Believers Who Object
Several years ago, I started to take the Gospel to the sidewalks near bars and strip clubs in local communities. I immediately met resistance from genuine believers.
“Why do you bother going there?” they would ask.
“What on earth makes you think they will listen?” came the frequent protest.
I don’t think that those who ask(ed) those questions intend for it to sound quite so negative. However, I do believe it comes from a misguided view of the power of the preaching of the Gospel. Furthermore, I believe it also communicates a deeply seated form of self-righteousness.
While the mindset may not be intentionally demeaning; the thought is there. Usually the person that utters these protests is coming from a lifetime of walking the Christian path. Many of them never lived in outright abject rebellion against God. Moreover, many came to saving faith early in life or grew up in Christian homes. Many of those objecting to ministering the Gospel near bars and strip clubs have never known a soul who frequents such places.
They may give ascent to the need for these people to turn to Christ. Yet, they have no grasp of how that should happen.
Unregenerate That Object
If anyone objects faster than fellow believers; it is the unregenerate at the bars and strip clubs. Within minutes the objections would fly.
“Why are you here?” they would ask.
“If we wanted religion we would be at church, not at a place like this.”
Or my personal favorite, “Why do you only come around at Christmas?”
That last one was particularly perplexing to me. I had never been anywhere near this place at Christmas.
I cannot help but wonder where these protests were coming from. The easy answer would be to claim it was just the result of hardened hearts. It would be difficult to not feel some conviction. The sight of a man holding a cross while you are going to look at naked women can be irksome. At least I can only imagine it would be.
However, I think there may be something deep-seated to these objections. Just as the believers who raised objections had certain underlying causes, so does the unbeliever.
The Pharisaical Heart
Modern American or western Christianity is rife with landmines. Whether it be pragmatic compromise or self-righteous-holier-than-thou closed-mindedness. On the one hand the western Church has become a judgment-free-zone wherein no one is allowed to call anything sin. On the other, if you aren’t doing things exactly the way we do them you are outside the camp.
If we are not careful we can easily drift into either of these camps. It isn’t easy to walk a biblical middle ground. How one goes about calling out sin where need be; at the same time not establishing your own standards for righteousness, is difficult.
Moreover, places like bars and strip clubs tend to provoke conflicting thoughts in the modern church attender. Some of us have no issues with sitting down in bar and having a drink. Still others find any consumption of alcohol a deep sin that could result in church discipline. One can only hope that most church attenders would consider going to a strip club a grievous sin.
Granted there are manifold reasons for people seeing strip clubs as dens of sin. Many modern western Christians see strip clubs as sinful because they promote misogyny and objectify women. Still others have an orthodox view and understand that these places promote lust if not full-fledged adultery.
However, despite those varied reasons, many Christians never dream of preaching the Gospel outside of bars and strip clubs. But why?
This will sting. Because they are just like the Pharisees who disparaged Christ for going to the worst sinners in the cities and villages he frequented. They want nothing to do with the dregs of society. They know that these folks are hopelessly lost and desperately in need of Christ. Yet, they refuse to lower themselves enough to go to them where they are.
Their hearts are proud…
Lord I Thank You That I Am Not The Person Who Likes Bars And Strip Clubs
Jesus gives an account of two men in the temple praying. One of them, a Pharisee, stands looking toward heaven and prays. He thanks God for not making him like the tax-collector next to him. The tax-collector won’t lift his head to pray, instead he keeps his head down and confesses his sinfulness.
I imagine most of us can relate to the tax-collector. What I also imagine is that most of us would never relate to the Pharisee. However, isn’t this the heart of the objections people give to me?
Time after time I have been told not to cast my pearls before swine. Moreover, I have been counseled to shake the dust off my feet and move on. Many Christians see any evangelistic effort outside of bars and strip clubs as a massive waste of time. There is a mindset that drives them to see these folks as beyond the reach of the Gospel when in that setting. Furthermore, no anecdotal account will be enough to persuade them otherwise.
Bringing Scripture to bear on them will have no effect. Reminding them that Christ Himself tells us to go out into the highways and hedgerows to compel people to come in is not enough. There is simply no reason to go to the disinterested and wantonly sinful people that frequent bars and strip clubs.
Consequently, they fail to see that they are playing into the hands of the enemy. The unregenerate do not want to hear the Gospel when they are out having a good time. No lost person ever does. The regenerate fail to see how Gospel can influence the unregenerate where they are. Furthermore, they do not want to run the risk of dirtying themselves by mixing it up with the outcasts and lepers.
These are meant to be strong words…
Bars and Strip Clubs Mean They Are Beyond Hope
As strong as my words have been I truly want you, my dear reader(s?), to know it comes from a place of love. Someone recently remarked about my gentleness towards unbelievers and contrasted that with my apparent heavy-hand with believers. It was a valid observation and not without its points. However, I am wont to say that my expectations for my fellow Christians are exponentially higher than for the unregenerate.
I am firmly convinced that we have forgotten that the Gospel is the power of God to salvation. Additionally, I believe that many today have adopted therapeutic moralistic deism as a precursor to preaching the Gospel. We’ve come to a place where lost souls must clean themselves up to some degree before they will be ready for the Gospel.
Therefore, before we will invest in “sharing the Gospel” with someone they are obligated to demonstrate that they are ready. It is this mindset, whether we recognize it or not, that causes us to look down our noses at those who frequent bars and strip clubs. We see them as beyond hope and incapable of responding to the Gospel message.
Many today would join with the Pharisees in ridiculing Christ for reaching out to the worst of the worst. At least the worst in our eyes. We can protest all we want and say we would never do such a thing. Yet, Peter said he’d never deny Christ because he was stronger than others around him. Look how that turned out.
We are compelled to ask ourselves some hard questions. Do we truly believe that the Gospel is the power of God to salvation? Do we believe that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved? Would we have preached the Gospel to Saul of Tarsus?
Lest We Forget We Were Worse
It goes without saying but the reminder is always good. Prior to conversion, we were as bad if not worse than those who hang out at bars and strip clubs. Unfortunately for us, God does not look at the outside but at the inside. Moreover, this applies to your little old aunt Gladys as much as it does to a stripper. Is the guy who shows up every night at the bar to get drunk beyond the power of God? No!
David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam killer from the 1970’s, went into prison a god-hating deranged psycho-path. Yet, someone entered his life behind those bars and proclaimed Christ to him. Apparently, Berkowitz repented of his sins and turned to Christ for everlasting life. Are the folks at bars and strip clubs worse than Berkowitz? Are they any worse than you were before salvation?
Not everyone is going to be out on the sidewalks in front of bars and strip clubs preaching the Gospel. Just like not everyone is going be out in front of abortion mills. We are all commanded to preach the Gospel. The where and the when will look different for each of us. It is imperative for us to not consider any person beyond the reach of the Gospel message.
We must be cognizant of our mindset and consider what causes us to look at others as being beyond the reach of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Even if we do not ever express the thought that a person is beyond hope, our actions and responses speak volumes.
Are we not glad that others did not consider us beyond hope…?
Therefore, I preach the Good News of Christ to those who frequent bars and strip clubs…
Soli Deo Gloria!