Beer, The Bible and You!
Can Beer and Ministry Mix?
So John McArthur caused an uproar in the Christian community with a post on his blog about beer and how it has no place in true ministry. I imagine his straightforward post about the subject makes many a conservative Christian quite happy. They tend to really enjoy the exclusionary aspects of Christianity. But is he right? I’m not so sure.
I don’t know much about the “Young, Restless, and Reformed” or YRR as he calls them, so I won’t pretend to speak for them in this blog. I will, however, offer my own retort to Mr. McArthur’s well put thoughts.
I can respect the main points John is trying to make, namely that Christians should not be known for taking part, even in moderation, in spiritually dangerous territories like controlled substances and alcoholism. He is also correct in pointing out that alcohol is not “necessary” for missional work. It’s really surprising that anyone would ever imply such a thing. I’m always disturbed with the pendulum swings we Christians often make, and to call booze necessary to being missional is prime evidence and example of such wild swinging from left to right.
But with all of that being said, I still don’t see a major problem with booze and ministry. Here’s why.
If you’ve read about why I blog at all, you know that I am passionate about changing the amount of influence the church has on the world community. One of the ways I hope to help increase the Church’s influence on the world is in taking steps towards our various target communities (which really is every community) that help them understand we aren’t so different.
We are different in that God’s spirit resides in us and thus inspires our life decisions and that sort of thing. That’s not what I meant. I mean, we aren’t so “holy,” so something else that we can’t be ourselves. A good intentioned “beer” ministry is probably designed to take the haughty air out of the normal American Churchiness by allowing people to drop there guards in the name of true, authentic conversation and community.
This is where John McArthur is missing the point. In his post, John presents the Bible and Booze ministries as simply people trying to be “cool.” To quote him…
“After all, in a culture where cool is everything, what could be a better lubricant for one’s testimony than a frosty pint?
Mm. “Cool is everything,” eh? That’s what you think we think, John?
It is increasingly disheartening to see great leaders of the church disparage the efforts of the next generation as, in essence, “trying to be cool.” It is so much more than that. The truth is, the Bible does not speak against having alcohol. It speaks against getting drunk. Further, many a devout Christian will have a beer or two when they go out on their own terms — to a ball game, out to dinner, or even when sitting in the comfort of their homes. Is it really any different than a beer or two at a pub with a few unbelievers who refuse to play the hypocritical Hide-Behind-the-Masks, and I’m-Doing-Just-Fine games that go on each Sunday? I think not. Indeed, it is hypocritical to pretend as though you are above beer when in your home or out on the town for fun you are not. This is indeed the issue people have with the church. This is the hypocrisy so often levied against us.
The question I must ask is, why is it that simply having a beer opens up authentic conversation so often? Why is there a demographic of people that will not utter a single hidden thought, doubt or fear in church, but would consider taking the risk with a bartender they don’t even know? Or with friends they’ve just met? Is it because finally there is a connection point… a place where we are all on the same level? A safe place, where judgment does not lead the conversation, or lord over the room like a dark lightning cloud ready to strike at any moment.
This is the magic of Jesus’ ministry. McArthur points out in his blog that Jesus sat with Pharisees as well as tax collectors and winebibbers, etc. Indeed. And Jesus was able to do so because Jesus knew how to give audience to anyone who needed it by finding a place to connect with them. Like Paul says, “I become all things to all people so that I might win some.” This is not done to indulge some “bad boy” image that we hope will attract the lost. The point is to go to the world in an authentic way in hopes to win an in for authentic conversation about God and his love. Sure, just like any other ministry, there are forbidden fruit dangling around, tempting us to take advantage of our freedom. But temptation should not prevent us from going where we’re sent.
McArthur also wrote that Jesus did not “seek the reputation” of being a sinner by association, but I’d respectfully disagree. It seems to me Jesus would know full well what the obstinate religious would say about Him and his association, and I think it made Him want to pursue it all the more. Jesus’ life was a model and light for all to see in addition to a healing presence for the poor in heart, soul, and mind. By associating with sinners, Jesus killed two birds with one stone. He snatched the haughty religious separatists off their pretentious, hypocritcal high horses, and at the same time reached down to bring the marginalized up to a more worthwhile position in the social economy… all in the same actions.
Let’s face it. For many people, the church has a bad rep. There are many who will never set foot in a church, let alone be authentic and real in one. But over a pint, a door might crack open, and a soul might be saved. Just like when, over the forbidden Samaritan Well (for Jesus as a Jew), a woman was saved and redeemed.
John’s blog offers a great caution. Let us be careful in our ministry efforts to be sure we are not motivated by “coolness.” But do not let that tempting fruit prevent our courage to “go into all the world.” Let’s face it, evangelism has many a new faces… and one of them just might include a Miller Lite.
Here we go.
Other Posts on The Subject
Question of the Day?
How do you feel about Christians and Beer? Does the Bible forbid drinking beer? Can ministry be effective over a ‘tall one’?
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