My friend Kyle wants to plant a church called “St. Pete’s Church Bar and Grill.” It would be rather convenient for communion since the wine is close by, and you wouldn’t have guys getting antsy to go home for the football game. They can watch the game right from their padded bar-stools in church.
Kyle isn’t joking about this…
Church in a Bar
The cool thing is that I am already aware of some churches around the country doing something similar. I wrote a while back about the group in Montana called “Dirtbags” that meets in a bar, and I have also read about I heard about Vince Antonucci and his church in a bar in Virginia Beach. Then there is “Church in a Bar” in Rome, GA, and a few others around the country (If you know of one, leave a link to it in the comments below).
So I decided to see if there was one in the Dallas metroplex. I did a little searching, and found one with the Narrow Trail Church, which meets outside in the beer garden of a local restaurant, and decided to go visit. It turns out that this was not just a church in a bar, but was also a cowboy church.
Having previously pastored in Montana, I immediately felt at home when I walked in since most of the people were wearing cowboy hats, boots, wranglers, and big belt buckles. One bearded, heavily tattooed guy drove up on his Harley.
Breakfast in a Bar Church
I showed up at 9 am for their free breakfast and sat by a young couple who hadn’t been in church for three or four years but decided to check out the church that meets in a bar because “It’s not churchy.” Looking around, I knew what they meant. Where else can you attend church with one hundred neon beer signs and only one cross? However, as I was later reminded, “One cross is all you need.”
As I ate, I had a dozen or so people come up and welcome me. I was back in an area of the beer garden that was hard to reach, so one guy got up and just walked across the top of the tables so he could come greet me. That’s another thing you won’t see in the average church—people walking on the pews just to go greet a visitor. Since this church meets outside, I asked what they do in bad weather, and the guy proudly informed me that “rain or snow this is where they meet.” This is, after all, a cowboy church, and they are “tough as nails.” Part of the beer garden was covered, and so my guess is that when bad weather comes, they just gather under the covered area.
The Church Service in a Bar
The beginning of the service did not begin with a “Welcome” but we did have a “Howdy.” They had a few announcements and then the musician sang. The music was country western, and the songs weren’t really they type that people sang along to. It was more like you were in a bar listening to the house band. Considering the crowd that was there, I think this was a good idea since most of the people didn’t appear to be the singing type. This isn’t an insult; it’s just that some people don’t feel comfortable singing.
I did notice that when the music leader got up to sing, he had a Starbucks coffee in one hand. If you read the post on my Emergent Immersion, you will know why this is funny to me. It seems like all singers, songwriters, and artists drink Starbucks. I half expected him to pull out an iPhone.
Of course, he probably drank Starbucks becuase the free coffee was pretty bad. I met the guy who proudly told me he made the coffee, but then confessed he can’t stand to drink coffee. (Note to all churches: The person who volunteers to make the coffee should be somone who actually drinks coffee). So anyway, Starbucks and all, the songs were good quality, and since I like country music, found myself tapping my foot along to the music. I guess the musician has some CDs out, but I can’t remember his name…
The Sermon in a Bar
After the music, the pastor got up to preach. I had met him when I first walked into the beer garden, and he introduced himself at John Myers. I don’t think there is any relation to me. But he did graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary, so I guess I’m on the right track. Speaking of tracks, as soon as he got up to preach, we heard a train whistle off in the distance. He said, “Well, I guess I’ll wait for the train.”
It didn’t take me long to find out what he meant. About thirty seconds later, the train came rumbling by not twenty feet from where we were seated, blowing its whistle and drowning out anything the pastor could have been saying. Not many pastors have to deal with trains coming through their church before they preach, but everybody took it in stride.
Once the train was gone, the pastor taught for about thirty minutes from John 15. His sermon was not full of Christian lingo and theological jargon, but was clear, simple, and down to earth. He peppered his sermon with cowboy terms like “get ‘er done,” “have at it,” and “ain’t.” He even used a word in his sermon which would offend the gentler ears of most Christians, but which seemed right at home with this group.
When he was done, they closed out the service with a few more songs and then a rousing rendition of “Happy Trails to You.” On my way out, one man stopped me and asked if I would like to start teaching Sunday School next week. He either didn’t know I was a visitor, or wasn’t serious. I hope it was the latter because it’s probably not a good idea to ask visitors to teach Sunday School.
All in all, I really enjoyed this church and felt more at home than I have in a while. I felt welcome and I was instructed and challenged by the teaching of the Word. May churches like this flourish across America where the theology is conservative and the preaching is strong, but the church is flexible enough to meet the people where they are at.