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MONDAY, MARCH 31, 2008Printer-Friendly
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Bar Room Religion
AUDIO BROADCAST: Bar Room Religion
Let the Bible Speak Radio
Dr. Alan Cairns

A North Carolina church recently decided to go to local bars to give out invitations to its services. There's nothing wrong with that. I can well remember back in Northern Ireland that churches commonly went to the bars to give out the gospel. Often we would have someone who could sing and they would usually be welcomed, especially if they sang "The Old Rugged Cross." That would open the way to give out gospel tracts and to speak personally with the less inebriated patrons. So I find nothing wrong with Christian workers visiting bars to distribute gospel literature or church invitations.

However, the NC church looked at things a bit differently. Its workers were not distributing gospel literature as you may imagine it. What they gave to each drinker was a shot glass with the message, "Give us a shot." I believe that crosses the line. Shot glasses are for shots of highly intoxicating liquor, string drink that can destroy everything in its way. Whether they intend it or not, for Christian workers to give out shot glasses is tantamount to an invitation to put them to their normal use.

The church leaders in NC made it clear that though they knew their latest gimmick would be controversial they stood by their methods. They were not trying to reach churchgoers but non-churchgoers. They were inviting them to a church that had grown from a few people to around 700 in a year or two by being "non-traditional" and so non-traditional evangelism would seem to go along well with the services they were advertising. By non-traditional, they mean that they conduct "contemporary" services, where people dress whatever way they like and are encouraged to sip a drink and eat doughnuts during the "worship" service.

I know that these so-called "non-traditional" approaches are popular nowadays. They have become an excuse for introducing all sorts of inappropriate elements into what claims to be Christian worship. I want you to stop and think. Can you imagine anything less like worshiping Jehovah as He is revealed in Scripture than this casual, man-centered approach to "doing church," as today's jargon puts it? Where is "the fear of the Lord?" In the Bible the fear of the Lord is essential to worship. You cannot worship God without a reverence that is appropriate to who and what He is-and I put it to you that there is not even the semblance of true Christian worship in the non-traditional atmosphere I have described.

I have a real problem with all this talk about traditional and non-traditional. It carries the notion that really the only reason for the kind of church service we conduct is tradition. In some cases that may be true, but we need to get away from all ideas of tradition and get back to what theologians term "the regulative principle" of worship. This is a truth that God's word establishes: God must be worshiped in the manner he has set forth in His word. Worship is not to be subject to every innovation the imagination of man can invent. We must worship God His way, irrespective of tradition or lack of it.

To take the church and the gospel to a bar is a good idea. To make the church like a bar-even if it is a coffee bar-is carnal not Christian. That's not tradition; that's plain truth.

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