How Far Is Too Far? OR You Can't Do That In Church!




How far is too far?

I have been asked this question twice in the past week. 

Both times it came in reply to a statement that I made about doing church differently. 

I am fascinated by efforts to plant incarnational ministries in third places as a means of connecting with un or de-churched folks in innovative ways. We planted a church in a coffeehouse two years ago which doesn't push the ecclesial envelope too far. 

But inevitably I get to talking about my friend Jerry who planted Afterhours in Denver.

The AfterHours community gathers in bars throughout the city. Congregants might have a beer or a cocktail with their nachos while engaging in a lively discussion about Jesus. 

Here is what this ministry says about themselves:

We have felt that there is a void in the God business. People that have good energy and that want to be a part of something bigger. People that have finely tuned B.S. antenna. People that want to wrestle with the questions and that don’t need easy answers. People that are not ok with the status quo when it comes to connecting to God.  Simply put, a more relaxed way to “do God”. We hope we are, in some way an answer for some people. We aren’t big into dogma and creeds. We are intentionally low-tech. We’re trying our best to figure out how to connect to God in an urban context. If we had a mission statement it would be, “Love God/Love People.” We believe in doing good & God, different. We are church for people that don’t do church.

Is that going too far? 

Is a bar not one of the most likely places Jesus would hang out if he were around today (Matt. 11.19)?

Do you know what else this group of mostly self-proclaimed un-churched folk do every week?

They make Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches. 

For homeless folk. 

Every time we get together, we make over 75 PB&J lunches that we give away to the homeless the very next day (Service in the service). Feeding people is our Call to Worship. Since we started this ministry, we have helped feed thousands of people this way. We are now our own faith community and doing things in our own unique way.We will never claim to have it all figured out. But we are having a blast so far. We are doing God and church different and so far we hand out 500-600 lunches every week. That doesn’t suck. Church needs to go beyond the walls of the building and AfterHours Denver is proving that is exactly what church can do!

People who may have little or no church background.

People who have no understanding of the God who loves them.

People who are searching for meaning in life but would never enter a conventional church building for a worship service.

People who are hearing the good news and being good news every week. 

That doesn't suck.

But is it going too far?

In the spirit of Jesus, allow me to ask a question in response to this question:

Are we more concerned about the guy drinking a beer or about the fact that the guy is encountering Jesus and acting like him?

Jesus was pretty clear when he was here. He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19.10).

Lost people are in bars.

Lost people are in coffeehouses.

Lost people are in bookstores and gaming rooms and movie theaters and cigar shops. 

A few lost people might find their way in to our church buildings on Sunday morning, but not many. The statistics show us this over and over again (conservative estimates say 60% of any given community will not attend church this Sunday. Some current reports are suggesting it's more like 80%)

Shouldn't we be doing all we can to reach that 60-80% of our community with the good news? 

All we can.

How far is too far?

I'm not altogether certain.

But I have a feeling that as long as the poor are hearing good news, the prisoners are being released, the blind are receiving their sight, the oppressed are being set free, and God's grace is being proclaimed (Luke 4.18-19; Isaiah 61.1-2), we have a ways to go.


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Comments

  1. Dear Pastor Sean...
    Well said! What is crazy about living in Denver... we are in the burbs and so far from the inner city where a lot of amazing ministry is going on. I miss that kind of connection with God's chosen ones- the least of these. Thank you for spreading the "keepin' it real" side of ministry! Blessings to you and Sandra!

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