, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jack was never one for church.

It all seemed too superstitious and trite for him.  Sure, if you pressed him, he believed in something that some would call God.  But, he’d never been too much into defining it much less leaning in to it.  If God really is God, then it doesn’t matter much what Jack thinks of him.  It just all seems a bit to senseless and impossible to try and define or imagine it all.

It should be noted that Jack really isn’t a bad person.  He’s successful at his job, and well liked.  He hangs out here once or twice a week, sharing a drink with a small group of friends.  He volunteers on Mondays, working a soup kitchen with a low budget and knowns the patrons by their names and struggles.  And despite all the bookshelf claims, he feels like his life is purposeful without taking 40 days to read some mumbo jumbo book.  Church, to him, seems like a massive adventure in wasting time.

Daniele hangs out with the group that meets up with Jack for drinks.

Like Jack, she never really got much into the religion scene.  Her parents took her to church growing up, but once she left for college, she put away “childish things.”  The world seemed too new and exciting when she was in school to care much about making sure that she sat in a pew.  She tried a couple of times, mostly led by guilt on the heels of a regretful Saturday night when she thought she could put the pieces back together on Sunday morning.  But it just all seemed so dull, political, hyper-sensitive, and meaningless and she never really found a reason to keep going back.

Her humanities class opened her eyes to the horrendous plight of forgotten and hidden people across the world;  children going to war, nations starving, and a thriving underground sex trade.  Her biology classes taught her that the world progressively evolved into what we know now.  She made friends that were Muslims, and Hindus. Her church never talked about that kind of stuff, and to her that was becoming increasingly offensive.

It’s not like you could blame Jack and Daniele.

The world was a mix of confusion and adventure to them.  They were young and passionate, with enough smarts and savvy to do something about the things they cared so deeply about.  They had friends who cared for them and accepted them as they were.  Church, to them, seemed to be a cold, pretentious, and un-caring place;  a place where people were more concerned with nostalgic stories of what used to be, rather than engaged with this wonderful, mysterious, and broken world.  It just seemed to them, that if God was real, that his followers would be more adventurous, creative, brave, and compassionate.  And up until that point, they would have never associated those words with the churches they knew.

That is, until the church walked into the bar.

They didn’t come with picket signs or hopes of resurrecting prohibition.  They didn’t come with tracts and conversion tactics.  Actually, it seemed like they had no agenda at all.

It seemed that these people wanted to genuinely get to know Jack.  Daniele was surprised at how her smug comments didn’t seem to offend or make them angry.  They didn’t even try to fix or correct anyone. There was something wonderfully and beautifully different about this group of Christians who had walked into their bar.

Jack wasn’t expecting to find Jesus in that bar.  If you’d have told Daniele that she would be lifting her hands in the same space she was throwing back shots, she’d have directed her infectious laugh to your face.  Neither would have expected their bar to form into a community of passionate followers of Jesus, who loved so deeply and authentically the people around them.  Never would they have thought that a movement of grace and redemption would be awakened from the dingy corners of the Mercy Lounge.

But that’s exactly what’s happening in Nashville, Tennessee.  All because a church is being brave enough to actually do the things that Jesus said, rather than just sit back and dissect them on Sunday mornings.

Because when grace wears skin, everything is possible.


This story is inspired by a real-life church that actually meets in a bar.  Ethos Church, located in Nashville, is a fantastically brave and grace-filled group of people.  One of their founding pastors, Dave Clayton, was kind enough to share some of his story with me recently.  I think the transcript is inspiring in and of itself, and with his permission, I am sharing it in its entirety here on my blog.  My hope is that his story, heart, and vision will inspire you to do something remarkable and intentional to live out the kingdom of Jesus.  Due to the space necessary, I will post the transcript tomorrow as a separate post.  I hope you’ll come back.