A few weeks ago the CVM team and I headed off for another nights stay at a hotel somewhere in the UK, ahead of a regional mens conference we were putting on. Pitching up at the hotel my wife (and PA) had booked for us, we found it difficult to find the reception but eventually found a side entrance that led into a small bar area. The bar was pretty brightly lit with disco lights and some loud, hard core (by my standards) dance music was pumping out to the five people that were there. The conversation with the barman went something like this;
BARMAN: “Let me take you to your rooms, so what are you doing in town?”
ME “I lead a Christian mission agency that works mostly with men. We’re running a conference tomorrow.”
BARMAN “So what do you do?”
ME: “Well we tackle all sorts of issues that men face in life and help them unpack how the message of Jesus can help them. We support churches all over the UK etc etc.”
BARMAN: “Fair enough…” (looks blank and uninterested and starts talking about how many stairs there are.)
And that was that…
Later that evening after a curry we went back to the bar for a drink. By this time it was absolutely heaving and stuffed full of men and women in party mode. Sitting outside with a glass of something, it was my team members who started to notice something was a bit different about the place. A quick web search later on the phones and it turns out that the place we were staying was, although ‘straight friendly’, the pre eminent gay bar and hotel in the town. After a moment of laughter at the situation, we were asked to move inside as the licensing requirements meant that after 10.30pm no one could drink outside.
You have a choice in these situations. To quote The Clash, its a case of “Do I stay or do I go now.” We decided to stay up for another drink and eventually it was just Dean and I standing at the bar for another hour or so. Picture it, two youngish straight leaders of a national mens ministry, the night before a mens ministry conference, in the company of 100 or so gay men and women.
Heres what I saw and the questions I left with;
1) It was a friendly, totally unthreatening and pretty chilled out crowd.
2) There was a genuine sense of friendship and comradeship amongst the men and women there that was way beyond the superficial we see and experience in many of our christian communities. Genuine belonging.
3) I could sense deep within me the love of God for every person in there but also a sense of lostness.
5) I felt the Holy Spirit challenge me to focus some attention into the issue of reaching the gay community with the message of Jesus.
6) I was left asking myself why as a specialist evangelist to men, I hadn’t ever gone into a gay bar to talk to blokes before with a colleague or two or investigated seriously, what CVM should do. I suspect Jesus would have done so by now?
And that got me thinking about the complete ambivalence of the obviously gay barman who showed me to my room, when he found out I was a Christian. I suspect he had not heard the message of the pearl of great price. The story about amazing treasure of the gospel that causes people to radically change their lives, giving up everything for it, if thats what it takes.
I suspect he hadn’t heard it because he hadn’t met someone yet who could articulate it to him in a way that he would get it, or perhaps even demonstrate it by the conduct of their lives. I’m not saying there aren’t those people, more that he hadn’t met one!
So I’m thinking. What is good news to the gay barman, in the seaside town, in the town’s foremost gay hotel and bar? And furthermore, whose going to take that message to him?