God in the Bar Church
When you cross the Lazaretto Bridge outside of Savannah and you cross to Tybee Island, it is wonderful to roll down your windows and let the fertile smells of the marshes and the salty aroma of the ocean begin to waft through your car. Your cares and worries begin to fade away as you enter the world of island life. Unlike any other place, any other island, Tybee is more of a way of life than an outcropping of sand on the Atlantic Ocean.
Yes, I just got back from a weekend on Tybee Island and with the Tybee Bar Church.
The church has undergone some changes over the years … people come and people go, but the love and acceptance is still a part of the Bar Church like it always has been. They still lay out a scrumptious buffet on the pool tables and the bar where those who are hungry can come eat. They still have stacks of tracts and books of encouragement. There is still a bucket for contributions to the Church. And they still love to sing songs of Jesus (and a few other more secular songs), but they love the gusto of guitars, keyboards, drums, tambourines and lots of clapping.
The Tybee Bar Church definitely isn’t anything remotely similar to traditional church … and that’s why I love going there when I can. It reminds me of what (I think) the early church and the true church was and should be. All incomes, all races, all economic levels, the needy, those with more resources to help. The people who come just know that one thing is important and that is Jesus loves all people and they love each other. Caring for each other and reaching out in practical ways that so many traditional churches can’t imagine or just “don’t do that way.”
I think that Jesus would like the Bar Church and probably would be welcomed with open arms. He would fit in there and, if people recognized Him, it wouldn’t make a difference to them. They’d just hug Him and offer another helping of breakfast casserole, deviled eggs, and chicken pot pie. I think Jesus would be wearing flip flops, cargo shorts, and some type of t-shirt and some type of ratty old hat and sit at the bar with the others. In fact, I imagine Jesus would go into the bar on Saturday night and invite folks to come on Sunday morning. That’s my Jesus. Being where the people are and on their level …. day by day and night by night. Cargo shorts and all.
Please don’t think I’m running down the traditional churches where we go, because I’m not. I just don’t want our “traditions” and “furnishings” and “prettiness” to get in the way of giving Jesus to others who need Him. Those who don’t feel dressed right, or have enough money, or who don’t know the songs, or don’t feel welcomed as if they were friends and not visitors.
Many would be afraid of the Bar Church on the beach of Tybee Island, because it isn’t what they are used to. Many people I know feel a little bit like a bar church can’t be a real church and don’t want to be a part. But, as I learned … and learned quickly … it is a true Church. And many of my friends who have travelled with me learned quickly that the Tybee Bar Church is where God takes up residence and fills with his Power and Glory on Sundays and we are all blessed to have been there. Maybe more than some of the big churches we know about. And, it’s just a little bar on a little island on the coast of Georgia. And God blesses it.
And for today, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.
Jimmy Cochran is a resident of McDonough, a musician, a minister and the author of “Being God’s” and “Staying God’s,” both available at Amazon.com. Being God’s is also available at Moye’s Pharmacy in McDonough.