Theology on Tap

October 27, 2005 by

More than a few times we’ve heard about outreach efforts involving strong drink, and they make me both wince and smile. I wince because I grew up in a church that considered proximity to alcohol a sin, and despite the fact that I don’t agree I still have the response. And I smile because I’ve moved beyond that thinking and I can appreciate the gutsiness and the fresh thinking, at the same time realizing how sad it is that sharing a pint is considered edgy.

So I find a post like this one that imagines a bartender Jesus and comes up with potential names for a drinking group rather clever, but in a sad kind of way. Like most sin, Christians have no idea how to deal with drunkenness. Jesus may have turned water into wine, but only Christians can turn alcohol into animosity.

There’s a balance to be found between legalism and abusing grace, and I wish churches would seek that balance. When that happens I think you can have cool stuff like a Theology on Tap group or a way to help rather than shun drinkers, like what happens with Alcoholics Anonymous. I’ve asked it before, but why can’t the church led the way in restoring responsibility to alcohol?

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

19 Responses to “Theology on Tap”

  • Kenny (blaqenedwyte blog)
    October 27, 2005

    Wow, “clever” AND “sad.”
    I guess I’ve been called worse before. :)
    Kidding aside, I think one of the most important things for ALL Christians to remember is that their mission field – should they be called – CAN be across the globe, but is ALWAYS right under their nose. At your office, your neighborhood and yes, even your local pub. If some group wants to form a small group at the local pub in order to evangelize to the unchurched, I personally think it is a FANTASTIC idea. The point of the post was merely to shed light on their horrible name choice and to have some fun with it.

  • kevin
    October 27, 2005

    Didn’t mean to slam you, Kenny. Sorry. It’s sad that such ideas are considered edgy, and it’s sad that plenty of folks would get angered at your post and call you all sorts of unsavory names. The post itself wasn’t sad.
    Another problem is that Christians rarely have any sensitivity when it comes to non-foundational issues like this. You make a joke and someone thinks it’s sacriledge. No wonder we have such a hard time reaching people.

  • Kenny (blaqenedwyte blog)
    October 27, 2005

    I agree 100% Kevin. My post – especially the photoshopped Buddy Jesus – is probably geared toward a younger demographic anyhow. If we can’t demolish the walls that keep different sects of Christianity from relating to each other, how then can we relate to the unchurched?

  • kate
    October 27, 2005

    I think the only way for the church to lead the way in restoring responsibility to alcohol is to go to the bars. I learned how to responsibly drink by watching adults who knew how. Lead by example. If your faith is that all drinking is wrong, still go to the bars, and gracefully lead by example. Maybe the church hasn’t been able to do enough in this area (as well as many other ministries) because people aren’t willing to go where they need to be to make a difference. The church needs to move forward without fear or arrogance in order to make a difference in such ministries.

  • kevin
    October 27, 2005

    Kate, your comments remind me of the book The Gutter by Craig Gross, one of the guys behind XXX Church. The basic point of the book was that Christians need to live in proximity to sin if they ever hope to make a dent in a sinful world. It’s not easy, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to do it.
    Good thoughts.

  • Dave Wakerley
    October 27, 2005

    Just a quick thought,
    Here in Australia, Beer is considered to be the fourth part of the trinity – and that’s just Christians :)
    Serioiusly – it is hard to look past your own culture, but in general someone from Europe.. Australia, New Zealand… would look at this story and just not get it.

  • Justin Broome
    October 27, 2005

    I was seriously rebuked by “upper management” at church for telling someone I loved a good Martini every now and then. I even told someone where my favorite martini bar is. Apparently my translation of the bible is wrong and doesn’t include: “thou shalt not do anything the world enjoys.”
    The argument on my behalf: How can we expect the world to think that Christians are human beings if we refuse to put ourselves in proximity to the people who need Jesus the most?
    The argument on their behalf: 1 Cor 10:23-33. If it causes someone else to stumble, don’t do it. Even if it’s ok with you, look out for them. If you don’t know if your actions will cause someone to stumble, play it safe.
    I understand, and agree with both sides. Just can’t win on this one :(

  • John Bartlett
    October 28, 2005

    I think we’ll all agree that the Bible does not state that drinking alcohol is a sin. The Bible does however, tell us the dangers of alcohol, and the sin that can result from drinking too much.
    Where do we, as Christians, draw the line at drinking “too much”? Is 5 drinks too much? Are we responsible drinkers if we have 4 and then stop?
    If we’re going to error, shouldn’t we error on the side of being safe; i.e. 0 drinks? Not only for our own sake, but for the sake of others who might struggle with alcohol? Going back to the verse Justin brought up: If it causes someone else to stumble, DON’T DO IT.
    What kind of example are we setting to the baby-Christian who see’s us out at a bar drinking? Maybe we’re just having one sip, but the other person may assume differently.
    I believe that 80% of witnessing is simply setting a Christ-like example. Let’s face it: people who are seekers or baby-Christians are watching our every move. That includes where we go and what we do.
    Good discussion!

  • Melissa
    October 28, 2005

    I recently had a woman decide to attend my Bible study when she found out that we had wine with dinner at a small group function.
    She decided that if we drink wine on social occasions we must not be completely weird and different from her, so she wasn’t afraid to come to the study. Two weeks later she gave her life to Christ.
    I think the most important thing is that we’re real with ourselves and those around us. If non-Christians think that they have to give up everything they enjoy to be a believer (a popular misconception), becoming a Christian isn’t very attractive.
    Jesus’ MO was to meet people where they are. And there are a lot of them at bars…

  • Kelly
    October 28, 2005

    I think that the stem of this debate does come from American culture. As Dave said, in other countries such as Australia, Germany, etc, having a beer is just the same as having a coke.
    I think that the difference is that Americans do everything in excess. We can’t stop eating so we are all fat. We can’t stop buying so we are all in debt. We can’t stop drinking so we are all alcoholics. (of COURSE these statements are generalized!!!)
    I think that if a Christian does choose to drink alcohol, they have to make sure that they are doing it under 100% submission to Christ so it does not get out of control.
    My mother grew up in an extremely alcoholic family where she was abused, and luckily she found a church family that loved her. But because of her childhood alcohol has never been a part of my life and never will be. Also because of that when she sees someone drinking it has an instant correlation with the pain it caused her growing up. Now of course alcohol was not the root of the problem, but when you smell beer on the breath of someone who hates you and lets you know it often, the smell is not associated with culture or anything good. Therefore I would never ever drink in front of my mother. You never know who has stories like that…and like I said it was not the alcohol’s fault, and there were many other factors, and I know that the argument could be twisted around to argue against anything, but this is just the personal application of this debate in my life.
    I think it is a powerful thing that can be used as a tool to draw in and assimilate with non-believers, but we also have to be so careful that it does not consume us or hurt others that may be trying to overcome its control in their life.

  • John Bartlett
    October 28, 2005

    Melissa – That’s awesome about that lady in your Bible study! That’s what it’s all about.
    Look – I’m all about meeting people where they are, and if they’re at bars then let’s go get them! But let’s make sure we go to the bar with the right intention. If we’re not going to the bar with the intention of witnessing and we go with the intention of drinking, we’re not meeting the lost where they are, we’re *joining* them where they are. (And I’m not saying that anyone and everyone at a bar is lost… just trying to make a point)
    I have a guy in my Bible study who is already a Christian. He came to the realization over the course of our study that his drinking was causing him to do things and think things that were not glorifying to God. He also knew he wasn’t treating his wife with the love of Christ. Recently, he made the couragous decision to stop drinking. What would happen if that same guy saw me, his Bible study leader, at a bar with a drink in my hand this weekend?
    Would that make it harder for him to stop drinking? Would he justify drinking for himself b/c he saw me doing it?
    Again, I don’t think that drinking alcohol in moderation is wrong. I just think that if we do drink, we should be careful about where and when we have a drink. You never know who might be watching is struggling over that very issue and we don’t want to lead them astray!

  • kate
    October 28, 2005

    John and Kelly,
    I think your examples need to be regarded differently because you are talking about information you know about because you already have personal relationships with the people in mention. That, of course, makes a difference in the way you behave. However, being “careful about where and when you have a drink” can be dangerous to your ministry to others because you don’t want to give a false impression of who you are. What if that guy in your Bible study did see you drinking? Wouldn’t it be better for him to know from the start that when you are with him you choose not to drink out of respect and support for him, but you do drink in a way that you feel is appropriate when you’re out with others? Many times I think Christians hide things like drinking in moderation from other Christians or seekers which hinders relationships and outreach.
    Also, if we decide to have zero drinks because someone we don’t even know about yet might stumble, then there’s a lot of other things we shouldn’t be doing. There are people that abuse money and food. We don’t completely stop eating or spending – we live in a way that is faith-driven and Christ-like.

  • Frank
    November 1, 2005

    I think Kate is right on as far as how we deal as Christians with others who have “issues” with responsibility when it comes to using alcohol, food, money, etc.
    One of the topics we’re discussing at the church my spouse pastors is whether or not to offer the ability for members to pay their pledge using plastic. Do we not offer this choice simply becuase there are folks out there (including in our own congregation) who have gotten themselves in trouble by abusing credit? Better, I think, to demonstrate that Christians can be a part of the world and a positive force for change by demonstrating how to be a responsible steward of one’s resources. Better still if we in the church provide teaching and counseling opportunities for those who are in trouble.
    Granted, there are also times to demonstrate that where two or three are gathered, doesn’t mean you need wine or beer to have a good time.

  • Paul Tilley
    November 10, 2005

    Incarnational missionology..i.e go to the bars or wherever the people are. No longer can it be, “if we build they will come” it has to be “if they build we will go!”

  • Jeff Beltz
    November 12, 2005

    I have just about had it with so many mean church people slamming a church or pastor or person for drinking a beer or wine. I would much rather sit with a wino than a mean Christian, and I am a pastor. I agree with your points and attempted to write book on the subject this past summer, (really), but I was too hung over to write much, (not really).
    Anyhow, our church is mostly beyond this issue and we are growing like a weed in rural northwestern California. In fact we are the second largest (About 700-800 on typical Sundays) in the county and in a town of 700. Why? Bless God, we have extricated ourselves from so much negativism about stuff that many people consider the worst thing in the world, yet Jesus did them Himself.
    Keep on rocking,
    Pastor Jeff
    Hey check out our new fun website for our outdoorsmen ministry.
    We just spent $30K on on big dinner event (We made it back selling raffle tickets [gambling I think they call it]), and gave away guns, rods and reels and bows and then saw people come to Christ and to our church!

  • Scott
    December 28, 2005

    I stopped going to the church I was attending because of how a new pastor handled our monthly singles’ class pub night. Basically, he refused to participate unless it was moved, but left that little detail out when he was explaining that the class ‘leadership’ wanted the move and it was their decision and not his. That, and his ambush of me w/ Matt 18 when I complained in public.

  • David
    April 3, 2006

    It’s amazeing Jesus came eating and drinking and they called him a wine-o on the contrary Jhonny B he abstained and they said he was crazy. The issue had nothing to do with food or drink…For Gods kingdom isnt reduced to mere food&drink, but the weighter matters like Love, Peace, Joy, influenced by the Knowledge of Gods Truth. Paul explained clearly that those who drink shouldnt judge those who dont, and those who dont shouldnt judge them that do. There is a higher equility Law called love we are to live by, Paul was being very understanding to a very small few who were stumbled by drink from there past, and most in there culture found it odd they abstained. Normally it wouldnt of even been an issue, cause it was like breathing air to most. Paul was saying be sensative and dont put drink above loveing someone, and loveing someone means being understanding and sincere. Paul in wisdom knew christians wouldnt abstain from wine, and winked when he explained to the mature. “Happy is the man that doesnt condemm himself for the things he approves of’ He also said if you have to dont abtain for others convictions if its free in your conscience, but do it in secret, so you dont come under the finger. Christians in balance should have the most liberty for they know what life is about. So if you have freedom to hit a bar be thankful and exercise self-control. Jesus condemmed a certain type of drunkenness that leads to absolute abandonedment from restraint. Someone who lives and breaths for drink and holds know fear of god in there hearts. King David said wine makes the heart marry, so a little Buzzy can gladen the heart provided the person isnt induldgeing in orgies and revolting against all manner of Law. Yes we american christian are farm raised in self-riteous will worship christiannity that pats the ole fleshs back. It always has its abstainance and appearance of wisdom, but does nothing for Being Like Jesus. So weather you eat or drink or weather you dont. Do everything in thankfulness to God with a joyful heart, and dont condemm one another for Christ is able to make us stand, and he will!!! God Bless

  • Mandy Mundt
    November 17, 2006

    I must agree with Justin Broom. We must err on the side of caution. Where do you draw the line between drinking and drunkeness? Why not just not drink at all so as not to risk causing a brother to stumble? Also, you want to flee from the appearance of evil, since drunkeness is evil we should flee from it, is having a drink fleeing from drunkeness? No, it isn’t, one sip is the first step toward drunkeness, and a person who sees you take that sip may not know that it is the only one you’re having. If you seeking God with all your heart why not flee from alcohol? Moses never tasted alcohol in his life and he was an awesome man of God, why not follow this Biblical example?

  • Mike Schmieder
    November 24, 2006

    Just a thought to a long, but admirably gracious discussion. I wasn’t raised in the church – not even close. I saw a lot of alchohol abuse growing up and did quite a bit myself, among other things. When I came to Christ it was such a no brainer that that wasn’t where life was at. As a believer I just think you are playing with razor blades when you drink. As was mentioned already, where is the line, how mush is too much? The danger I see is that when life comes crashing in on you and you already have a pattern of drinking, it can be pretty easy to reach for a drink as a coping mechanism, or just to “relax”. At some point that threshold that you reach for it starts to get lower and lower and that’s where trouble starts. I used to work in construction and spent a lot of time with hard drinking, hard living guys. I didn’t drink, but I also didn’t look down my nose at them. We have to come to grips, as has already been said, in proximity to broken and lost people if we ever hope to reach them. But personally – especially in our culture (America) you don’t need to drink to reach people that do. Most people respect you for not doing it (and not a few wish they could live the way you do) as long as you don’t get full of yourself over it and start oozing Churchianity all over them.

Leave a Reply

Evangelism & Outreach