I was standing some where in the vicinity of a corner if I remember vaguely enough, drinking a cup of coffee as I watched from about fifteen feet away as a guy and a bleach blond chic snorted cocaine off the stomach of another completely naked chic's body. Contrary to what Hugh Hefner claims about there being no drugs allowed at the Playboy Mansion I can tell you the same is not true at parties off sight. This particular occurrence happened right after the turn of this century in Miami. I was there as the bodyguard for a then client of mine, which basically afforded me as a then twenty something year old guy the opportunity to see more naked women than most National Geographic photographers ever will. Ironically enough I was not the least bit turned on, two hours earlier into the night I was...no sense in lying, but after a while viewing human depravity just took its toll.
The ironic thought that went through my head as I watched the coke being sniffed off the girl's body was "How in the heck does a person (and I was not thinking of myself) talk about Christ in a situation like this". I say ironic because Jesus was not a priority in my life at that time. You see somewhere between a very honest coming-to-Jesus moment at twelve and being a very active twenty-six year old Executive Protection Specialist I walked away from God. Now I didn't reject any notion of God or Christ existing, and I can tell you that I did pray at times, but my heart just wasn't right with Him. Yet there I was amongst a feast of female human flesh thinking about how some poor sap could come in and talk with these people about salvation. Because what I knew then and I know now is some of those people were screaming out for God to rescue them.
Flash forward a couple of years from that moment and I found myself at a confrontation with God. I had walked away from a very promising corporate career that made me absolutely miserable to do something on my own that would at the very least ease my stress level, let alone might make me happy. I had been attending a church the last several months and intermittently going to BSF (bible study fellowship international) for the last few years. My life was miserable, I was morally, emotionally and financially bankrupt, but the one thing I did have was some very very good friends in both non-Christians and Christians.
And then a moment happened that has forever changed my heart and my relationship with my Creator. I got down on my knees feeling completely worthless in so many aspects of my life and told God that this life was His and whatever He wanted me to do I would do it. It was the most selfless moment I've ever had in my life. And the only ones who were there to witness were God and Bud the cat. I was a man in desperate need of help in so many ways, and I had tried to fix it every way I knew how and had failed, yet there in me knew who could. Christ.
I wish I could tell you that the time following that moment was easy. It wasn't. I was involved with a couple of girls in some fashion that I was going to have to end, I was still at the point of being financially broke, but my heart was changed and whatever the world had on me it no longer mattered because whatever He had done no one else could undo.
Soon after I became more solidly involved in the Christian community, and what I also did was begin isolating myself from my non-Christian friends who were as close to me as brothers. Why? Well at the time I received advice from a lot of Christian brothers and sisters saying that there would be an over whelming temptation to fall back into my old life style.
Their advice may have been sincere, but it was also horribly horribly wrong.
Isolationists always are.
The problem is that this attitude is alive and well through out the Christian community. A ministry attitude of this reeks of Get-'em-up, Get-'em-saved, Get-'em-away. Christians are encouraged to stay away from the world unless you are doing something as a church body to further the Kingdom of God like go on over seas missions trips, or raise money for something or another. I'm not chastising this, I've done both and there is a need no doubt.
But a lot of white bread Christians don't want other Christians getting involved in the community in ways that might get them hurt or my personal favorite "fall back into sin". Like I need help sinning. These are the same people who will encourage you to go on missions to Africa. Shit you want to talk about getting hurt, go to Africa.
About a year ago The Wife and I were asked if we would be willing to lead a Small Group in our Church. Now I know that some people love to jump into stuff like this feet first, but frankly I had severe reservations. One, I thought "have you %$&#&*! met me?" and two sometimes these invites seem like winning popularity contests in High School. When you know the right people you're in. But I looked at who was asking, and I talked with God and The Wife about the whole concept of such an issue and we decided to go forward (though I still contend that they may have been scraping the bottom of the barrel).
Rule 21 of my own personal list of rules, which states "If you aren't going to lead, don't bitch about being led."
I was bitching a lot about things that bothered me in "small groups".
So after some time of apprenticeship training last fall, and some weird time thing in the late winter early spring we (The Wife and I) were given a kick to the pants to start leading a "group".
As we got close to starting God put something on my heart about going on mission into the surrounding community, and to be frankly honest it is nothing original what-so-ever.
Simply put I wanted our group to meet once a month in a local pub, bar, what have you for a couple of different reasons. One its a good opportunity for us all to kick back and relax with each other and get to know each other in less formal surroundings (though there is little formal about our Church, let alone the group) and the other is that is where you would have found Jesus Himself. Christ didn't preach from inside the synagogue and force people to come to Him, though in time people would flock to and follow him wherever he went.
When Jesus encounters Levi (aka Matthew) he is working as a tax collector for the Romans, though he was a Jew. Matthew or Levi was literally a social outcast and utterly despised by the Jews. Remember that 1st century Palestine was governed by an occupying army of Romans, Jewish tax collectors sold out there own people to graft them. So when they encounter each other Christ tells this enforcer/extortionist that He is going to dine in his home with all of his friends. Christ hanging out with societies outcasts is a theme we see Him repeat over and over.
Now I don't think people who go to bars are necessarily outcasts, nor do I think that everyone there is without Christ. But know this. There are people all over who won't darken a church but, have questions and desire to know more about Christ. Maybe....just maybe they don't want to be preached at. So thus I felt like we'd go to them. So I rang up the Pastor and asked him what he thought about it, and got a resounding "yes" and that was all I needed.
To be frank, I don't really care for alcohol. For the first time in my life I am learning to acquire a taste for beer and wine for several reasons. One is there are good heart health reasons for it, two if I can relate Christ to a person through a beer (and I mean one) then that is something. I guarantee you that I would not have said the same thing five years ago.
Alcohol is not something I struggle with. I struggle with being around people who are consistently drunk and I've spent a lot of time in my adult life being the only sober guy in a club or floating down a river with a couple of well lit friends who were chanting about "Cheetoes", which almost led to murder-by-wooden canoe paddle around mile ten.
Fast forward a few weeks.
Word kind of spreads through of what we are going to do, and one Sunday morning walking into church (late) and I stop to grab a cup of coffee before sitting down when a guy that I am friendly with stops me and pulls me aside. "Hey, I hear your small group is going to be going to a bar." "Yeah, just something God put on me to do." "Well you know we have people who are recovering alcoholics in this church, and I gotta say that I think it is kinda risky to be putting people into temptation like that."
First of all, we as a group talked about this. Second if you're a recovering alcoholic don't go to our base camp, or at-least don't join us on that particular night....duh.
I soon found it wasn't an isolated feeling amongst some folks and well I don't care.
Everyone gets hinky about the alcohol ordeal or "struggle" but no one asks a guy who is struggling with porn to throw out his laptop, or a chic who repeatedly sins through gossip to not own a telephone or half a dozen other situations.
The irony is that a few of these people who had reservations about this small group going into a bar and just hang out were the same ones at a church building campaign meeting who made statements like "we want it to be welcoming" or "don't make it look like a typical church so people won't feel intimidated".
I get bothered by crap like this. Everyone there expressed the desire to have the "tattooed, nose ring, whoevers" join us, but the moment you try an go to the places where you might encounter such individuals well THAT becomes and issue. And by the way I have two tats myself.
I think Jesus desires Christians to build relationships with non Christians that are authentic and that we lead lives that are a reflection of Him in us and share that with the world. In fact I'm pretty sure He made the statement to let your light shine and not conceal it. When you hide in your church or church body that is exactly what you are doing. You are hiding in a fort, and while you may feel safe and secure I can guarantee this. That you still are full of sin. Forgiven yes, but every Christian is still as lustful, greedy, what have you in his own flesh as the atheist next door. That is the struggle of all fallen men and we are all fallen. Christ changes our hearts, we don't.
But God changes our hearts by opening them up, and putting all of our pasts to use to further His works. He also reminds us to go...go where there are people who don't know Christ, who reject Him openly or quietly, where people are hurting or in need. God who is the Father of Christ is a God of the person and He wants very personal relationships with all of His children, and not all of them go to Church on Sunday morning.