Part 2: It Can Happen in Night Spots
A Neglected Area of Witness
I understand that not everyone has been called to minister in bars and nightclubs, but I want to share this information with all of you so you will realize that God can work anywhere. I will explain how to get started and be effective at such a ministry and also how you can establish a continuing, permanent ministry to the night spots of your community. Then you will have to decide whether or not this kind of witnessing is something to which God is calling you.
Bars, nightclubs and other scenes of nightlife in our cities make up one of the most neglected mission fields in the world. Yet, this kind of ministry doesn’t fit into any normal pattern of Christian ministry. This is because of the way the Christian culture operates. The usual idea is that ministry is done from nine to five. That’s when church offices are open. The only other time when Christians function in ministry would be from about seven to about nine in the evening, and then they are usually closed up in their buildings. But outside of those normal functioning times and places, the witness of Christianity is generally silent.
Almost all of the streets of the world are void of a consistent witness for Jesus. Almost all of the night scenes are void of any consistent witness. You might take a map of the U.S., close your eyes, point at a town and say you will begin a ministry there. I don’t know of one place that’s overcrowded with too much street ministry of the right sort. I don’t know of any city that has too many people sharing Jesus on a consistent basis. And this is especially true in the area of night life.
Don’t Be Afraid of Night People
A nightlife ministry seems scary to most people. We have the idea that people in bars, nightclubs, immoral bookstores and other businesses that operate at night wouldn’t be interested in Christians coming around. We have the idea that this would be the hardest group of people to reach. We expect that these would be the meanest people; they would want to kill you, knock you down, stomp you, drag you out. But I want you to know that you’ll never be around any group of people that are friendlier and warmer (except for a close, beautiful fellowship of spiritual Christians) than you’ll find around most of the bars and nightclubs. If they weren’t friendly people, they wouldn’t be there. They are generally lonely people looking for companionship. The person who is comfortable with his life can stay home and watch television all night. But the person who is really lonely, or who has a lot of energy and doesn’t know what to do with it, the person who can’t cope with himself . . . he is the one who is out in the middle of the night.
And you can almost chart this: the later in the night it is, the higher is the percentage of people who will pray with you for salvation. The later in the night it is, the lonelier the people are and the more they realize their emptiness and their need for Jesus Christ.
Most people in these clubs are the same as the people you work with on the job in the daytime. You don’t have to be afraid of them because they are like your next door neighbor. You may have an idea built into your mind that there is a bunch of wild people who hang out in such places, and you wouldn’t know how to talk to them if you ever met them. But they are really much like the people you deal with at work or in your neighborhood. By day, they are average, normal people. At night they are lonely and hungry for friendship. There is no reason to be terrorized thinking that there are monsters in a night spot anymore than you are terrorized by the people you work with.
Let me share something else with you. I don’t think most men go out into bars to try to find a woman to spend the night with. I don’t think most women go in just to find someone to come to their house. I think most people simply want someone to visit with. They just want to talk to a person; they’re hungry for fellowship. If you don’t believe it, watch what happens in a bar. If a bunch of men really get into a good conversation, they’ll talk all night. There may be girls all around the place, and yet they won’t split off and go over by the girls if they’ve got a good conversation going. They’ll just stay there and talk.
Getting a Foot in the Door
People ask, “But how in the world do you get in? What do you do? How do you establish contacts?” I think you have to begin by realizing that most of these nightclubs and bars are public places. Although they are privately owned, they are open to the public. So it’s not much of a problem to get in. However, staying in or being able to come back may be a different story. And it is basically your behavior that sets the pace. It’s your attitude. If you are too aggressive and self-righteous, you won’t get in to many. They will kick you out. But if you just love people and share Jesus Christ, they’ll let you run wild. You’ve got to cool it a little bit.
If I wake up in the middle of the night and I’m kind of restless, I say, “Thank you, Jesus.” The Lord must want me to run out and talk to somebody. I don’t just lay there in bed rolling around and feeling sorry for myself because I can’t sleep. I either get up and study the Bible or I go out and drive around. There will be someone out there on the street that needs to be talked to. He is lonely wishing for someone to come along and spend a little time with him.
I find that if I am considerate to a lonely night person here and there, I have no trouble developing a permanent ministry. The last time we came back to Hollywood, inside of three weeks we were working in about forty places. About forty bars, immoral bookstores, night clubs that would let us come back. We got to know the bartender, the manager, the waitresses, and they said, “Welcome back, come in any time you want.” Isn’t that amazing? It’s wonderful. They all know that we don’t agree with the behavior and everything else that goes on in these places, and yet they welcome us back. And, we’re sharing Jesus Christ. It would take all the time of several people to just keep visiting and witnessing and sharing Christ with the patrons and owners of those forty places.
Get the Feel of the Place
There are a lot of things you can do to get a feel of the neighborhood. When I go to Sunset Boulevard, I like to turn my car radio to a rock ‘n roll station quite loud. I go rocking down Sunset Boulevard to get my mind and my ears tuned in to what I am going to experience. The Sunset Boulevard people are groovers. They are into themselves. Every girl down there thinks she is the grooviest thing in Hollywood. Now, they don’t know that the people who are down on Hollywood Boulevard and Western don’t feel that way. They have a more realistic evaluation of themselves, bordering on despising themselves. The crowd that is now on Sunset will be on Hollywood and Western a year or two later. But for the time being they are kind of grooving down there. So when I go into a rock ‘n roll place, I step inside and get my ears in tune with the music. I slowly take in the whole scene. I don’t just go diving in. I ease in and stand there for a while until I kind of get the beat of the place. If there are a whole bunch of dudes standing around with dark glasses kind of really grooving, I may say, “Hey, man, let me turn you on.” I develop an attitude that I’m a dealer for Jesus.
But if I’m in a piano bar late at night down on Melrose or in the Hollywood area and there is a little quiet piano playing and a lot of people gathered around, I wouldn’t go in and say, “Wow, man, how’s it going?” That wouldn’t fit in. I would be totally out of the scene. People go to the kinds of places that fit their personalities. Personally, at this kind of piano bar, I want to be quiet. I don’t want bam, bam, bam music. I don’t want to be around a bunch of teenie boppers. The piano bar fits a certain mood. In a place like that I just quietly go over to someone sitting on a back stool. I sort of half sit down and say, “I’d like to give you one of these handbills. How’s it going tonight? Oh, not too good? I’m a Christian and I would just like to give you one of these ‘Turn on to Jesus’ stickers.” The manager may ask, “What are you doing giving this stuff out here?” “Well, I’m just a Christian sharing about the Lord. One night I prayed and invited Jesus to come into my heart.” My voice is quiet, and I’m talking to one person in a way that he can understand.
At another club where the music is vibrating my ears out, I come on strong. I can’t say much, because they can’t understand. They can only see my lips going. They see the sticker and they’ll take it. They’ll take just about anything in those places. People are body to body. I may cup my hand and say (real loud), “Are you saved?” “What?” There’s no point in saying, “How are you, and how’s it going?” The environment’s hot and heavy and everybody’s joking around. He may finally hear me. “Am I saved?” “Yes, Jesus loves you.” You have to scream above the music about Jesus. That’s about all you can do in there.
Some Clubs Are a Special Challenge
If you go into a club where there are dancers on stage, you can’t go in and just start working from person to person. The waitresses and the managers have their eyes open for people who come in and don’t want to buy a drink but just want to watch the girls. They usually have a one-or-two-drink minimum to avoid this. So, if you go in and don’t buy a drink, they’ll catch you quickly and throw you out. I always go to the bar right away in a place like that. I talk to the waitress or ask for the manager, and then I tell them what I’m doing there. If they don’t mind my standing around, then I can start talking with people. But you just can’t go in and start working from person to person because they’ll think you’re one of the freaks who are just trying to watch the girls and not buy drinks.
And then there are clubs where they have a door fee, and you’ve got to pay to get in. The fee is usually super high and you can’t get in until you pay. So you have to use another angle to get in. Sometimes if you get into one, you can get into the others because that owner tells you whom to see. If you’re trying to develop a permanent ministry, the best thing to do is to see the owner or the manager right away. The person who is going to be most responsive as a general rule is the one who owns the place, because he can’t get fired for letting you in. Workers who are afraid of their jobs are more protective than the manager or the owner.
Make a Key Contact
It’s best to start with a club that has the owner’s name in its title. If you were new to the area and you saw Gazzarri’s Hollywood Nightclub, you might say to yourself, “Gazzarri, that sounds like someone’s name.” You might ask someone outside, “Is Gazzarri the man that owns this place?” And they would say, “Yes, Bill Gazzarri.” Then you could walk in and say to the guy standing at the door (who’s paid not to let you in), “I’d like to see Bill Gazzarri” . . . just like he’s an old friend of yours. There’s a good chance the guy will let you in. You get to meet the owner. Now, that doorman wouldn’t let you go to witness. He would think you were just trying to con him out of the door fee. But if the owner lets you in, it’s O.K.
Of course, Bill Gazzarri threw me out a number of times back in 1967 and early 1968. I would come to the door and he’d say, “Get him out, get him out, go on out of here, man. This is my church. Get out of here, preacher.” But I kept going back once a week or so. One night there weren’t many people inside, and I said, “Bill, I’ve got something to ask you about.” He said, “I thought I told you to stay out of here, preacher.” I said, “Listen, what’s your lowest night, when the fewest people are in here?” And he said, “Hmmm, Tuesday nights.” I said, “What time Tuesday nights?” “Oh, about 10 til 12. Something like that.” I said, “Let me preach in here on Tuesday night and I guarantee we will pack it out.” I could see his mind start calculating. “My door fee . . .” he said, “I’ll still charge.” I said, “Do whatever you want to do, but how about it?” “I have to think about it.” He thought it over a while, and then finally agreed. We were in, and we finally wound up doing gospel rallies there. I called on Andrae Crouch, who was then with Teen Challenge, for some music. Nobody knew Andrae Crouch then, but he had some good soul singing. Then, we got Charles McPheters and other groups. We had two-hour rallies in there on Tuesday nights. I still go into Gazzarri’s all the time and that was years ago.
Then when you know one owner, you can ask who owns this place or that place. He may be willing to vouch for you and tell the others that you’ve been cooperative and haven’t hurt his business. In time the network will spread to all the clubs.
Be a Friend to Celebrities
It always helps to know someone. It holds true with all kinds of celebrities, with nightclub singers, with members of motorcycle gangs, etc. These people want to know that you are solid. They want to know that they can be proud of you. Now that may sound strange, but many celebrities want to know they have a preacher friend or a Christian friend, and they want one that they can be proud of. I’ve been a guest at the Artist and Model’s Ball and have come to some of the biggest parties in Hollywood. People have wanted me to go and be seen with them. Sometimes they do it just for their own publicity, but that’s O.K. They want to feel that they can be proud to have you as their friend. That doesn’t mean that you can’t witness while you’re with them. You can put stickers everywhere. They will groove on it.
I used to go every year to the Artist and Model’s Ball. I’d wear a “Rapture Suit,” a red suit. I called it that because they’d have black lights and the suit would glow with “Smile God Loves You” all over it. I wore a helmet with “Jesus Loves You” on it, carried a Bible that had a psychedelic cover, and I’d give out red stickers. On the back of the suit was a sign that said “Rapture Suit.” I still have it. Of course, that was in keeping with the occasion. Everyone was in costume, body paint, and all that kind of stuff. It’s a really weirdo, freak-out atmosphere. If I had worn a suit and tie, they wouldn’t have let me in. So I came blazing in in my “Rapture Suit,” glowing in the black light, and everyone said, “Wow, what a suit that is. Wow, what trip are you into?” I said, “I’m for real; Jesus loves you.” Then they would say, “What’s a Rapture Suit?” I’d respond, “When the Lord comes, are you going to be ready?” I had the opportunity to witness all night. But it took grooving just a little bit. They didn’t mind asking me back to their next thing or to someone’s party. They’d say, “Bring the preacher along. He’s more fun than anyone else.” I didn’t mind if they felt, “This is a ding-bat preacher that doesn’t know anything.”
Not Everyone Feels Comfortable in a Bar
Some people are so out of touch with the nightlife culture that they can never minister effectively in bars. They feel self-righteous and judgmental toward the people they’re trying to reach.
I have a great advantage over most people. When I was four years old, my dad came home from World War II, and I started living in bars and clubs. As a little kid I was sitting on bar stools hour after hour after hour, listening to jukebox music. When I walk into a bar, I feel at home. I really do, mentally, emotionally, psychologically. I feel more at home there than I do in most of the churches I preach in. The environment brings back childhood memories. I feel like I know those people, though I’ve never met them before. I feel like I know how to talk to them. I feel like I’ve been made out of the same stuff they are. I feel like we’re together. I really do. By contrast, when I’m in strange cities and go into a church and don’t know anybody, the environment is so stiff that I feel uncomfortable. It’s easier walking into the old dive around the corner, because I know what to do in there. I say this to explain the advantage I have over some people who try such a ministry. I think God uses me in this area because I do have a comfortable feeling about it. The people in these places are not strangers. It wasn’t that one day when I was 35 years old I started trembling and said, “I’ve got to go into a bar and witness to those strangers in there.” I’ve lived with them throughout my life. I’ve gone into thousands of clubs.
Sometimes when I’ve been carrying the cross along a hot, dusty road, I see a bar, an old country dive. Boy I’m thirsty and need something to drink. I wheel up and lean the cross up against the side of the door. The people in the bar watch me. I come in and get a coke and start passing out stickers and tracts. “What in the world is that outside?” “Oh, that’s my cross. I’m going along the road sharing Jesus. Ya’ll want to see it?” I go out and bring it right in the door, and we have a good time talking about Jesus.
Have Respect for Every Person
If you don’t respect the people you’re witnessing to, they’ll know it. If you look down your nose at them, you’ll never get anywhere.
I remember when we were demonstrating against the Classic Cat. After we did our marching. I put the signs away and the owner said, “Come on in, Arthur; you really socked it to us tonight.” I said, “Yeah, we’re going to get this place closed down. Praise the Lord.” Then the manager said, “Blessitt, you’re really after us. I hope you never move down in front of those other nightclubs. Get all the publicity for the Classic Cat that you can get. Tell them that we’re the best sinners in town.” We’d just been out there fighting them, and yet we were friends because they knew I loved them. Our purposes were totally different, but they felt I was their friend.
This kind of relationship is possible when your attitude is not that of condemnation, but of concern. Jesus let a sinner woman, who was a stranger to Him, come along and wash His feet. We’ve no idea who the woman was, but when Jesus was eating in the respectable man’s house, the Bible says, “There came a woman who was a sinner, and while he was eating she began to wash His feet with her tears, and bathed them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet.” They started condemning Him, so Jesus said, “I came into your house and you didn’t anoint my feet, but she did. You didn’t give me any kisses, but she has not stopped kissing my feet.” It wasn’t just one kiss. She was sitting there, holding onto His feet, kissing them, drying them with her hair and weeping. This went on all the while Jesus was still eating and He spent a period of time there. It wasn’t an instant thing. We know she had been there for a while because they were questioning Him about why He let her continue to do it to Him. Then He said to her, “Thy sins are forgiven thee. Go thy way. Thy faith hath saved thee.” What I’m pointing out is that Jesus was a friend of publicans and sinners. He was able to let that woman relate freely to Him because she knew His holiness and she accepted it.
Most of the people who are involved in–I hate to use the word–gross sin (there may be many sins in the church grosser than these; they’re just not as open) do not need to be told how bad they are. What they need to be told is how good Jesus is, and how wonderful His love is and what He can do. Most of them will then begin to tell you how bad they are. They know how bad they are. I have been with my dad night after night when he was drinking. He would sit there on the bar stool and tell me how bad he had been to my mother, how mean he had been to the kids, how awful he was to everybody around him.
Yet, when he was sobered up the next day, you’d think he lived a better life than the preacher. Many people are more honest when they’re drunk than when they’re sober. When they’re drunk, they tell you how bad they are. And when they’re sober they tell you how good they are, because they don’t want to face the truth. When people see the holiness of Christ, that reveals the wickedness of their own soul. If you’re pastoring a church, and you want to get the people under conviction of sin, give them a glimpse of Jesus and they’ll be crying under conviction.
They’ll recognize more sin through seeing Jesus than they will if you preach a sermon on evil. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t talk about evil when you’re dealing with a person who doesn’t understand his lost condition. But as a general policy, go with the good news, go sharing hope.
When Opportunity Knocks . . .
It’s important to take advantage of every opportunity. If a club has a band on stage, you can ask the manager if you can speak for a few minutes between band set changes. Sometimes they’ll let you. If the owner or manager is Catholic, it’s usually much easier to get in than if he is Protestant or Jewish. Catholics have much more respect for the ministry. You might phrase it differently. “May I bring an evening devotion?” They’re not sure what a devotion is but it sounds spiritual. “I’d like just to bring a five minute devotion, just before you close, or between one of the dance sets.” They may just let you go up there. Take advantage of anything that’s happening. If you get a brainstorm that something ought to be done, try it. Nothing’s lost.
If you start taking advantage of every kind of thing that’s happening in your town, you’ll be amazed what opens up. If someone says, “We’re having a big party over here . . . got 50 or 75 of us . . . and smoking grass . . . big grass party . . . will you come along?” You say, “I don’t smoke, I just burn for the Lord. If there’s any room for a soul saver, I’d be glad to come along.” “Ha, ha, well come along, we’ve never had a preacher at our party.” Go in, take advantage of it . . . it’s an opportunity. You can dive in and start witnessing. If they don’t want you, they’ll ask you to leave. But they brought you; they invited you. You can usually stay in the main room. It’s in the other rooms that bad things may be happening.
But watch what you’re drinking and remember why you are there. If you are known as a Christian witness, then there may be people trying to turn you on. Or there may be a punch drink that’s high. Drink a bottle of coke to be sure. A person may offer you a drink from his bottle of coke, but someone may have dropped a little touch of acid in there, so buy and open your own. You have to be careful about this, because you only have to get wasted away once, and it can put a scandal over you for the rest of your ministry. So don’t take any chances.
You have to be careful of drugs in other ways too. If someone asks you to take a package down and mail it for him, just don’t get involved in it. It’s liable to be full of cocaine, or heroin, or something else, and it may be a set-up and you’d be arrested. You’ve got to be wise and think about what you’re getting into. Watch yourself. Be sensitive. Pray for the discernment to know what’s going on. That’s what’s involved in being street wise. If this is your ministry, you’ve got to be able to know what’s happening, what’s moving, what the scene is, what’s going on. You’ve got to be at home with the street.
Make Them Remember You
I also suggest that if you’re starting a permanent ministry, you find some way for people to identify you easily. In the years past on Sunset Boulevard, we always had cards printed. We didn’t pass them out just to impress everybody. It gave them a way to remember us, and it showed them that we were in the community to stay. They came to trust the people who carry your ministry’s card. Someone else may come along who is not connected with you, and they won’t let them in. “No, I’ve got somebody else who comes in here and ministers.” You’ve gained a confidence and a reputation and an image, and that’s important, whether you’re in a small town or a big city. It will determine what the people of that place think of you. They may not want to be buddy-buddy, but they’ll know you’re okay.
Cultivate a Good Reputation
We may misunderstand the Bible verse that says Jesus “made Himself of no reputation.” He spent three years of ministry building a reputation, as a friend of publicans and sinners, as a mighty worker for God. Because of His reputation, many came to believe that He was the Messiah. Even those who had never met Him wanted to meet Him. They knew that He was preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every sickness and disease among the people. They knew that all over Israel. So you too need to develop a reputation.
Here’s something that will help you build an honest reputation: Don’t make an obligation to anyone unless you can keep it. They’ll respect you more if you make no promises or commitments than they will if you say you can do something and don’t do it. If someone comes up to you and says, “Can you get me a place to spend the night?” and you look at them and say, “No, I don’t know of any place available,” that person may be your friend for weeks and months and years. But if you tell him, “Let me see if I can; I think maybe I can,” he thinks you’ve made a promise; you’ve given an indication that you can help him. When you don’t produce, he’ll say, “Boy, that guy lied to me. I waited five hours for that dude; thought he was going to get me a place to spend the night and he didn’t.” Before you know it, the word has been spread all over the community. If you do that a few times, everyone on the street will say you’re a liar. That’s all it takes, just a few times.
If you’re in a club, it’s best to say, “I’ll drop back in the next two weeks,” or, “I’ll be back . . . I make the rounds once in a while.” If you say, “I’ll be back Thursday night,” you’d better be back Thursday night. If you can’t, call and let them know. Don’t begin breaking your word in the street. Be vague if you need to, and people will accept it. But if you say something, then DO IT. That’s how you develop a reputation of honesty and earn their trust and respect.
I often have people ask me, “Can you lead me in Bible study?” With my schedule I know I can’t do it, so I say, “No, I don’t have the time, but I know who can.” I’ll get in touch with some person I trust, and they can teach them the Bible. But if I tell them I’m going to lead them in Bible study, but I just never get around to it, they’ll lose confidence in me, and it will hurt them. Just try to decide what you can do, and don’t do any more than that. Don’t make obligations to do more than you can carry out, because you’ll be more effective at the things you do commit yourself to do.
A One-Night Blitz
There is also a place for witnessing in bars and clubs where you’re not planning to maintain a permanent ministry. This may be approached differently. If you’re going to Jackson, Mississippi, or Chicago and you’re only going to be there for two nights, you don’t have time to waste trying to figure out who runs this place or that place or the other place. Just go into one and start at the back. That way, if they throw you out, you can deal tracts out the door. Besides, it’s usually less noisy back there and you’re less obvious to the management. You can just give out materials or you can go up to the tables and share.
Sometimes I’ve ministered in Las Vegas when I was just there for a short while. I might go back to a blackjack table in a gambling casino. The dealer’s dealing out cards and I say, “I’d like to give you one of these.” I give them each a tract, then I say, “Thank you so much,” turn and walk away fast. It stops the whole game. They may have been concentrating on blackjack, but now they open the tract and start to read. “Where did he go? There’s a nut in here.” And I go zig-zagging between the rows of slot machines. I come across one of those little change slots where the money’s coming out and stick a tract in there. I don’t do it in every row. I may skip four rows, because they’ll be trailing me by now. I fake them out. I hit there. I hit here. If they catch me and throw me out, Praise the Lord. I may be gone, but my literature is in there anyway. And then I’ll hit the next joint.
You can blitz a town in this way in one or two nights. You just go to all the clubs and the bars. Start at the back and go up to every table. “I’d like to give you all one of these. Jesus loves you. Do you know Christ in your heart?” Many times you can almost take over. A lot of the places will let you keep doing it indefinitely. But in others, you’re liable to be run out. It doesn’t matter, if you’re just there for one night. Move from place to place. Blitz that town with the gospel. You may be thrown out of a certain place, but you can send your buddy in. “They haven’t told you to leave yet. You hit this one, and I’ll move on down the street.” Or you may feel led to go back in yourself. Sometimes a place will run you out two or three times, but the fourth time they let you stay. It may be wide open for you to witness and share.
Go Two by Two
As a rule, I think it’s best to go two by two when you’re witnessing in night spots. A partner gives most people added encouragement and security. If more than two people hit one bar at once, it looks like God’s taking over. It scares the people and they won’t be open for conversations.
Sometimes when we’re out on the street at night and there are six or eight of us, I’ll say, “A couple of you go in here, and then another couple hit this bar, and this one . . . ”
Now, as a matter of personal preference, I enjoy working alone, because then I don’t have to worry about anyone else. I just keep my mind on what I’m doing. But I don’t recommend that for everyone. Two by two usually works best.
Even though you go out two by two, witnessing is always best when it’s done by one person. When I’m working in a bar, it bothers me to be talking to someone while a third party, the Christian who is in the bar with me, stands nearby so he can hear what’s being said. It upsets the person I’m witnessing to, and it upsets me. In a bar, it just doesn’t seem right to have a third party standing around. On the streets it’s O.K. We train people on the street by letting them listen in while someone experienced witnesses. But it just doesn’t work in a bar. People become sensitive as to what that person is doing. “Why is he listening? What is he up to?”
Should You Smoke, Drink, Dance?
Those of us who work in street ministry come face to face with the fact that in the world we are dealing with a variety of cultures. Christians have a wide range of various convictions, personal convictions of what’s right and wrong, whether Christians should smoke or drink any alcoholic beverage or dance, etc. I don’t want to get into the details; that would take a separate book. But, I’ll tell you my own personal principle of operation. Don’t let your practices stand in the way of your ministry. If you smoke, I would advise you not to do it when you’re out witnessing and working in the clubs and bars. If you drink moderately and feel that’s all right, don’t drink in the clubs you’re ministering in and working with. If you’re working with a club and you’re sharing with people and you feel like getting up and dancing, I would advise you not to do it. It will be very difficult to witness and to maintain an outreach ministry if you suddenly do something that makes them feel that you’re just like them. I’m not saying what’s right and wrong. I’m speaking practically. I’ve just found over and over again that it’s most effective not to participate in anything that’s part of the scene you’re witnessing in.
Here’s What Can Happen
Does witnessing in bars and nightclubs pay off? Here’s the answer straight from the horse’s mouth. Ron Bozarth was the manager of a popular night spot on Sunset Boulevard. This is his personal testimony:
“We had the only ‘class’ nighclub in the business. Isn’t that something to brag about? But we were very proud of it truthfully. In reality, this ‘class’ place was really a cesspool, the dregs of everything that could happen on the street. I’m not trying to take this as a badge of honor; I’m trying to explain to you that even the best of such places is awful. There wasn’t anything you couldn’t get in our place. If you wanted to get somebody killed, you could do it there. Literally killed. If there was anything you wanted to buy, you could get it in our place. And we had the ‘class’ place. And I, with my ego, was the ‘class’ operator, the manager of the place.
“At that time, about 1968, Sunset Boulevard was covered with hippies. Now, we didn’t like the hippies, obviously, because they didn’t have any money. But they had a habit of falling asleep in our driveway or in front of the place. It was really a problem. We couldn’t just throw them out. We tried. We hired people to get rid of them, but they kept coming back. They didn’t have any place to go. One night, I’ll never forget it, we had a line of people, paying customers, waiting to get in. The place was packed. The doorman came up to me and said, ‘Ron, there’s a guy who wants to talk to the manager.’ I figured it was another complaint or maybe someone willing to spend a little money to get in and get a seat. And, I said, ‘Okay. Fine,’ and walked over. Along came this bouncing, smiling, long-haired, hippie freak.
“He came up with his Bible in his hand, and he said, ‘Hi, I’m Arthur Blessitt.’ He stuck out his hand and grabbed my hand to shake it. I thought, ‘Oh boy. We’ve got a yo-yo here.’ And he said, ‘I just wanted to ask you a question.’ I was trying to get rid of him, to get loose from him, but he kept holding on. And there were people all around. I was the boss, and this long-haired, Bible-toting guy with stickers all over him, was holding onto me.
“Arthur said, ‘Ron, I want to know if you know Jesus Christ.’ A lot of you may think that if you approach someone like that, they’re going to think you’re foolish. They may at first. I was embarrassed and I’m sure I said something kind of smart. But there was a difference. As I look back 10 years ago, I realize that the difference was that Arthur Blessitt walked in with a glow on. He was just beaming. No one in the club who was supposed to be turned on was shining like that.
“He kept holding onto me, and he said, ‘Ron, boy, you’re the manager of this place. I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Wow, what a job this must be, running all these people.’ He knew just how to get to me. ‘Yeah, well, I run the whole place.’ I was real proud of it. And he said, ‘Ron, all these girls–(We had five stages going around, with women dancing on all the stages. Also, there were bars operating and the waitresses had very little on.) Where do they go when they come off the stage?’ I said, ‘Oh, we have a dressing room in the back.’ He was still holding onto me, and I was really feeling embarrassed to be standing next to him. I was in a tuxedo, he was in beads.
“Then Arthur said, ‘Ron, I wonder if it would be all right if I talked to a couple of the girls when they come off stage.’ And I thought, ‘Boy, wouldn’t that be something?’ I said, ‘Arthur, you don’t want to talk to them.’ These were pretty rough girls. They’d been around for a long time. But he said, ‘I’d like to go wherever they go and talk to them.’ Well, at any given time our dressing room in the back had girls there, all without clothes, all into everything you can imagine.
“I couldn’t shake Arthur, so I took him back there, thinking, ‘This is going to be like throwing Daniel into the lions’ den. I knew that I was putting him into something that he couldn’t cope with. I opened the door, and I said, ‘Girls, there’s a guy here who wants to talk to you.’ I pushed him in and closed the door, and I went back to work. I was laughing to myself. I went up to the bartender and said, ‘You ain’t going to believe this; I’ve got a preacher back there in the girls’ dressing room.’
“Well, the girls were dancing and coming off the stages by rotation, and all of a sudden I noticed there was an empty stage over here. And there was another empty stage. Before long, I had a lot of empty stages and a lot of irate customers. I went back to the dressing room to see what was going on and here were all of my leading dancers, that I’d brought in from Vegas and San Francisco and other places, and they were all sitting there with something covering them. And Arthur was talking to them.
“I think it’s important that I make the point that he was talking to them. He wasn’t having a prayer meeting, he was just talking to them. He was doing something that was really unique. He was being a friend to them, and a friendship is not something you come by very often in that business. You may have a lot of acquaintances, but not many friends. Arthur was being a friend. Well, I had a real problem. I couldn’t get any of the girls to go on stage. They were really interested. Then he started talking about Jesus Christ, and some of them suddenly began to go. Yet, they weren’t dancing like they used to. They were very tame, and the show went to pot.
“I realized that I had to get Arthur out of there, so I said, ‘Come on, I want you to meet my bartenders.’ I had two winners, two real tough bartenders there. Those guys could handle anything. I took Arthur over and introduced them to him. And then I split again. I got the girls back on stage, though the show was not very good at all that night. But I saw Arthur over there, standing by the bar with his Bible laying on the bar, drinking a coke. Before long I noticed that one bartender wasn’t pouring drinks. Instead he was talking to Arthur. This just went on and on.
“Finally, I realized that there was only one thing to do to keep the club going and that was for me to talk to Arthur. So I went back to Arthur and said, ‘Come on, let’s go over here and talk.’ Well, this thing kept bothering me, this glow about the man. I know now that this glow is called Jesus Christ, and it was like an aura around him.
“You know, Arthur made a friend of everyone in that club, and there’s a reason why. The reason Arthur Blessitt got through to so many of us in the nightclub business is because Arthur never once judged us. Never! He recognized, I think, with the help of the Lord, the fact that all of us who are in this business (I’m out of that work now) have the same basic problem–loneliness.
“I didn’t start off in the nightclub business. I came from a very religious home with two beautiful parents. I used to make jokes on the stage about the fact that I could probably never be successful because I came from the right side of the tracks. However, my church didn’t give me much help. It was a church that preached that everyone was going to hell except them.
Christ said He was going to prepare a place for us, and my feeling as a young man was that He shouldn’t have been gone so long. We didn’t need much room. Only our church was going to be there, and I couldn’t imagine why it was taking Him so long. Later I saw this judgmental spirit for what it was, so I got away from it.
“Throughout the years I was in the nightclub business, I saw the church only as a group of people saying, ‘You’re a sinner. You’re bad.’ Now, along came Arthur and his type of ministry, and they weren’t judging, they were offering friendship, and offering a better way. That’s what Christians have to offer unbelievers–friendship and a better way.”
Ron Bozarth is now a beautiful Christian. At his wedding, when I married him and his wife, Jerry, we knelt together and they both gave their lives to Jesus before they took their marriage vows. Ron is no longer in the nightclub business. Praise God! He is a strong testimony for Jesus. The arm of God is not short and He can save anyone from any condition.
Ron Bozarth is now a Pastor of Christ Fellowship in Lake Forest, California. (See his website at: www.christ-fellowship.com.)