Television sitcoms just aren’t what they used to be, are they? When I was a kid, it was ‘Happy Days’ and ‘Laverne and Shirley’ that topped the ratings. But during my Youth Pastor years, the number one sitcom on the tube was called ‘Cheers’. Remember that one? I watched a special a few years back that told the ‘behind the scenes’ stories to some of the great sitcoms of the past. I was surprised to discover that ‘Cheers’ was never intended to be more than a one season fill in for an open slot in the network. But to the amazement of everyone, it soared in popularity and became one of the greatest sitcoms in the history of television.
The cast of ‘Cheers’ included “Sam”, the washed-up ballplayer; “Woody”, the male airhead; “Frazier”, the psychotic psychiatrist; and “Karla”, the bitter barmaid. Then there was the mailman…“Cliff”. He was the nerd of all nerds. His real name is John Ratzenberger. I used this illustration once back in Indiana and a couple weeks later one of the ladies in the church gave me an autographed black and white glossy of “Cliff”. Her best friend out in California was John Ratzenberger’s personal secretary. She sent him a tape of the sermon. Mr. Ratzenberger listened to it and sent me an autographed picture back that said, “To Pastor Scott, Cheers and best wishes!”
But the star of the show was a man named “Norm”. Norm was an overweight, lazy alcoholic who couldn’t keep a job and whose family thought very little of him. He was the loser of all losers by anyone’s definition. But what happened every time Norm came into the bar? The whole place stopped what they were doing and yelled, “NORM”!
Why did this show connect so easily, quickly and deeply with the average American? I think it’s because it was a show about a bunch of ‘losers’, and if we are going to be honest, we are all losers in some way, shape or form. We all have something about us that is weird or quirky. And for 30 minutes a week we could watch this lovable group of losers and find someone that we could relate to and for that brief time-frame we felt like we were somebody…like we had a reason to get out of bed every morning. In fact, do you remember the theme song for the show? The lyrics went something like this:
“Wouldn’t you like to have a place where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came? Wouldn’t you like to be where you can see our troubles are all the same? Wouldn’t you like to go where everybody knows your name?"
And where was that place? A bar! Now I ask you, why can’t that place be the church? Why can’t the church be the place where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came? Why can’t the church be the place where you can see that our troubles are all the same? You see, I think the church needs to become more like a bar! It’s time to light the neon sign in the window, “The Bar is Open”. After all, we serve the best drink in town…the living water of Jesus Christ! And once you’ve tasted this drink, you’ll never be thirsty again!