Know Your Bible

VOL. 12                                                                                                                          January 12, 2014                                                                                                                            NO. 46



Leah Stanfield, 28, walks to a microphone across the room and reads the evening’s gospel message. No, she is not in some “church building” or “sanctuary”, she is in the neighborhood pub.

She’s been attending “worship services” in this Fort Worth, Texas, pub for about a year, and occasionally she leads worship. “I find the love, I find the support, I find the non-judgmental eyes when I come here,” she told National Public Radio (NPR). “And I find friends that love God, (and) love draft beer.”

You read that right. Every Sunday evening, about 30 to 40 gather with her at Zio Carlo brewpub to order pizza and pints of beer, have fellowship, and share communion. This, to them, is a worshiping of God. She and those who share her “non-traditional” views have one thing in common—they believe “church” has become too traditional.

Frankly, I cringe whenever I hear some-one (often a disgruntled, weak church member) complain that we (non-institutional churches of Christ) have become too wedded to “our traditions.” They grumble that we need to become more progressive and “make church more relevant,” especially to the thirty-something’s, so as to attract more people. Well! What could be more relevant to our “pub culture” than a church in a pub?

So-called “Pastor” Philip Heinze and his Calvary Lutheran Church told NPR that they sponsor Church-in-a-Pub, whose formal name is the Greek word Kyrie, because they, like many others, have become weary of “Traditional Church,” so they decided to mix hymns with beer.

And, believe it or not there are many mainline churches, concerned with dwindling attendance, that are also looking to break away from boring church tradition. And they believe that including beer is going to be a selling point. Instead of singing “There is Power in the Blood” one might find the congregants belting out “Pop-a-top Again.”

This “church” meets at the bar (for worship) sings, prays, give testimonies and drinks beer. What about your run-of-the-mill pub attendees? For sure, there are others there, non-worshipers who just come for the beer and boiled peanuts. Some of these secular drinkers are rather confused by the spiritual drinkers but the bartender clears it up for them.

“I tell ‘em, it’s a church service,” the bartender said, “and they’re, like, ‘In a pub?’ And I’m, like, ‘Yeah.’ Some of ‘em stick around for trivia, some of ‘em take off, some of ‘em will hang out and have another pint or two.”

“Pastor” Heinze put it bluntly: “I’m not interested, frankly, in making more church members. I’m interested in having people have significant relationships around Jesus. And if it turns out to be (with) draft beer, fine.” There you have it! For those who are fed up with traditionalism it isn’t about Christ, it is about having fun with others. Forget about souls, forget about loving and obeying God, forget about holiness and righteousness—just give them another brew.

There are more churches that intend to follow Calvary Lutheran in moving “church worship” into the bars. “I think the institutional church now is getting onboard,” said Heinze, “because there’s a lot of anxiety frankly about the church’s decline and they’re trying to think outside of that institutional box.” Getting out of the box? Sounds more like out of the frying pan into the fire.

I wonder what LaGard Smith and others who have advocated that the church needs to be moved to the kitchen (get out of the institutional box) would say about getting out of the kitchen into the pubs. This is where one could conceivably wind up (the beer joint) when the word of God (Bible tradition, 2 Thessalonians 2:15) is abandoned for self-serving hedonism.

Now to be truthful this has not been co-opted by churches of Christ, yet; but it is something some Christian Churches are considering. In Portland, Oregon the First Christian Church has opened their fellowship hall for Beer & Hymns. This is because the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has seen a steady decline in membership in recent years, so the answer is not the gospel, God’s power to save (Romans 1:16), instead it’s beer & Hymns.

Do not be surprised to hear in the not too distant future that instead of putting on a nice suit or dress and heading off to Bible class and worship some of your neighbors will be heading to the neighborhood pub for hymns, beer, pickled eggs and pretzels.

Let’s remember where all this might wind up whenever we hear some decry that we are being too traditional!

---J.R. Bronger

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Every congregation has them. You know who they are. They’re the ones who simply never miss an assembly. But more than this, they’re the ones who are always ‘johnny-on-the-spot’ when something needs done or someone needs help. These folks are the ‘backbone’ of the local church, and they are the ones primarily responsible for accomplishing the essential work of the congregation.

You’ve seen them when you know they’re feeling just awful; when their jobs and various responsibilities have them completely ‘covered up’; when they could easily be overwhelmed by personal grief or pain; when circumstances have them totally ‘swamped’; but they still manage to make time for the Lord. They push through their illness, they ‘keep on keeping on’ when many others would have given in and given up. And you wonder: How do they do it?

While the kind of individuals we’re describing here each have their own unique characteristics, it is clear that they all share this in common: their love and devotion for the Lord supersedes everything else in their lives. He is more important to them than their jobs, their families, or their hobbies. For them, minor aches and pains pale in comparison to the joy of doing His will. He is quite simply THE most important thing in their lives. And, they show it by how they live and what they do. For them it’s not mere ‘lip service’.  It’s the real thing – heartfelt, devoted service to their Lord and Master.

One sister in her nineties who impressed everyone in the congregation with her faithfulness explained in these plain terms: “If I can get up, get dressed, and get to the doctor – and I’ve been doing a lot of that these days – then I can also get up, get dressed, and get to church services.” Now, THAT’S what we’re talking about.  THAT’S how it get done!

We’re thankful for all our brothers and sisters who set such wonderful examples for the rest of us. May their tribe increase!

—Greg Gwin

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