The Bar Church of Christ
March 24, 2013, marks the beginning of a new "Church of Christ," the Bar Church, as it is called. The meeting location shall be 541 China Street, Abilene, Texas. It is called "Bar Church" because it shall meet in the Memories Country and Western Bar, a local bar in the full sense of the word. This new local church is termed a satellite church of the Southern Hills Church of Christ also located in Abilene, Texas. The nineteen overseeing elders of the Southern Hills Church, at least some of them, shall also participate in the oversight of the Bar Church. To my knowledge, the Bar Church marks the genesis or beginning of taking disrespect for Bible authority to a more obvious level, at least among so called churches of Christ. The Bar Church is being considered a prototype by some church historians.
Most older, faithful ministers in the churches of Christ have issued a plethora of warnings as to trends leading Godís people away from the "ancient order." Alas, many have not listened, but have, rather, become a part of the torrents and whirlpools which cause Jesusí church to forfeit its purity, identity, and purpose (cp. Matt. 16: 18, 19). In order for sweeping change to occur, the devil must effect a serious change in the core or fundamentals. Hence, in the eighties and nineties, especially, we began to hear a lot about the need for a new hermeneutic science in establishing Bible authority. Indeed, recognition and respect for Bible authority has always been the chief distinguishing feature of the Lordís church (see addendum 1). Christians have correctly contended that to establish a "thus-saith-the-Lord," there must be the functional use of command, approved example, and necessary inference (cp. Acts 10: 48, Heb. 5: 8, 9; Phili. 4: 9; Matt. 22: 32). The silence of the scriptures especially in the matter of specificity has also been respected (see addendum 2).
To illustrate the thinking of the elders, ministers, and members of the Southern Hills Church of Christ in regards to the silence of the scriptures, allow me to mention the music that shall characterize the Bar Church:
"Bar Church gatherings will include carefully chosen secular music along with the singing of hymns and praise songs, prayer, sharing the Lord's Supper, the collection of an offering, and the presentation of the GospelÖ.Will Bar Church include the use of instruments in worship? YesÖ" (all quotations are taken from the Bar Church Website, www.sohillschurch.org).
Consider the rationale of the Southern Hills Church in introducing both secular songs and mechanical instruments into the Bar Church worship:
"In our study, we have seen where God has stressed singing praises to him with our voices as important. As we have studied and read the Scriptures, we have found no scripture that directly either endorses or condemns the use of instruments in worship as it relates to an issue of salvation or fellowship. Therefore we are keeping our three services on Sunday a cappella by choice. When mission appropriate, we will allow the freedom to use instrumental accompaniment in other settings."
Again, when God specifies all different acts are understood as excluded, even without specific prohibition. No where, for instance, is there a specific prohibition against using Coke and Cake for the Lordís Supper. However, we have the teaching and example of unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine and, so, it is understood that all other, different matters are eliminated (Matt. 26: 26-30). In regards to the music in the worship of the church, vocal music consisting of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs is specified (Eph. 5: 19). Hence, mechanical instruments and all other types of songs are excluded (cp. Heb. 7: 14). Again, I mention the thinking of Southern Hills regarding the kind of music that shall be used by the Bar Church to show a serious change in the way Bible authority is being viewed. This new hermeneutic posture shall result in virtually anything and everything, even the "Bar Church."
Since I was a young preacher, I have consistently stressed the importance of maintaining the proper atmosphere for the worship service, in spirit and in truth (John 4: 24). In order for the devil to effect the change he wants, he must first effect a change in the atmosphere and mood, if you will (the casual worship experience has done much to introduce the circumstance and milieu for the Bar Church).
"Why are we doing Bar Church?....We want to go outside the walls of a church building in order to seek out and share the Gospel of Jesus with the unchurched by meeting them in a setting where they would gather and consider non-threatening."
The Bar Church is a good example as to where the religious movement, "Come as You Are" takes the church.
Another area of attack to effect serious change in the Lordís church has been the organization of the local church. Men meeting Godís qualifications are to serve as overseers over the group where they themselves are members (I Tim. 3; Acts 14: 23, I Pet. 5: 2, 3). These elders have no superintendence relative to other local churches. Over the most recent decades, some of the initial battles launched against the church have involved the concept behind such entities as the Herald of Truth, World Radio, etc. More and more, one set of elders and even one church is observed taking the oversight of another local church (addendum 3).
"Is Bar Church a part of Southern Hills? How closely are they affiliated? Bar Church is a satellite location of Southern Hills, and therefore under the oversight of our eldership. Think of it in terms of our being one church with several locationsÖ.Who have the elders asked to provide leadership for Bar Church? The eldership has put in place a Bar Church planning team that is supported by an advisory team of several elders."
In order to more completely examine the change in atmosphere of the Bar Church, consider the matter of the presence of alcohol, after all, it is a bar.
"Will alcohol be served? Yes. Bar Church meets in a bar, so alcohol will be present and available beginning at noon on Sundays. With Bar Church's stated mission to meet people where they are, we anticipate that alcohol most likely will be consumed sometime during the meeting of Bar Church."
Such an atmosphere presents a new challenge for Churches of Christ in terms of legal responsibility for those drinking alcohol (also see Proverbs 23: 31). However, these thoughtful elders have all the answers.
"Are people under the age of 21 allowed to participate in Bar Church? Yes. The Bar Church planning team will have a process in place to carefully check ID as people are entering Bar Church. We will use a system similar to the large X's that bars place on the hands of underage patrons to insure they are not served alcohol. Additionally, the bar owner will maintain his right to require ID of anyone ordering alcohol."
Without question, the Bar Church is taking Churches of Christ to new areas and levels. However, the new hermeneutic allows Bar Church and who knows what else to come. The rationale and causative agents for Bar Church are the same as for all such experiments: "We have to reach people and increase numbers." Instead of teaching the lost to change to become godly, the thinking of Southern Hills is we must change to make the lost "feel more at ease." So, we start a church, says Southern Hills, meeting in a bar in the atmosphere of secular songs along with some "traditional church songs," and the presence of bar room liquor and who knows what else.
How long shall it be before someone thinks of starting a church in a dope house or house of prostitution? (Dope houses and houses of prostitution are legal now in some locations.) You say, "Such will never happen." Do not be so sure. After all, what major difference is there between the Bar Church, the Dope Church, or the Prostitution Church? All three could be justified by those who have abandoned Bible authority and think in terms of "the end justifies the means."
Concerned reader, I am greatly saddened as I report to you the starting of the Bar Church. It breaks our heart that so many of Godís people have progressed to the point of Bar Church. We can only to a small degree imagine how it breaks the heart of our Heavenly Father as he looks down on such blatant defiance of his will and desires for his church! The way to avoid all apostasy is to stay with the Book (Acts 3: 22, 23, John 12: 48). We must continue to believe that the gospel is Godís power unto salvation and Godís drawing influence, not all the appeals of the worldly minded (Rom. 1: 16, John 6: 44, 45). (Read about the true church of Christ by going to the Archives page, accessed from the Site Map page, scroll down and click on "The Lord's Church" in the Subject Index box.)
Addendum 1: Jesus has all authority both in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28: 18). To cease to abide in the "doctrine of Christ" is to cease to have God and the determination of those whom Christians fellowship is based on conformity to pure doctrine (2 John 9-11). To word it differently, Christianity is seen in the New Testament as an autocracy, Jesus being the only Autocrat.
Addendum 2: Jesus could not be High Priest on earth because he was not of the right tribe (Heb. 7: 14). Notice that Judah was not in so many words excluded, but it was understood since there was specificity as to tribe, Judah and all other tribes were excluded (cp. the books of Leviticus and Exodus).
Addendum 3: Even in the matter of the financial support of a preacher working with another group, the sending church(es) is observed sending to the preacher as opposed to the church where the preacher labors (Phili. 4: 14, 15). Only in the area of the "one time act" of benevolence for needy saints do we observe churches contributing to another church or churches (Acts 11: 28 ff.).