Neon beer signs advertising American beers and a mechanical bull surround a stage that has been graced by country stars and countless women competing in “Short Shorts and Boots” competitions.
But on Monday nights, once per month, the only person taking the stage at the Cotton Eyed Joe nightclub is Pastor Scott Cagle, founder of the NorthStar Church in Knoxville, Tenn.
“Jesus always said, ‘Go and tell,’ and it feels like something Jesus would do,” Cagle told ABCNews.com. “We wanted to take the church to the people.”
Cagle gave his first sermon Monday night in the Knoxville hotspot to a crowd of 600 people — many of whom had never attended NorthStar Church.
Cagle, who is hunting buddies with the owner, Gingi Bakri, asked if he could use the bar for church since it is closed on Mondays.
“I said, ‘Man, you are crazy!’” Bakri told ABCNews.com. “But I was there on Monday and these people are for real. I saw a lot of my regulars.”
After the sermon, which integrated country music lyrics with life lessons, a band sang Christian tunes with a Tennessee twang while worshipers line danced and played corn hole, a game involving throwing a bean bag through a hole.
And there was no Tennessee whiskey. Only soda and juice were served at the bar.
Sheri Hampton, who had never attended NorthStar, took her 9-year-old daughter to the service and was pleasantly surprised.
“I was very impressed with the pastor, the way he spoke, the environment, the people. I just think it was fun,” Hampton told ABC affiliate WATE-TV.
Cagle, who was blown away by the response, said he’s already received calls from other pastors to find out how they can replicate his success. Judging by word of mouth, he said he expects at least double the crowd at the next service on Dec. 5.
“We think it’s going to be explosive!” he said. “It’s one wild ride we’re on.”