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Beer, Ministry, and You!

In Christian RealTalk by Antwuan Malone48 Comments

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

Novus.Luvem: Wine, Beer and Coffee
Charles Stone: Should Pastors Abstain from Alcohol

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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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.
47 comments
Jefffosterusa
Jefffosterusa

Well said. John Wesley, C.S. Lewis and many ancient believers would agree.

Carl Rooker
Carl Rooker

It is absolutly amazing what rules people make up and then force on others that God never stated or intended (He would have stated it if He intended it).


Personally, I do not like beer.  However, if offered one, I accept it to keep from putting up a false barrier between me and the one who offers it.  Very occasionally I will suggest it.  There is a certain ammount of comraderie between 2 friends sharing a pint.  If that will help me witness the love of Christ to them, Amen!

@antwuanmalone
@antwuanmalone

Hey Caitlin, thanks for your comment. I don't think that being "in the world but not of the world" really has to do with being separate from other people. Again, if Jesus is the example, that certainly isn't what he showed us. That said, if alcohol is a problem for you, then you don't HAVE to drink it (alone or with friends). As for the window of opportunity that not drinking brings, I understand that completely. I don't drink at all (never had) and when I go out people do want to know why I don't drink. But I don't think my not drinking is a light or witness to Christ at all, (at least not in the surfacey "Christians don't drink" sort of way). The gospel is not dependent on our drinking, or even on the removal of our sins (our good deeds, though I am not ready to say that drinking a beer is a sin). In the end, being in the world but not of it means something for transformational from the inside out. It means we don't go about doing life by the same social rules of the rest of the world. I am working on a book centered on this very statement, so I should probably stop before I go too long. Thanks for your thoughts!

Caitlin Frost
Caitlin Frost

i think that as a christian, i'm supposed to be "in the world, not of it," that and i also strongly feel that i need to separate myself from my non-christian peers. whether it's of the Bible or not, whether Jesus drank or not, i think that by no consuming alcohol of any kind immediately separates me as "different." And then when people ask why, the door to talk about my faith swings wide open.

Shannon Milholland
Shannon Milholland

Antwuan, found you through Twitter and so glad I did. This is an insightful and thought-provoking post! Thanks!

Tom
Tom

Antwuan, I stumbled on your site today ... I love it! Keep up the great work.

Julie
Julie

I say, who cares... if the gospel is being shared then praise God. Let's stop judging each other and keep sharing God in our everyday lives by our words and by loving all people.

jeffreywroop
jeffreywroop

Great post, Antwuan! I came across John's teaching regarding that 'wine' in scripture was not like the wine we have today. That raised some red flags for me. I like beer and the Luther quote is great! I currently do not drink at home because of my wife's recovery, however I do on occasion get together with friends and have a few beers. Ben Franklin also has a great beer quote. " Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

Brooke
Brooke

Tried to leave a comment on the John McArthur blog, but he won't take any more comments. Wow, he and his friends take themselves way too seriously. What we wear or drink or ink on our flesh does not hinder the work of God. Does anyone remember this quote: “I did not start the reformation. All I did was preach the Word of God and drink beer. The Word of God did the reforming.” -Martin Luther.

Paul Merrill
Paul Merrill

Not a deep deep reply - just a shout out to say thanks for bringing this issue to light. So many Christians are afraid to talk about it. Your post is balanced and fair. And the ensuing discussion has been too!

Mary
Mary

We have a couple's BS in our home and we serve wine at it. This is an EXCELLENT way to get people to really open up and talk about what's really going on in their lives! I hope this doesn't sound like we are drugging them so they will talk, but yes, truth serum!

@priestlygoth
@priestlygoth

I'll put my cards on the table and say that it has been a long time since I cared much what John McArthur said or taught, his teaching has always seemed to tend toward the more legalistic and moralistic end of Christian faith. Also, I'm a goth. So, I'm probably not someone to address comments by John McArthur That said it seems he may have a point. I have come across Christians and people in ministry or who are seeking to plant a church who do things not out of conviction or authenticity but to draw people in by being relevant and cool. Though I think these people are a minority of those who my mix beer and ministry. Also, if MacArthur truly has a concern for alcoholics and alcoholism, I would also agree that one should be cautious and aware that we will encounter people who are alcoholics and in recovery thus alcohol can be a barrier to ministry. That said I lead a Theology on Tap sponsored by the Church I pastor every six weeks or so, at a local pub. It is well attended by people who would never make their way into a church. Also our Bible studies generally members homes, and members as often as not provide and/or bring wine or beer to these, because they drink beer or wine. My co-pastor for a time is a recovering alcoholic, he was far enough along in his recovery where the presence of beer or wine at an event wasn't an issue. And as far as my co-pastor was concerned alcohol was something he could not partake in but that did not mean no one could drink around him. Having a Theology on Tap isn't necessary. But having a beer and talking about theology, or being willing to have a drink with someone who has questions about faith spirituality and life, has in my ministry opened up opportunities to share Christ and be Christ to those who would never enter any church let alone church's that still teach that Christians shouldn't drink alcohol.

bsergott
bsergott

I am a pastor, and I started my church in a bar. I didn't do it to be cool, as MacArthur suggests, but because a friend owns the place. He let us use it for free for a year. I have been doing church more in coffee houses now, because we are more accessible to people of all ages. I minister in Green Bay, WI. Our city consumes more beer per capita than any other city in the world, save Heidelberg, Germany. I love beer. I have not been drunk even once in the last 20+ years, since I was a troubled teenager. There were some people who were upset and left my church, when they found out I enjoy beer. Oh, well. If they hadn't left over that, I am sure they would have soon hated me for other reasons. Here's the thing. I don't believe in watering down the message of the Gospel in order to cater to the culture. I just think that we need to get the real message of the Gospel to the culture. Being where people are, is what is necessary. I think speaking the love of Jesus and teaching people to receive that love is the true Gospel. It is much more rigorous and challenging than a simple, black-and-white, moralistic gospel. I think staying safely in our churches and avoiding the larger culture is very weak. It is really watering down the gospel in order to cater to the assembled, Christian culture. Legalistic leaders, like MacArthur, are more guilty of trying to be perceived as cool by their culture than beer-drinking pastors ever were. Just my two cents.

@donnasmaldone
@donnasmaldone

I love this, "The question I must ask is, why is it that simply having a beer opens up authentic conversation so often?" It's a great question, Antwuan -- because beer DOES open up conversation. It's in that vein that our church (Christ Church United Methodist in Glens Falls, NY) started "Theology on Tap" every Tuesday night. We meet (whoever wants to come) at a fave restaurant/bar in downtown Glens Falls and just share life with one another (no agenda) -- over beer, wine, soda, water... your choice.

@lisa_dawn1
@lisa_dawn1

I know so many Christians who do have an occasional beer (or glass of wine, or fruity whatever drink). If we want people to be real, and honest, and transparent, then why do we make those Christians "hide" that or feel like they should hide it? We shouldn't be hiding anything. We should be open and honest. Let's face it, there are people who think we Christians are hypocrites, and if we encourage this type of behavior (showing ourselves one way on Saturday night and another on Sunday morning), they are correct. Accountability is key. The Bible clearly states we should not be drunk. But even Jesus turned water into wine so that there was more for the wedding celebration. Wasn't he ministering then? Don't we minister with our whole lives, not just the part that people see on Sunday morning? I sure hope so.

lonniemarci1991
lonniemarci1991

Good article and response. I think Christians just need to be real, in a real world.

mrjonmiller
mrjonmiller

Antwuan, thanks for bringing this up. I've been wrestling with this for a while now, see, I am a recovering alcoholic in ministry. I am not opposed to beer ministry as long as there is SERIOUS accountability, but that's were i've seen the down fall. What i am seeing is "Christians" (i wrestle with the use of this word for anyone) using the beer minstry for an excuse to drink. I see suffering alcoholics in the church use this ministry as a means to continue suffering. I myself, after 11yrs of sobriety, go to pubs and bars to see bands and such, and it has been a success in my ministry because non-believers have seen me out, enjoying time with my wife and friends, in the same place they are, without judging, treating people with the upmost respect and love. i also have some friends who go with me who have a beer or 2 at the most..keeping sober minded at all times. So i do see the affectiveness of beer ministry....i also see some serious damage if there is not rock solid accountability. but.......i could be wrong._

Sara
Sara

I spied this quote on Facebook a week or so ago: “I did not start the reformation. All I did was preach the word of God and drink beer. The Word of God did the reforming.” Martin Luther The identified leader of the Protestant Reformation drank beer - AND preached the word of God. While I'm not a beer-drinker at all (think the stuff is nasty), could I not sit down and enjoy a glass of wine or a fruity rum drink with someone and still talk about God's love for them? Of course I could. Is not God bigger than the limits we try to impose on God? And can God's voice and message for God's people still be heard over the clamoring hypocrisy of "good church folks" who swear you've got to walk the straight and narrow for God to be in relationship with you? We try so hard to place limits on a limitless God.

Matt Jacobs
Matt Jacobs

I haven't read John's blog closely, so I could be off the mark here. It seems like in your american context, lightening up and having a drink with mates can be a helpful signal to non-believing friends; that you're not holier than thou weirdos. In my australian context, I think we blend in too much, at the expense of showing how our faith impacts our lives. I think that aussie Christians will generally be quick to jump in and have a beer with mates … but the cost is that it can start to seem like our beliefs have nothing to do with the way we live and act. Perhaps we all need to work at being refreshingly different. A lot like Jesus partying with the 'sinners' I guess; different to them, but not awkwardly different. Loving and engaging with them, yet without condoning their actions. There's no denying though, that alcohol is certainly an effective social lubricant. But we've also got to be aware of the potential pitfalls in causing others to stumble.

@kerilynnNY
@kerilynnNY

enjoyed your post antwuan- i went back and read the macarthur post- and while that was disturbing, it wasnt nearly as disturbing as some of the comments on the post--someone calling out their pastor for drinking a beer every night to relax, a fellow church member who drank beer at a family party, someone wondering if they are still saved because they had 2 beers last year, etc. etc.- so ridiculous-- the church today is creating a lot of little judges- so glad i am no longer under that kind of thinking

Aaron Jackman
Aaron Jackman

Most of my authentic conversations about God and Jesus with my atheist/agnostic mates is done over a cup of coffee or a few pints. I'm not trying to be cool, I'm just being me.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Beer ministries, house homes, and porch parties are all good, but let’s be careful not to swing too far in one direction. We like living in extremes, from the ultra-conservative who needs a building for “church” to the ultra-modern, nomadic Christian that sees the “building” as obsolete. There’s room for both in God’s program. Keep what works, adjust what doesn’t and stay away from the extremes. […]