Another weekend in the bar

Jimmy Cochran


“God protects the simplehearted” (Psalm 116:6)

I am having another great visit to Tybee Island and the creative, wonderful, diverse people who live there. And, if you have read my columns before, you know I am not going as a tourist. I stay far away from the tourists and the hubbub they create. I prefer the marshes on the back of Tybee and being around the locals who truly belong there. That is why I can’t stay away from the Tybee Church … the church commonly known as the Bar Church. Because it meets in a bar. And they are gracious enough, or possibly desperate enough, to keep asking me back to speak and help with music. And I fall for it, hook, line and flip-flops.

This is the church with no permanent building or paid staff yet has a larger ministerial staff than many churches here in Henry County. No official membership roll yet is larger in attendance than many churches in the area. All the money they receive goes back out into the island community for feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting in the nursing homes and prisons, providing what people need … physically, then spiritually. My thinking is how can we tell people about God if they are hungry, or cold, or living under a bridge, or sick, or so ultimately discouraged with life and think that no one cares? The Tybee Church cares. And they show it. From the inside of a bar, a beat-up U-Haul and a whole bunch of people who like to go love on others who need loving on. And they don’t care if they aren’t going to be reimbursed from some expense account in the church budget. Sharing and caring to others about God’s love is the Tybee Church budget. What an interesting concept for a church, huh?

I met a couple more people at church this past weekend that impacted my life. One was a lady who is in her 60’s and has only been clean from drugs for about five years. On Sunday morning, I saw her standing in the bar, hands raised and worshipping as we sang “Jesus Loves Me.” Tears were running down her face as she told me later because this bar church is the first place she has felt true love and acceptance. As herself. Not the recovering addict, but just herself. No labels. No judgments.

Another young guy I met and talked with has had a rough time in life. Problems with the law, problems with family, problems with employment, yet he comes every Sunday and puts a quarter (if he has one) in the donation /prayer request bucket and then sits off to the side and watches. And listens. And leaves with strength and hope.

There are plenty of the people who are not in need of help. They have jobs, and nice clothes and good cars. Yet, they come to church every week bringing food to put on the pool tables and the bar to feed whoever may need feeding. And many people on Tybee need it. All social groups, ethnic groups, economic groups and spiritual groups come together for a brief time on Sunday mornings at Benny’s Tavern to worship God, but to also support and encourage each other. They leave the building to go back to their lives a better person and more determined to share the love of God to someone that needs it. Often without words, but by their life and their actions.

Please, never think that I am disappointed in my church or in the traditional type church. I definitely am not, but do think that we can all learn something from the way they “do church” in a small bar, on a small island, off the coast of Georgia.

And for today my friends, 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 Being God’s is also available at Moye’s Pharmacy in McDonough.