Saturday, February 23, 2013
Bible lessons are on tap during Sunday services at Fort Worth bar
Posted Friday, Feb. 22, 2013
Christ Chapel Bible Church started holding college services at the Aardvark when students lost their space near the church's main location. On a recent Sunday, services drew about 200 people, mostly TCU students.
BY JIM JONES
Special to the Star-Telegram
FORT WORTH -- Beer gives way to Bibles every Sunday morning at the Aardvark bar.
For two years, Christ Chapel Bible Church has held college services at the popular music venue on West Berry Street near TCU.
The students began meeting there when they lost their space near the church's main location on Birchman Avenue. Services have been so popular that church leaders have put off moving the college ministry to a recently built student facility at the church.
"It was meant to be short-term," said Pastor Ben Fuqua, 30, who leads the college ministry. "We feel God was intentional about keeping us here. Cool things have happened.
"Lives have been transformed. We get a lot of students who wouldn't come to a normal church. Our big key value, though, is that we preach the same message as Christ Chapel."
On a recent Sunday, about 200 churchgoers -- mostly TCU students -- were greeted with fresh doughnuts, courtesy of bar owner Dennis Weaver and his staff.
Once the 10 a.m. service began, the students listened to lively music from a three-piece band, prayed and heard age-old messages from the Bible.
Candles burned not far from a wall with Budweiser, Twisted Tea and Jack Daniel's signs. A table adorned with a red tablecloth held a stack of Bibles with a sign, "Grab a Bible."
In his opening remarks, Fuqua invited male students to a weekend "dudes campout," joking that it would include manly things.
"Fire will be involved, guns ... and scotch -- no just kidding," he said.
"Obviously, no drinking is allowed at our services," Fuqua said.
"We use a lot of humor. We try to break down some of the stereotypes people have about church, such as church is boring, the Bible is boring."
Weaver said he learned that Christ Chapel was looking for a college meeting place from Jamey Ice, a guitar player for the Fort Worth-based rock band Green River Ordinance.
Ice, who has been playing at the Aardvark since he was 12, attends Christ Chapel when in town.
Fuqua and Weaver got together and worked out the details.
"They didn't have a place to go. We're prepping everything for our Sunday brunch anyway," Weaver said. "Some of the students stay for brunch. We will have them as long as they want to do it."
Fuqua said the students are at ease attending services at the Aardvark.
"It's much more disarming for students to come here," he said.
Destiny Boos, 19, a TCU freshman, walks to the Aardvark from her dormitory a few blocks away.
"It's a place students feel comfortable hanging out with each other," she said. 'I've never been here for the actual bar part. I don't look at it like that. I look at it as church."
Zachary Paris, 23, a TCU senior majoring in percussion, plays drums at the services.
He's been coming to the Aardvark worship since it began.
"I was blown away by the concept," he said. "It's an incredible way to reach out to people who wouldn't normally go into a church."
Victoria Nachman, 19, a TCU communications major, said students feel welcome at the Aardvark.
"I believe if Jesus were here, he would be in a bar, too -- preaching," Nachman said.
Others are Aardvark regulars during the week.
"I first started coming here not for church but for the music and fun," said Jordan Toledo, 21, a TCU business major. "I spend a lot of time here. I sometimes eat dinner here. I listen to music on Saturday night and come back on Sunday morning. So I love the Aardvark."
Ryan McCarthy, an associate pastor at Christ Chapel, preached from the Book of Romans at a recent service. He said meeting at the bar offers lessons.
"It reminds us that Christians are not to be funneled off into our own little corner of the world," he said.
Melissa Ice, college mission director for Christ Chapel, said the bar services are a reminder that God and church are not something housed in a building with a steeple.
"It's in our hearts," she said. "You can worship God anywhere -- in your home or in you car."