Confession time. I love country music. Don’t judge me. I was a bona fide country music hater up until 5 years ago. But then something changed. Some would say I saw the light; others would say I fell into darkness. Regardless, I’m a fan.
There’s one song in particular that I’ve come to appreciate. It’s a song about a bar. I like the tune but even more I like the way the song brings me back to what I think Jesus would want a church gathering to look like. The song is titled I Love This Bar by Toby Keith. Substitute the word bar for church (and take out a few lines about excessive alcohol consumption) and I think you’ve got a great picture of what a church gathering should look like. Here are some lyrics from the song:
“We’ve got winners, we got losers, chain-smokers & boozers…we got yuppies…bikers…thirsty hitchhikers…broken-hearted fools…suckers…high-techs…blue-collar boys…rednecks”
On & on the list goes and then the chorus,
“I love this [church], it’s my kind of place. Just walkin’ through the front door puts a big smile on my face. It ain’t too far, come as you are. Hmmm, I love this [church].” Italics & emphasis mine.
Toby Keith’s list of people found at a bar is pretty close to the kind of people we find surrounding Jesus on a regular basis…outcasts, prostitutes, liars, cheaters, religious, irreligious, confused, blue-collar, white-collar, city folks, country folks, and everything in between. Two reasons why Jesus attracted such a crowd.
- The outside never mattered to Jesus: he was all about the heart, what was happening on the inside.
- Because Jesus was all about love, acceptance, and forgiveness, people instinctively knew that they could come just as they were. No need to get all tidied up. Just come as you are. And they came. They came in droves.
For us who have put our faith in Jesus and are by virtue part of His church, He calls us to be like Him. To be the kind of church where all are welcome to come just as they are. A church that isn’t an obstacle to the unchurched finding Jesus but instead leads them straight into His wide open arms of love, acceptance, and forgiveness. When the church is like this, open to people from all walks of life, regardless of how broken or messed up they are, it will be able to share the Gospel and watch as life after beautiful life is transformed by Jesus.