I just read Craig’s article about Gamechurch and Fightchurch. I wanted to share my own story of how XXXChurch has changed me. I’ve never spent much time with porn, but I’ve always felt weak when it comes to controlling my eyes and I grew up living in an overly sexualized world. So from the first time I heard about XXXChurch I’ve been encouraged by it and have found strengh, tools and motivation from time to time because of the ministry. I also happen to be a pastor.
About 8 years ago I was ministering in a small farm town with a small traditional church. One evening I was reading one of Craig’s books, Starving Jesus, I think. I don’t remember anything specific about it but that same night I read through Matthew chapter 9 in my daily Bible study time. I read the story of Jesus eating with the sinners and how the Pharisees got so irritated with him. I’ve read the same passage dozens of times before, but I believe God did something different in my mind that night. A simple thought appeared. “Where would you have to go in this town in order for you to be criticized in the same way by the people at church?”. It took about 3 seconds for the answer to materialize: The Bar.
Our town has one bar and I’d never been there. In fact I’ve never been to any bar. I’d just never thought about it, never wanted to try, never been into drinking much, I was raised a bit sheltered perhaps. The only knowledge I had of bars came from John Wayne movies which always involved fights and someone getting show, which was what I figured real bars were like. I kicked around the idea for a couple weeks. Then I asked the elders at my church if I could start going up to the bar on Wednesday nights because there was a Texas Hold’em game that night and it was usually busy. They were extremely reluctant, but eventually I convinced them to let me try.
Over the course of the next 7 years I was more faithful in attending Wednesday night poker than I was Sunday morning service. I got there around 8 and stayed until the doors locked, which was sometimes 4 or 5 in the morning at which point the owner and I had sat for hours on end discussing Jesus and life.
I wish I could tell a story of revival and life that swept the church, the town, and the bar. But it wasn’t like that. At first there was some criticism but surprisingly it came from other people I didn’t know who attended other churches in our community. I never had one person from my church ever say anything negative to my face, although I know there were a few detractors at first. And over the years there have been dozens and dozens who have talked about how my work at the bar has encouraged them to step out in their own lives somewhere.
What actually happened at the bar? A lot of people from the bar eventually came to visit our church…once. But they weren’t comfortable there, it didn’t fit them. It’s not that anyone was mean or rude to them, they just didn’t get church culture. But for many of them I became a source of counsel when they were going through difficulty. I believe many became somewhat more open to God in their life. But for a few it was life-changing for me and them. One of my best friends had been cheating on his wife for years. When he shared it with me I couldn’t believe it, but I convinced him to get right with God and confess to his wife. She was destroyed, but she didn’t leave him. They both gave their lives to Christ a few months later. They still struggle a lot, but they are making it.
With another couple I spent countless hours discussing, debating, arguing about faith and I thought they were the last people who would ever become believers. And then one Wednesday night I show up at the bar and they say, “you’re not going to believe this, but we accepted Christ last Sunday”. They were right, I couldn’t believe it, but it happened and not long after I was in awe of the faith they exhibited when their grandson died soon after birth and they never wavered. They just say they know God is in control.
For countless others I became the only Christian they know that doesn’t judge them. They talked about how most Christians would never give them the time of day. I think it was the only time in their lives they understood the message that Jesus loved them. For others I’m still heavy-hearted. The alcoholic middle-aged mom who knows she has a problem and believes in Jesus…she just can’t quite muster the courage to get help. The couple who comes in every night, gets drunk and spends the an hour yelling at each other before they go home, they’ll be back tomorrow night. The girls who are insecure and just want to be loved? They are easy prey for the guys looking for a quick fix to their sex drives. And the Christians who smile and pass the plate on Sundays but are complete jerks at the bar? They just don’t get it.
Many days I went home ecstatic that God worked and opened a door that was totally unexpected for me. Other days I went home wondering why I even bother. At the end of the day I go because I know that’s where Jesus would be. So I trust him to use me there in whatever way he wants.
So that’s my story. I’m thankful for XXXChurch because they got the ball rolling. It’s changed my life. I went from living a normal church life to experiencing the gospel. And it’s awesome. Keep up what you’re doing, your ministry is reaching far beyond your understanding, I hope mine is too. And for the record, I could never do what you do, my eyes would wander too much!