” to enter church, how is that pleasing to God?
    And should we not then establish a church in one of the many topless bars (“Gentlemen’s Clubs”) that are so plentiful in our major cities? If not, why not? If we can welcome the “sinners” at a Country Bar, why not take the gospel to the girls working the brass poles and lap dances?
    A lot of descriptions came to my mind when I read this story, but I’m sorry, “missional” was not one of them.
    Paul Smith
    March, 7 2013
    I understand the need to be accepting BUT as the Lord’s Bride, we need to be unspotted from the world and be separated from the world! I blame the Progressive movement in this “friendship evangelism”!
    How far do we go to “accept” people? Can we use the classrooms as massage parlors and get a “massage” after services? If not, why not? SAME LOGIC! We have home schools instead of putting our kids in public schools. Can I home school my children and keep them out of “Sunday School”? If not, Why Not? Progressive thinking works both ways to the building up the church and tearing down the church. We must remember two things: The Word of God will never pass away and Jesus’ Church will always be here NO MATTER HOW SMALL AND DWINDLING! The Good News is that one day he’ll hand us over to the Father! Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, NOW!
    todd padgett
    March, 7 2013
    The varied response to this tipsy ‘bar church’ escapade reminds me of Paul’s words: “When you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1 Cor. 11:18, 19).
    Southern Hills is a self-declared bar church. This certainly helps the saints know whether they are approved!
    Roy Davison
    March, 7 2013
    Sounds like another gimmick. In the meantime World Bible School searches for teachers to help people who are asking to be taught. We need to win the winnable while they are winnable. Remember only 1/4 of the soil of the human heart is receptive. But at 11:30am on Sunday morning in a bar you won’t find the ones you are really searching for in this ministry goals. You will find the curious members who will try anything for awhile. We need to try new locations but the bar scene location might pull some struggling folks to the last place they need to be. Especially since you said you would mark the hands of those under 18 so they couldn’t drink. So what about those over 18? Try your gimmick, but hope you don’t cause a brother who is an alcoholic to stumble. Whoa to you if you do.
    March, 7 2013
    I applaud Southern Hills for presenting Jesus to whoever will listen.
    “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert”, c. 2012 by Rosaria C.
    Butterfield can serve as evidence to everyone of Jesus’ power to change us.
    Wayne McDaniel
    March, 7 2013
    Jesus told the woman at the well to go and sin no more. Will this be the first sermon? The video is not clear. Will there be a deacon in charge of the “designated driver ministry”?
    We should all pray the the eyes of those involved in such a travesty will be opened.
    Ken Powell
    March, 7 2013
    Can’t we ever use some logic? How is this as a scenario. A non believer is sitting at the bar and is ready to leave, not drunk but maybe needs something. So, he sees a trio of “church of Christ” people sitting at a table with a sparkling water or 7-Up on the table. The trio smiles at him and invites him to stop and visit. Of course he is surprised and feels OK with it, so he does and they begin a conversation which leads into talking about Jesus. The man is not offended and seems interested to at least listen. He knows the trio do not drink from what he can see, and so a seed is planted. Now what is YOUR problem with that!!!
    March, 7 2013
    I pray that your efforts bring lost souls into a right relationship with God. This sounds like a wonderful idea. I do not understand the critics of your approach. The building is not the Church; You are merrily using a building on Sunday morning that is ordinarily empty and not hard for your audience to find. The Church of Christ where I attend has had a prison ministry for many years and thus far no member of our congregation has become a resident.
    March, 7 2013
    Well Paul, since you have directed me not to use John 2 I guess I’ll have to find other scripture for my response. How about Mark 2:15-17? Perhaps you’re familiar with the passages where Jesus was loudly ridiculed by the Pharisees for hanging out in the homes of tax collectors and all other types of sinners?
    And bravo for your gentlemen’s club suggestion! ‘So it is written, so it shall be done!’
    Mike Ricker
    March, 7 2013
    The comments by some of the people on this post illustrate perfectly why the churches of Christ are dying off
    March, 7 2013
    So, those of you that are so critical of Southern Hill’s decision. Are you making these comments based solely on what you’ve seen in a one minute, forty one second media video? Please tell me you’re better informed to make the comments that you’re making than that. Have you bothered to contact any of the elders or ministry staff at Southern Hills in order to gain a greater understanding of what all is involved here?
    Based on what I’ve read tonight, I totally agree with what Chris posted above.
    Mike Ricker
    March, 8 2013
    Amen Chris. Also, a basic ommission from what we read in the NT – confessing our sins to each other, and praying for each other (James 5:16 & 1 John 5:16)- is a source of dying for ALL churches where that
    ommission prevails. It is clearly our pride that keeps us from the confessions that set us free by the power of Jesus risen. “Repentance brought us to Christ in the first place, and repentance will keep on bringing us back.”- Rebecca Pippert. “And even though I am no longer a lesbian, I’m still a sinner. I’m redeemed, but still fallen. And sin is sin. I believe that the Lord is more grieved by the sins of my current life than by my past as a lesbian.”- Rosaria Butterfield
    pp24-5, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, c.2012
    The failure of people in ALL churches to confess sins to one another and pray for each other, makes many meetings as weak as one hand clapping.
    Wayne McDaniel
    March, 8 2013
    As far as Jesus going to “a location where the INTENT was to become intoxicated, pick up a one-night-stand, or perpetuate other sexual sins” as the reason not to enter into those four walls: My ex brother-in-law picked up his now ex wife while attending our four walls with pews. I had heard that church was a great place to meet insignificant others. Most of us have witnessed similar relationships as a result of our assembling together. The intent to attend church may not be to worship or at least the desire to worship may not always override the desire for an attendee. Both left their spouses for each other. People go to bars for lots of reasons besides getting drunk, hooking up and having sex. Wouldn’t it be great if they found Jesus instead! It would be nice if they found Jesus in all of our assemblies.
    Mike Nance
    March, 8 2013
    Way to go Southern Hills! This is taking the gospel to the people – the way Jesus did. The only problem is that they are meeting there on Sunday morning. The church should be in the bars ministering to people on Sunday night and every night. God’s people need to sit down and have beer with his suffering children and listen to their needs and concerns because that is the example that our Lord gave us.
    Nathan Williams
    March, 8 2013
    Mike, the reference is still to Jesus meeting in someone’s private home, not a place of commercial intoxication and sexual promiscuity. Jesus met with all types of individuals, saints and sinners alike. However, he never placed himself in a compromised situation. We cannot control what others think. We can control our own behaviors which lead others to sin – Romans 14:13-23, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13.
    To be fair, here is my continuation of the conversation.
    Paul Smith
    March, 8 2013
    Jesus Christ drank alcohol. Jesus drank with sinners and was accused of overeating and getting drunk. Luke 7:34 KJV “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!” Jesus Christ’s first miracle was making around 180 Gallons of alcoholic wine. John 2:10 KJV ” And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk , then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now”. You can’t have “well drunk” and then drink some more, and fresh grape juice didn’t keep 2000 years ago.
    Bravo Southern Hills. There are already over 100 “regular” churches in Abilene, and if “sinners” wanted to go to them they would be. I’d rather go to this kind of church, and afterward enjoy a game of pool and a beer with a “sinner” than go to any of the many pretentious Churches of Christ who deceive themselves that they are “pleasing to the Lord” when their hearts are truely hard. You want to know why the Church of Christ is on the decline, just listen to the way you put down anything that’s not “sound” and “pleasing” according to the CoC traditions of men. Perhaps you could spend more time on the second great command, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Mark 12:31)
    Michael Murray, ACU alum (2003)BS,(2011)MA
    Michael Murray
    March, 9 2013
    “Mike, the reference is still to Jesus meeting in someone�s private home, not a place of commercial intoxication and sexual promiscuity. Jesus met with all types of individuals, saints and sinners alike. However, he never placed himself in a compromised situation. ”
    Lest we forget, there were no church buildings at the time either. Churches likewise met in people’s homes.
    What’s more compromising, meeting in a public place or having dinner and wine in the home of a harlot, with her bed in plain view? If you as a minister were to meet with a harlot, would your wife, your church, prefer you meet at a public place or at her home?
    I seriously doubt there were anything comparable to “bars” in Jesus’ time. However, I’m sure that Jesus’ reputation as a “glutton and drunkard” meant he was engaging sinners where they were.
    Michael Murray
    March, 10 2013
    To say that Jesus never put himself in a position where he could be questioned is beyond preposterous. He was well known for being at the parties of the worst kind of sinners, thieves, prostitutes, etc. He wasn’t afraid to meet broken people in their own habitats. Even in his very first miracle, he gave a bunch of wine to a group of people who had already drank up the first batch and whose tongues were expected to be dull enough to give the worst wine to.
    Here’s the deal, and I’d like Church of Christ people to get this through their heads once and for all… If you don’t like attending Bar Church, DON’T GO. That’s your business. Stop criticizing and armchair quarterbacking people who are actually trying to live up to Christ’s example. You’d think the Church of Christ had somehow given up the idea of congregational autonomy, what with how people seem to think they have the right to tell other churches how to conduct themselves.
    March, 10 2013
    I’ve shared my heart with many people in bars. With beer in hand. It’s a place where you have to be authentic, and this throws MOST Christians for a loop. They go into their alternate reality on Sundays, and then return to the world on Monday; is God relevant today, in the real world, to real people? That’s a far more important question than where you worship. Do Christians have a testimony of their personal faith that people in a bar will listen to? Or do you have to tell them to read someone else’s book? Can you share your own personal faith in a way that you don’t get back turn?
    We should work on ourselves first, and not worry about some people who are successfully sharing their faith in a bar.
    Kenny Gilfilen
    March, 10 2013
    Commercial establishment or private residence, what does it matter? Sin is sin in both locations. And souls can be saved in both too.
    Paul you ask a lot of questions in the article you authored. Let me ask you a couple. Before you wrote that, did you contact even one of our ministers or elders and get some of your questions answered? I am a benevolence deacon at Southern Hills. I was tasked by my elders to develop ways to enable our church to serve the homeless and needy of Abilene. I took Matthew 25 as my charge. When we go into the community to serve our friends, they are quite often intoxicated. Many continue to drink as we serve them meals and tend to whatever needs they may have. Should I disband this practice, simply because we are dealing with intoxicated folks? Should I stand at the front door of Southern Hills, and try to lure them in once their sober?
    I am a proud Southern Hills member, more so now than ever before. I am proud of my elders and ministers and the decision they have made here. I know their hearts, and I know these Godly men made this decision led by prayer.
    I find it sad that folks can watch a 1:41 minute news video or read a 4-5 paragraph article and form the opinions and post some of the things like what I’ve read here and on other news sites.
    Mike Ricker
    March, 10 2013
    I apologize if I have offended anyone. I did not name anyone specifically, nor did I even name the congregation in question. I made reference to this story, simply in case anyone wanted the context to my response.
    I attempted to be gracious in my comments regarding what I believed to be the hearts of those involved. I never wanted to impugn any motives nor use any condemning language. It was my blog, so I wanted to be direct. Maybe I went too far.
    Apparently, within the Churches of Christ, it is now no longer permissible to hold independent opinions.
    Mr. Ricker I never attacked you by name or association. I apologize for offending you.
    Paul Smith
    March, 11 2013
    J.C.Bailey, who baptized hundreds in Canada and thousands in India, preached in a bar. He had stopped at a restaurant who’s owner had a bar next door. When the owner learned that J.C. was a preacher, he said, “Next door is where you need to be preaching.” J.C. said he would be happy to do so. The owner introduced him and he preached the gospel without compromise, including a call to repentence. No one responded immediately, but all present had the opportunity.
    His brother, Cecil Bailey, as a young man was mocked because he declined an invitation to a dance. He responded, “I’ll come if I may bring my Bible.” They said, “Sure, bring your Bible!” But after he sat in a corner reading his Bible for a while, they asked him to leave. He was spoiling their fun.
    My brother-in-law, Bob Lewis, and son-in-law, Ian McGuiggan, both read their Bibles in coffee houses as a way to start conversations. Our daughter, Connie, in going door-to-door in Scotland, invited an alcoholic to services, who came and later became a Christian.
    The question is not whether we preach to sinners but whether we compromise the gospel in doing so. Sinners and prostitutes flocked to hear both John the Baptist and Jesus. I do not recall the passage where Jesus “went to parties” of prostitutes.
    Uncompromised preaching saves souls, hobnobbing with the world does not.
    Roy Davison
    March, 11 2013
    Not offended at all here. And here’s to a fruitful venture with Bar Church, may it glorify God. And as an evangelist buddy of mine says ‘They won’t know if we don’t go’
    Mike Ricker
    March, 11 2013
    When Jesus went to the home of a sinner, was He anticipating that he would be setting up a house of worship in the midst of that sinful place? Or was He making a brief stop there in order to call the sinner to come OUT of that place where sin was practiced?
    March, 11 2013
    I don’t remember Jesus ever calling for anyone to leave any place. If they are a sinner leaving their house will change nothing, they need to change their heart.
    Nor did Jesus or any other new testament figure ever establish a ‘house of worship’. There is no book/chapter/verse for us having church buildings.
    There is apostolic example of going to Jewish synagog. Perhaps that’s where we should be meeting.
    Michael Murray
    March, 12 2013
    Does Jesus call us �to leave any place�?
    Peter and Andrew “left their nets and followed Jesus,” James and John “left the boat and their father, and followed Him” (Matt. 4:20, 22). The tax collector, Levi/Matthew �left all, rose up, and followed Him� (Luke 5:28). The woman at the well �left her waterpot� to tell others about Jesus (John 4:28). Peter said, �See, we have left all and followed You� (Matt. 19:27). Jesus pronounced a blessing on those who have �left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands� for His sake (Matt. 19:20). He told his followers to depart from a house or city that would not receive or hear their words (Matt. 10:14). Referring to Babylon the Great, we are commanded: �Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues� (Rev. 18:4).
    To follow Jesus one must certainly leave his bar, and leave a lot more if necessary.
    Maybe a better project would be to give a tract to people leaving bars to encourage them to live sober lives with the help of God. An article, �Let us be sober,� is linked to my name above.
    Roy Davison
    March, 13 2013
    Roy Davison, to follow up on your point, perhaps also Christians must leave their church buildings to seek and save the lost!
    March, 13 2013
    Of course we leave (in the sense of go out from) our meeting places to preach the gospel! Some meeting place is required to assemble as commanded. Some buildings are a hindrance, but in my experience most are an asset.
    In September it will have been 50 years since I left the land of my birth to preach in Europe. Most of the congregations I have worked with have had rented facilities, some met in homes (which was a great hindrance to the work and a burden on the home owner) and two purchased their own meeting place with their own resources.
    Just about all of the congregations who supported us over the years had buildings, and probably would have not had the resources to do so if they did not have a building as an activity center for their congregation.
    The only “walls” the church of Christ has are the the great high walls of Zion that separate the saved from the lost. From day to day Christians are the salt of the earth and the light of the world wherever they are. They invite all who will listen to enter the narrow gate and walk the narrow way. Something is wrong if folks think they have to move to a bar to “get outside their walls”!
    Roy Davison
    March, 13 2013
    Meeting in homes was a “great hindrance to the work”???
    Tell me, how did the first century church EVER overcome so great a hindrance…
    March, 13 2013
    When they grew too large for a home, they overcame the constraining limitations of homes by meeting in the temple (Acts 5:11), in upper rooms (Acts 1:13; 9:37,39; 20:8), at a location other than their homes (1 Cor. 11:18, 22) and in their own synagogue ‘HO SUNAGOOGEE SU’ (James 2:2).
    Roy Davison
    March, 14 2013
    So if it reaches one person is it worth it?
    What is the price of one soul for eternity?
    The Bible says you cannot put a price on it.
    For those complaining the question must be asked, “what are you doing?”
    Our traditional styles have to be altered somewhat from the days of everyone leaving the fields for a day of rest to hear the preacher (there was no tv. etc.)
    Jesus went, Paul went.
    Let’s GO unto the utmost!
    Keith Martin
    March, 15 2013
    “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
    What if God chose to keep Jesus in heaven (his home church) and not send him into the world to be a light in the darkness? No matter where Jesus went, he was the ultimate act of worship. His very words, his teachings, his attitude and his willingness to love and meet people that church ignored was worship. He did the unthinkable; touching and healing lepers. He forgave the unforgivable (in man’s eyes). He spoke God’s truth wherever he walked. He worshipped God in every step he took.
    John 14:23 says “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching;” the teaching to “Go into ALL the world and preach the good news to ALL creation.” (Mark 16:15). I believe Bar Church falls under ALL.
    Lucky for us that God didn’t command us to sit in our comfortable pews waiting for those who are afraid or unwilling to venture inside the church, or we would never have the opportunity to share the good news. Jesus didn’t sit at the right hand of God waiting. He went out into ALL the world, everywhere.
    Rock on Southern Hills. Lead the lost and preach the good news.
    SHCC Member
    March, 16 2013

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