(let me just pause and say for those who aren’t from little rock that vino’s is a popular pizza place and brewpub. it’s your typical little local pub with a lot of character and really good food/micro-brewed beer/atmosphere.)
in the four times that i’ve been there recently (as well as visits in the past), i am always struck by the same thing. there is such a fascinating and unique blend of people there no matter what day or what time i visit. on one hand, it would be easy to broadly paint the vino’s crowd as a bunch of hipster
20-somethings who listen to wilco a lot and drink dark beer and buy their mismatched clothes at thrift stores. (i’m certainly not arguing that there’s plenty of truth in every stereotype…) but there’s much more than that. there’s those people and then there’s people in business suits and there’s people with their nice little 3.5 kids family and there’s white people and there’s black people and there’s a little bit of everyone.
along with my casual (or not-so-casual) observations of the people, i’m also struck with the sense of community and openness that is immediately apparent. for centuries, bars/pubs have served as a communal gathering place where drinks and dreams have been shared. conversations and confrontations have cohabited. the hook-ups and the happy hours have been reciprocal and the rags and riches have coexisted. pubs have been where every person in every sphere of life has come and laid down their inhibitions and walls of separation to find a sense of community and common ground.
now, before you think i’m making bars out to be some pie-in-the-sky utopia, let me be clear. there’s plenty of bad that is associated with bars (indulgent & destructive alcohol use, promiscuity, fighting, to name a few), but i’m speaking in very broad terms (and speaking to my personal experiences here in little rock, be it vino’s or other establishments). my point is simply to assert that there is a unique blend of people that willfully engage in a sense of community that seems to be open and authentic and inclusive.
now, my observations aren’t all for naught. as all you faithful blog readers know, i tend to see the world through a theological lens. this is no different. all i can think the whole time i’m in there is that, for some reason, some little dirty dive in little rock can somehow foster an authentic and inclusive community, but all the while, the church has struggled with this for years (particularly the american church).
too often in the church (especially many of the churches we have visited over the years), there’s a very false sense of community. you show up once a week, put on a smile, ask people how they’re doing, and then walk out never to see them again for another week. certainly, i’m not suggesting that every church and every church attender is this way, but i’m speaking in very broad terms. the american church has to take a long look at the fact that we have done very little to foster a community of people that is real and inclusive and inviting and dialogical and diverse. there is something deeply wrong when an establishment that specializes in making pizzas and pouring drinks can foster this kind of community, but yet the church that specializes in being jesus to the world has largely failed at this task.
god is a god of community. he is a god of diversity and inclusivity and authenticity. he calls the church to be all these things. i—along with the church—by and large, have failed at this. it’s my prayer that i can help to build a community of people—who is everything that vino’s could ever be and more—who are engaged in the way of christ via a community of faith and love and all the things that i’ve talked about. it’s certainly not easy, but it’s doable (as seen in scripture…just take a look at the book of acts…). we have to be faithful to the way of jesus while being willing to lay aside false standards and shirking the sterile status quo mentality that has crippled the church and prevented it from looking more like jesus.
soon enough, i’ll be asking people to join with me in creating this type of community. it will be exciting and scary and engaging and uncertain and life changing. i hope to tap into (no pun intended) the kind of community i see at vino’s and other pubs alike, but it will certainly be a community with a higher purpose and motive. i hope it’s a community that shares drinks at vino’s on saturday and encounters christ as a community on sunday. it’s a community that welcomes tough and challenging dialogue and also knows how to laugh and let off steam. it’s a community that i believe little rock needs and that god has been orchestrating in a really incredible way for a couple years now.
so, how’s that for a teaser… stay tuned! as the new year arrives, i will have a new venture to tell you all about. i can’t wait.