Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Where Will Christian Ministry Go?

 Where Will Christian Ministry Go?

By de Andréa
July 17, 2012

Recently I wrote an article titled The Future of the Christian Church       where I talked about the demise of the Church for several reasons, one being Islam, the ignorance, the deception, and the enabling of it, another might be the disunity of the Church.  A question was asked by one of my readers.  Where will the Christian ministry go, or will it disappear too? 

Just because the Church, as we know it, may all but disappear it certainly doesn’t mean that Christianity will disappear as well.  The faith has been through 2000 years of trials and tribulations and it is still going strong.  Why?  Because it’s the truth…

So!  Where will’ it go?  Where it’s already going, some into the homes of people, some underground (it isn’t the first time) and still others are going into the highways and byways.   

Every Monday night, Uncle Charlie's bar in Cheyenne, Wyo., hosts "Bibles and Beer," a discussion that routinely pulls in people of all faiths — as well as an Atheist and a Muslim or two.

As many as 45 people have shown up, some toting Bibles.  Some might have a drink; others stick to water.  Some talk; others mostly listen.  There are only a few ground rules: Avoid debate and stick to the text to be discussed that week.

"There really is not a focus on drinking," insists Rodger McDaniel, a Presbyterian minister who organized the weekly gathering more than a year ago.  "But at the same time, it is a much more relaxed atmosphere than in a church basement.  If I put this on in my church, I don't think we would have more than five or six people."

Across the country, faith and religion is becoming bar talk.  The trend combines the traditional religious charge to go where the people are with the reality that a lot of them are in bars.  Organizers include those from mainline churches, those building churches and bar owners and brewers.  Some are trying to push the model nationally, taking an ageless yearning for meaning and purpose to places where people are looking for… well… meaning and purpose and often go to try to wash their worries away.

"It is good to bring the Word to wherever God is, and God is everywhere, and people are everywhere, too," says Joe Beene, owner of the Drunk Monkey Tavern in the Tulsa suburb of Glenpool.  Last year, Beene began live streaming Sunday morning services from Tulsa's Celebration Church into his bar.  "The people who come in here on Sunday mornings are people who want to hear the Word of God but won't go to church."

He got his idea, he says, from a San Jose minister who preaches in bars.  Beene says six to eight people regularly listen and accept his free Sunday brunch, and he is talking to other bar owners to see if they'll stream the broadcast.  "I see a lot of people that come in here (with) issues, and they are trying to solve those issues or kill the pain with alcohol, which certainly works short term but not so much long term," Beene says. "I feel they need to hear what I have been hearing in this church."

While this may be a new direction for protestants, the mixture of spirit and spirits is not entirely new however.  Catholics have sponsored "Theology on Tap" gatherings in bars for years.  "It is primarily an outreach to young Catholics and those interested in the faith, but others do attend," says Michael Donohue, director of communication for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Va., which began "Theology on Tap" meetings aimed at young people in 2001.  Semi-regular gatherings attract 150-250 people to Pat “Troy's Ireland's Own” in nearby Alexandria and 100 to the “Blue & Gray Brewing Co.” in Fredericksburg, Va.

Last year in Raleigh, N.C., Cynthia and A.J. Viola began organizing "Beer and a Bible" at Tir Na Nog Irish Pub.  They got the idea from friends in New Mexico doing something similar.  About 15-25 people gather for Bible study on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month which coincides with "pint night."  "We have people who were born with a Bible in their hands and people who want nothing to do with church," A.J. Viola says.  Regular attendees include a so-called non-practicing Muslim (whatever that is) and a self-described atheist who comes to support his churchgoing wife.

The Violas are professional wedding photographers and ministers who have started their own church in Raleigh.  She is an ex-bartender, and he professes both to be "a big fan of the Bible and also a big fan of beer."
In Richmond, Ind., three separate church-related groups gather regularly at the “J&J Brewery” and “Big Dog Brewhaus”, co-owner Mike Miller says.  He says people are looking for places to have faith discussions in more relaxed social settings.

In Cheyenne, McDaniel's group began last year with Genesis and has just worked its way through Exodus.  He says he has been surprised and pleased that people of all faiths have become regular attendees, and that broad mixture has broadened discussions.

One regular Uncle Charlie's attendee is Ed Glaser, a retired telephone company employee and an Atheist.  He says he does not come for the beer but to understand how religion affects politics.

"This group of people, I think, are looking at trying to have understanding and have common ground," Glaser says.  "I think this group of people is very tolerant of different perspectives."

Mohamed Salih, a retired junior college dean and leader in the Southeast Wyoming Islamic Center, attends almost every week, and he often draws parallels between the Quran and the Bible.

McDaniel says he got questions in the beginning from people concerned about associating alcohol with the Bible.  His answer: "Jesus didn't change wine into water…

THE BOTTOM LINE:  While there may be a lot of eyebrow raising by the legalists regarding this approach to evangelism, although it is not totally unlike the ministry of Jesus Himself’ who ministered to tax-collectors (considered to be thieves not unlike today’s tax-collectors) as well as prostitutes and all manner of people considered at the time to be the scum of the earth.  And yes at a wedding celebration at Cana in Galilee Jesus did turn water into wine, His first miracle in John 2:1-11

The Bible does say in Ephesians 5:18 “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit”; King James Version (Cambridge Ed.)  Is there really’ any place better than another to be filled with the Holy Spirit of the Lord God Jesus Christ?  

I don’t believe so!  God will meet us right where we are…

de Andréa 

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