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Thursday, 7 November 2013

The bogusness of beer drinking Christianity : To Stave Off Decline, Churches Attract New Members With Beer

Bibles and Booze: Congregations Across America Attempting to Attract New Members With Beer

beer 2 pd

A new report released by NPR outlines that a number of congregations across America are now using beer as a way to attract new members.

The effort is an experiment in finding methods that will appeal to those who otherwise would not set foot in a church. Some beer-based gatherings are held right in the the church building, and others are hosted at the local pub.

One of the locations highlighted in the report is Fort Worth, Texas, where Church-in-a-pub, sponsored by “Pastor” Phil Heinze of Calvary Lutheran Church, is held each week at the local bar.
“I find the love, I find the support, I find the non-judgmental eyes when I come here,” attendee Leah Stanfield told the publication. “And I find friends that love God [and] love craft beer.”

Approximately 30-40 people meet for the weekly gathering, which includes Bible readings, fellowship and communion–all over pizza and beer at Zio Carlo pub.

The Regional Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America recently recognized Church-in-a-pub as a synodically authorized worshiping community. In 2014, another area “pastor” plans to expand the concept throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

While Calvary Lutheran Church holds their gathering in a bar, the First Christian Church of Portland, Oregon hosts a monthly “beer and hymns” night at the church building, where congregants get together to sing hymns, talk and drink beer.

NPR tells the story of one transgender attendee who got up to speak at a recent event, announcing that he was raised in a church that told him that animals don’t have souls. However, because his dog had recently died, he wanted to sing a song that night in church in honor of his dog.

“I want to sing this song in defiance of that because Gunner was my friend,” he stated to those gathered as they sipped beer. “And he has emotions and a personality, and I had a relationship with him that’s as real as any relationship I had with any human being.”

The Wall Street Journal covered a similar story earlier this year in highlighting the new trend, introducing its readers to a Saturday night gathering held by Pastor Matt Bistayi, who started Valley Church in Allendale, Michigan.

“My name is Darin,” the music director announced to those present. “And I like me a 30-pack of Busch Light!”

The group, which holds to the motto, ”What Would Jesus Brew?” then began to applaud.
For some congregations, instead of beer, cigars are offered to potential members. As previously reported, Eric Van Scyoc of St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Rocky River, Ohio calls his gathering the “Smokin’ Bible Study,” where men assemble in the back room of Cigar Cigars and smoke stogies as they study the word of God. He says that he has been leading the studies at the location for approximately three years.

“It’s a chance to bring the Bible out from the walls of the church,” Van Scyoc told The Plain Dealer.
He explained that when he was approached by the owner of Cigar Cigars to lead the study, he was reluctant at first, but since no one in the church had a problem with the idea, he accepted.

“Some women have said to us, ‘I’m going to come by because it shouldn’t be just for men,’” Van Scyoc explained. “They’re certainly welcome, but so far, none of them have come by.”
However, some pastors have expressed great concern and caution over increasing attempts to reinvent church—using carnal methods to attract men.

“Rather than relating with people by becoming like people, the Church is to present the glory of God,” Scott Brown of the Center for Family Integrated Churches told Christian News Network. “When people come into the church, they should see a completely new kingdom, a completely new community. They should see how different God is than they are and how much more wonderful He is, and how His ways are much more beautiful than their ways.”

Pastor Eric Ludy, President of Ellerslie Mission Society, has made similar statements in expressing his concerns about the Church seeking to attract the world by appearing “cool.”

“The problem is Jesus wasn’t cool. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, Jesus didn’t do it the world’s way. He came in and offended the world,” he told reporters. “He came in and did everything the wrong way. … We actually want to indict Jesus and say, ‘You know what? If you had known as much as we know you would have done it differently.’ We want to appeal to the world’s sensibilities and somehow draw them to the Gospel. Jesus didn’t do any of that.”

“The Bible says, ‘Raise Him up and He will draw all men unto Himself,’” he continued. “The key is we lift up the Gospel. We give the straight and narrow path. We give it undiluted and people will start respecting us because we are not giving them something that will tantalize the flesh. We are giving them something that will bring life to their spirit.”





Gather Round for a Pint, At Church?

November 4, 2013 at 3:15PM by Zoe Bain

As churches struggle to expand their congregations across the country, some have turned to an unlikely attraction — craft beer. According to NPR's food blog, The Salt, certain church groups have been holding services in pubs or making brew themselves. Leah Stanfield, a member of Church-in-a-Pub in Fort Worth, Texas, stated at a Sunday service, "I find the love, I find the support, I find the non-judgmental eyes when I come here. And I find friends that love God, love craft beer."

 The group meets once a week to share a pint and even receive communion. In Portland, Oregon, First Christian Church holds Beer & Hymns one Saturday per month — congregants can have a glass or two of the church's special homemade brew. Participants and churches alike see the beer-themed services and events as a way to find members that they might not normally reach or see at a formal Sunday morning service.
While pub-based prayer probably won't become a religious mainstay, the new-age events certainly are popular among the congregations that have been hosting them.
Would you go to a church event that served beer or a service at a pub?

Comments to article 

 David Lee · Wes Virginia State University

It is becoming more clear to me why Christ said "But Lord did not we do these things in your name?" and He will reply to them "depart from me.... I never knew you". The Church..... black, white and all others alike are in real trouble. I am praying for our Pastors. I am in strong disagreement with the direction many of them are leading us as God's people. 
 CJ Groove · · North Richland Hills, Texas

So, this is what church is coming to? Don't rely on the Holy Spirit to draw them in, rely on worldly tactics. Are these churches going to far to reach out? Where do we draw the line? 
 Lorrie Gonzales · Top Commenter · Palomar College
I wonder what Jesus would say? If he walked into what is supposed to be his Father's house and there are a bunch of heathens drinking beer? Maybe it would be similar to the time he turned over the tables and made the comment that they had turned his father's house into a den of thieves? The Church is for Christians, it's not there to bring in the world. It's there as a place of worship and a place to learn from God's word. I would hate to be these so called pastors on the day of judgment. The church should be a holy, sacred place - not a bar.

Members With Beer

Todd Fadel, at piano, leads singers at a recent gathering of Beer & Hymns at First Christian Church Portland.
Todd Fadel, at piano, leads singers at a recent gathering of Beer & Hymns at First Christian Church Portland.

John Burnett/NPR
With mainline religious congregations dwindling across America, a scattering of churches is trying to attract new members by creating a different sort of Christian community. They are gathering around craft beer.
Some church groups are brewing it themselves, while others are bring the Holy Mysteries to a taproom. The result is not sloshed congregants; rather, it's an exploratory approach to do church differently.

Leah Stanfield stands at a microphone across the room from the beer taps and reads this evening's gospel message.
She's a 28-year-old leasing agent who's been coming to here in Fort Worth, Tex., for a year, and occasionally leads worship.

"I find the love, I find the support, I find the non-judgmental eyes when I come here," she says. "And I find friends that love God, love craft beer."

Every Sunday evening, 30 to 40 people gather at Zio Carlo brewpub to order pizza and pints of beer, to have fellowship, and have church — including communion.

Leah Stanfield, a leasing agent in Fort Worth and regular attendee of Church-in-a Pub, hands out bread during communion at the tavern.
Leah Stanfield, a leasing agent in Fort Worth and regular attendee of Church-in-a Pub, hands out bread during communion at the tavern.

John Burnett/NPR
Pastor Philip Heinze and his Calvary Lutheran Church sponsor Church-in-a-Pub, whose formal name is the Greek word, Kyrie.

Some patrons are understandably confused. They come in for a brew and there's a religious service going on in their bar. They expected Trivia Night and they get the Holy Eucharist.

"I tell 'em, it's a church service," says bartender Les Bennett, "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."

That's one of the objectives: A guy sits at the bar nursing a beer, he overhears the Gospel of Luke, he sees people line up to take bread and wine, he gets curious. Phil Heinze says pub church has now become an official — if edgy — Lutheran mission.

"I'm not interested, frankly, in making more church members," Heinze. "I'm interested in having people have significant relationships around Jesus. And if it turns out to be craft beer, fine."

For most of the folks who attend regularly, this is their Sunday night congregation. Church leaders, initially skeptical, are now paying attention. Last month, the regional council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America named Church-in-a-pub a . Next year, it will call a young pastor to expand the idea to other taverns around Dallas-Fort Worth.

"I think the institutional church now is getting onboard," says 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."

In downtown Portland, Ore., at the stately old First Christian Church, one Saturday night a month they open the parish hall for an event called

The sign for Beer & Hymns at First Christian Church in downtown Portland, Ore.
The sign for Beer & Hymns at First Christian Church in downtown Portland, Ore.
John Burnett/NPR
There must be 100 people here tonight, most of them young, the kind you rarely see in church on Sunday morning. They're swigging homemade stout from plastic cups — with a two-beer limit. They're singing traditional hymns from a projection screen like Be Thou My Vision. And they're having way too much fun.
Like the crowd at Church-in-a-pub, a lot of folks at Beer & Hymns appear to be refugees from traditional churches.

Between hymns, people can stand up and say anything they want. Jolie Shempert, a transgender person who's studying humanities at Portland State University, steps up to the mike.
Shempert was raised in a strict church that taught that animals don't have souls, only people do. But Shempert's beloved dog, Gunner, has just died.
"I want to sing this song in defiance of that because Gunner was my friend. And he has emotions and a personality and I had a relationship with him that's as real as any relationship I had with any human being."
The Christian Church Disciples of Christ — a small mainline Protestant denomination — has experienced a steep drop in membership in recent decades. Beer & Hymns is one attempt to attract new people, in this hip, beer-loving city, while keeping a safe distance away from stained-glass windows.
Rodney Page is optimistic. The 78-year-old is a long-time member of First Christian Portland and a Beer & Hymns convert.

"I know that initially there were some people who had some trepidation," says Page. "This church has had a history and background of being anti-alcohol, so it took some convincing for some people. But eventually people went ahead with it and it's been a great success."

No one is suggesting that Beer & Hymns or Church-in-a-Pub — or any of the dozens of other beer-in-church events that are popping up around the nation — are permanent. They're transitional experiments.
is senior pastor at First Christian Church Portland. She's a sixth-generation Disciple of Christ and the originator of Beer & Hymns. She says in this postmodern age, what it means to attend church is changing.
"It's probably, in the very near future, not going to be at 10 am on Sunday morning wearing your best shoes and tie or dress," she says. "It's going to be something different. I mean, what that is, we are still finding out, we're still learning together. But it's still holy, God is still there, and that's what's most important."
To doubters, the Beer & God crowd has this pop quiz. What was the first miracle Jesus performed? Turning water into wine.