Saturday, May 8, 2010

Church in a Bar // Welcome to Another Level

Earlier today, I got a Facebook event invitation called "Bar Church." Intrigued, I clicked to learn more. Turns out a friend's band is leading worship and playing music at a service being held at The Oliver Twist Lounge, an upscale bar in Raleigh. This is Another Level. It's sponsored by Benson Memorial United Methodist Church. Here's Another Level's mission statement:

Here’s what we believe. God created us to come together, to help and serve one another, to recognize that everything comes from God, and that we’re all in the same big boat—trying to figure out how to live. God created us to acknowledge that nobody’s perfect, forgiveness is possible, and everyone has a place.

We’re created to figure out what to do when you or someone else screws up. We believe what we do in our community affects countless persons around the globe; what happens in far off places amongst complete strangers somehow matters to us.

We believe God calls us to discover our passions and to be in community with others, to choose love over greed, and peace over strife. We think that’s true community, inspired by Jesus.

We think that's Another Level.

I don't know how I feel about the idea in general, but it's fascinating. Meeting in a bar opens doors for people who swore never to set foot in a church again, or people who are afraid of judgment (which, sadly, is not an unjustified fear in many congregations). The teaching and discussion topics recently have been things like "No Matter What You've Done" and "Second Chances." They're putting the idea of redemption and reconciliation at the very forefront of their belief statement. That is cool.

Of course, there's always the lingering question in my mind about where the line is between connecting with the reality of this world and keeping ourselves separate--being in the world but not of the world. Being completely cordoned off alienates the church from the people and vice versa. But the church also has to be careful not to be subsumed into our culture. "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds" (Romans 12:2). Where is the line? Is Another Level compensating for too much separation? -- Sarah

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