Two weeks ago I was in the west suburbs of Chicago for a Doctor of Ministry seminar at Northern Seminary. On Thursday, after class, a few students including myself, all of whom are ministers, went out to Giordano’s Pizzeria for some pie (that’s real pizza for those unfamiliar with Chicago style pizza). To go along with our pie, we ordered a pitcher of Goose Island 312, a locally brewed beer. This meant we each had a glass of beer to drink, so don’t think we were sitting there getting drunk.
Any ways, as our server was pouring our beer into our glasses, she asked what the occasion was that had brought a group of men out to dinner. One of us explained that we were all ministers attending a class at a local seminary. It was her response that has me thinking. Our server said something to the effect of, “I didn’t think ministers could drink.”
At the risk of over-analyzation, I wonder what made her think that it was morally wrong for ministers to drink. Of course, in some places where I have lived the assumption is not just ministers but Christians as a whole…not one drink, beer or wine. Teetotalism.
My point here is not to address the issue of teetotalism. I obviously don’t believe in it but I will say that scripture only speaks of drunkenness as sin. My concern here is how this story might illustrate the gap that exists between the gospel and culture. In fact I wonder: Do we even have a gospel for the person sitting in the local pub?
By asking this question, I’m not talking about the gospel story. Yes, we have the gospel story but the gospel of Jesus Christ is so much more than a story. The gospel, when understood right, is lived and proclaimed not just in a Christian worship assembly but also among the people wherever they are found…even in our local pubs. But in the past, churches never had to worry about going to the pub. Rather, churches could bank on seekers showing up to a revival meeting or showing up to a marriage seminar or financial seminar (felt needs were an attractional way of getting people to eventually hear the gospel). In some places that still works but in most places it does not. So I ask, do we have a gospel for the person sitting in the local pub?
How can we when there’s such a gap between us and the pub? I surely don’t want to encourage Christians who battle addiction to alcohol and I don’t want to encourage drunkenness (which I believe is a sin!) but part of the reason why this gap exists seems to be because too many Christians have avoided the pub and/or made it appear that one must completely stop drinking. That’s a problem. Frankly, most people who enjoy a beer after work or enjoy a glass of wine with their dinner are not so inclined to give that pleasure up and they should not be expected too since it is not a sin. Further more, if we want the people in the pub to hear the gospel (and let’s face it, the pub is a a great place for conversation) then we need to learn how to be Christians inside a pub.
I’m doing a lot of out-loud thinking here, so I’ll end this post with one more out-loud thought. I just ordered a new book for my kindle called Pub Theology: Beer, Conversation, and God (seen in the picture above). I haven’t read the book yet so I have no idea whether it’s worth the read or not but after scanning through the chapters, maybe it’s a push in the right direction.