FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – You can find church groups who meet inside homes, coffee shops and even renovated theaters. But inside a bar? That’s where one Fort Worth group meets every Sunday for church.
While they may reach those who’re more comfortable on a bar stool than in a pew, does it go too far?
The group meets at Mambo’s, a typical, little blues bar in downtown Fort Worth.
On this night, a man begins the service strumming a guitar and softly singing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, an 18th Century Christian Hymn.
People begin to file in and take their seats and order drinks.
Neil Christopher, 36, is their leader. He’s the son of a pastor in the Assemblies of God Church… a church he left behind.
“I grew up in the church. I didn’t like some of the things that I saw. I thought people were being mistreated,” he said.
Christopher rebelled but became the prodigal son who regained his faith, inside a Buddhist temple.
“I was trying to find enlightenment,” he recalled. “And instead, I came to the realization I believed in Christ.”
The church in a bar grew out of a monthly Christian music night.
“People asked that we do it more often. [So] we started to meet twice a month instead of once a month,” explained Christopher.
The emergent church was christened “Kyrie.” He explained that, “Kyrie is short for Kyrie Elesion, which is actually Greek for Lord have mercy.”
The church has drawn in people like 27-year-old Aston Vongh-Wallace. “When I was younger, I was raised in a Baptist church. But, that just never felt comfortable? So, I haven’t gone back since I was, like, 13.”
Churchgoer David Njus is 69. “We first found out about this, I couldn’t believe coming to church in a bar. I said this is really weird,” he recalled.
Njus, who’s Lutheran, believes in Kyrie now but doesn’t call it church. He already has one of those that he goes to every Sunday.
“I don’t think of this as a church. I think it’s an outreach,” Njus said.
Speaking to his flock from the stage, Christopher told them, “We have atheists, we have Buddhists, Daoists, [and] we have people who are spiritual and not religious.”
Asked if he was a born again Christian, Christopher said, “I don’t use that term anymore. So if people ask, I say No.”
Christopher, who is referred to as Pastor Neil, is an ordained minister, but he still smokes and drinks. He doesn’t think Jesus would mind.
He told the people at the bar that night, “I think He would share a beer with me. He’d make it out of water!”
So, Pastor Neil partakes before, during and after the service. For transparency sake, Pastor Neil was asked how many beers he’d consumed in the course of the evening. “Four?” he said.
Asked if that was typical, he said, “I cut myself off around 3 or 4.”
That’s more than the typical sip of communion wine. But then again, Pastor Neil doesn’t embrace convention, a literal interpretation of the bible, a literal heaven or a literal hell.
“I personally don’t believe in a God that would send anybody to hell,” he said.
Pastor Neil Christopher doesn’t accept a salary. On this night, he held the offering plate, asking it to remain empty except for thoughts of how to help someone.
“Is there a homeless person you maybe walk by that needs some food?” he asked the crowd.
The most important time of the service, he said, is “the sharing of the peace.” It’s the end of the service really, when people can visit with each other then go home, which some may argue typical churches do without the open bar.
Other local pastors declined to comment on Kyrie, but you can leave your own comments below.