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Should Beer and Church Go Together?

Last week NPR published a story entitled “To Stave Off Decline, Churches Attract New Members With Beer.”

I then noticed several other stories linked to the NPR story discussing the idea of connecting beer with worship. You can read three of those stories if you like: “Churches Use Beer to Attract New Members,” “Churches Woo New Members with Beer,” and “Comedy, Reality, and Religion.”

Connecting the ideas of “we need new church members” and “let’s drink some beer together” surely creates opportunities for strong opinions.

Suggesting offering beer connected with worship as a way to attract new members smacks of compromise for some people.

So, what do you think? Are you interested in a little Harvest Ale or Oatmeal Stout with your praise choruses and bible study?

The idea of sitting down for worship–or standing for a praise song or hymm–with a beer in hand is just too foreign for most people.

Worship comes pre-packaged with designated sacred spaces, liturgies, scripture reading, and decorum. There are expectations.

Beer is not usually in the order of service.

Drinking beer in worship creates images just too much like lifting a pint to a rousing song in a pub with friends. It brings to mind people stumbling out into the streets after one too many instead of people with hands raised in praise to God. This may ultimately be the problem.

However, the whole shall I drink beer or wine or not has broad interpretation within the Christian community.

It would be better to think about this not in terms of whether we should drink beer, but how or why we should gather for worship and bible study.

Many recent studies suggest that the church continues to suffer decline in membership, prestige, and authority in American culture. Either the gospel has lost its power or we have failed to articulate it clearly to people within our culture.

I personally do not believe the gospel has lost its power to change lives, so perhaps we need to find new ways to introduce it to others.

People like Pastor Amy Piatt at First Christian Church, Portland, OR, are trying things like “Beer & Hymns.” Across the nation, pub theology groups are forming representing innovative attempts to reach people.

People are asking a very honest question: “If people gather to talk over beer, then can we help change those conversations toward spiritual matters?”

Gatherings like these do not seek to replace traditional worship but they do supplement our weekly worship services.

It is best not to stereotype the folks who gather in pubs to drink beer, sing some hymns, and study scripture. On the other hand, sitting a keg up in the sanctuary likely is not a good idea.

The key here is the way we use space. If people gather in a pub to drink beer and talk, then there’s no harm in turning that conversation toward God and singing a few hymns along the way.

How, where, and why we worship looks differently to a lot of people. If sitting down with someone in a pub creates an opportunity to appreciate God at work in life, then I am all for it.

The gospel sounds the same over a pint of amber ale as it does a glass of iced tea.

What do you think?

  • Jessica

    I’ve been to several Theology on Tap events, and even been to meetings that groups have regularly on their back porches with cigars and wine.

    I’d say some of the most meaningful conversations have been in these places.

    • Jessica

      I also apologize for that unnecessary comma. I forgot to take it out when I edited that sentence.

    • Darrell Gwaltney

      Thanks, Jessica! One of the most helpful things about this conversation related to beer and church is the way it asks us to think about where and how we have conversations or think about God. It is not just limited to what happens inside a church building. There are lots of places, such as pubs, where meaningful conversations about God happen regularly and intentionally. Thanks for the comment!

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