Why We Study the Bible in a Wine Bar (hint: it’s not just about the Bible)

We’ve been holding Bible study at the local wine bar about a block from our church for over four years now. It’s the kind of study that changes from week to week. One that you don’t have to prepare for. You can just show up and be a part.

Some Wednesday nights, we have the entire place to ourselves. Last night, the owner had a last-minute opportunity to host a tasting, so half the neighborhood was there as well. It was boisterous and loud, and it was hard for us to hear each other. So I paid lip service to the lesson I’d planned, and we all had a glass of wine and caught up with each other’s lives. We congratulated a regular on running a 10-K this past weekend and another on his recent engagement. We heard about the cruise someone is taking with her grandchildren over spring break and inquired about another person’s job search. We didn’t get a lot of Bible study in…and that’s okay.

Because Bible study at the wine bar isn’t just about studying the Bible. Oh, we do that. We have had some deep, raucous, contentious and hilarious encounters with God’s Word to us (sometimes all in the same night). And we will continue to do so. But Bible study at the wine bar is also about showing our community that we don’t just worship on Sunday mornings inside the sanctuary. It’s about letting people know that Christians do have a good time and enjoy life and are not all Bible-thumping, finger-wagging holier-than-thou judgey judgepersons (a term I learned from my sister-in-law). Bible study is about giving people the chance to rethink their pre-conceived notions about church and the people who attend.

Do people see us studying the Bible in the bar and then show up at our church the next Sunday? No. Our Bible study is not a put-butts-in-the-pew type of evangelism. It’s about planting a seed in the minds of those who have fallen away from the church, been hurt by the church or perhaps have never even been to church. The idea that maybe church and church people are not all the same. The idea that there might even be a church somewhere for people like them.

So we will continue to bring our Bibles (actually our phones with Bible apps) to the wine bar. We will drink wine and study and fellowship and bear witness, and we’ll pray that the seeds planted there will one day bear fruit.

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