The Drunk and the Hypocrite

Switchfoot's Jon Foreman on what churches can learn from bars.

I’ve played music in churches and bars all my life. In many ways, these two gatherings are very similar. Both sets of “regulars” are looking for meaning, carrying out a ritual of sorts—hoping to find purpose, something that makes sense of the pain.

At first glance, it might seem the Church is a better place to look for hope than the bottom of a bottle. Every day, alcoholism and drug abuse destroy families, ruin careers and wreck communities. On the other hand, theological beliefs and misunderstandings have been blamed for divisions, divorces and wars around the world. The trouble with each institution lies within us. True, alcohol feeds a different fire than pietism, but neither a drunk nor a hypocrite look very good in the daylight.

We carry our problems into the church the same way we carry them into a bar—they just react differently in each location. Unfortunately, the sins that exist within the walls of the Church are harder to spot.

Pride, for example, can hide incredibly well in the religious community. I rarely hear the words “I don’t know” uttered at church. And yet the triune Creator of time and space will always be wrapped in mystery and holiness. Why not start in the seat of humility? Surely all of us have gotten a few things wrong in our attempts at Christianity.

Isn’t it pride that causes divisions among us? When we begin to slander other believers in the name of God, we know we’ve gotten off course. Did our Master’s words fall on deaf ears? “Love each other as I have loved you.” “Let them be one, Father, even as we are one.” These are not optional thoughts on how things could be done, but rather prerequisites for entrance into Kingdom of Heaven life. Unity is serious business. The Church is called to be one even as the triune God is one. The comprehensive salvation of our planet is built on the final unity of the Church and her God: the bride and her Savior.

Unfortunately, unity within the ecclesial community is the exception, not the rule. It’s to our shame many folks looking for hope find more grace at the local bar than the local church. When we speak with a fire and anger that burns differently than the fresh air of the cross, we do the Gospel a disservice. We know deep down something is wrong. So we revolt against those fiery speeches. We say the method needs to change. We call the old model irrelevant. And yes! The fresh winds of the Spirit are ready to blow upon us, let us pray for new tongues of the same eternal flame.

And yet if I speak with the tongues of angels and of men but have not love, it profits me nothing. If I rise up against the cheesy Christian T-shirts but have not love, it helps no one. If I hate the legalistic hatred but have not love, it builds nothing. Has the enemy tricked us into a new form of legalism? Is not our judgment committing the same offense? Ah, we may have found a way, but it is not love.

Walking the line between the clubs and the Church, I’ve been misunderstood by both sides. I’m sure you’ve felt the same thing: people throw rocks at the things they don’t understand. But it hurts worst when it comes from well-intending brothers and sisters, the folks who are purportedly filled with the love of Christ. Our knee-jerk response is to retaliate, to fight back. And the cycle begins again. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. God will take care of the speck in my neighbor’s eye. The more faith I have in Him and His strong voice, the less I have to yell. The more faith I have in Him, the freer my hands become to serve those around me.

Washing feet is not extra credit. We are called to bear each other’s burdens. Unity is a miraculous achievement, but it’s intended for this side of the grave. Unity is the transforming work of the power of the cross in our lives. In the dark, blood-stained shadow of the cross, our boasting is laughable. Our differences are minute. Take another look at the cross. Look at how much He loves you. Look at His surrender, His sacrifice. Unity comes into focus only when we realize the magnificent grace of the Savior.

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Let us acknowledge our neediness, our beautiful desperation. Yes, our unanswerable, aching, longing poverty is a prerequisite for the balm of salvation. We, the people—the failures, the losers, the outsiders—we have found our King. Christ, the King of the fools; the Lord of the sick, broken souls like us. Let us remain in continual awe of the love we have been shown. And let us love! Let us celebrate the reckless love of the one who risked all that we might be loved. And let us follow in the path of a God who loves us. The tax collectors and the rabbis. The prostitutes and the Sadducees. In the bars and in the churches. Yes, God even loves Christians.

Jon Foreman is the co-founder and lead singer of the band Switchfoot and lead singer of Fiction Family. You can follow him on Twitter @jonforeman. This article originally appeared in RELEVANT.

Top Comments


Knothead02 commented…

Very thouhgt provoking. In the end we are either a part of the SOLUTION or a part of the PROBLEM. which are you?


notashamed commented…

Not sure how I feel about this article. Seems the church is so busy apologizing for itself these days. I dont much see people in my church criticizing each other, most folks love on each other and support each other pretty well. We come together and try to help those in need, etc., so Im not sure what Jon is criticizing in his piece. What I am seeing that causes concern is churches changing themselves to be more like the world. Like I said above-- leaders in the pulpit apologizing to the audience if they've been hurt by the church. Churches seem so concerned about offending someone who might be there visiting, so anxious to prove to the culture around them that they care about the same things the world cares about (social justice and ending slavery), so free about what type of music is played under their roof (playing secular music and then getting up and saying they are proud to have this kind of music during "worship" time). Pushing out traditions that have been part of their denomination for years and years (I dont mean Catholic or liturgical-type churches - Im talking mainstream Protestant, Pentecostal, Baptist, etc.) Pentecostals not allowing messages in tongues and open worship cause it might drive someone away, on and on. While I do agree there's been some bad things done in the name of Christ over the years but overall I think the church has been on target for loving people. The fact that it is in our nature to be rebellious and not accountable to anyone has helped fuel the move away from church by people and I would venture to say is fulfilling the words of the BIble that say there will a great "falling away" in the end=times. I would really like the author of this article to comment on this move of the church to be so like the world to get people to attend and comment on how that can be a good thing for us. I personally dont see it as a good thing...



Murphy commented…

You need to include verse 10 with 8&9.


Mark commented…

I would respectfully caution you about criticizing Calvin. That debate (the one you're creating with your caution) is an age-old debate. One that has divided the church even further than Luther's original step. There's also many many examples within the Bible that point to Calvin's theology (I like Romans 11:3). However, this is still a debate that misses the whole point of Jon's article here. It's also a point I don't care to make further--since religion and faith is personal. And we divide ourselves over silly interpretations instead of loving each other as Christ commanded.

We're all saved by grace, whether through election or free will.

One-Eighty Teen Center


One-Eighty Teen Center commented…

I've heard this argument a hundred different ways. It's a curious use of the metaphor, and for my part I just don't understand the reasoning. If you follow Jesus, you ARE a part of the bride. My wife, for her part, takes a whole lot of time evaluating herself as a wife, where she fails, where she struggles, and how she needs to grow. She does this because she loves me and is willing to do the hard, sacrificial work of changing and becoming a more complete wife to me. I do the same for her as her husband (or i at least hope I am).

As the bride, we love God best by working to become the best church we can possibly be... which means taking stock & evaluating where we are falling short.


Anonymous commented…




Knothead02 commented…

Very thouhgt provoking. In the end we are either a part of the SOLUTION or a part of the PROBLEM. which are you?

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