The Beer and Theology Society

Two nights ago the executive committee of the Beer and Theology Society met at the Oxford Arms in Durbanville, to discuss a very busy agenda. First on the agenda, Colin and I ordered a beautiful dark pint of Guinness, and one of Kilkenny. This was followed by a couple of tasty steak rolls, chips and veg, a second round of the dark Irish magic and finished off with some good coffee. There was a presentation on Colin’s recent trip to visit “The Crowded House”, attend a New Monastic Conference and visit the Church of Scotland in Glasgow (sorry Rangers!)

A number of resolutions were passed:

1. During a fruitful discussion on the nature of what it means to be Word-centred we resolved that much of what we call Word-centred is in fact pulpit centred. Surely to be Word-centred is much more than simply listening to sermons or hearing Biblical content. To be Word-centred is to hear the Word, to meditate on the Word, to apply the Word, to obey the Word and to live out the Word. In other words we are as much word centred when we feed the poor, or go to the beach or welcome the outsider or visit the pub as when we are gathered for Bible study or listening to a sermon. To be Word-centred is to hear and obey the Word. So when we do any of the above activities in response to studying his Word then we surely must be Word-centred.

2. It was agreed by a unanimous vote of 2-0 that all Christian groups and churches and general gatherings of Christian have a default mode away from community and towards control. This is often expressed in the form of meetings, committees, Bible studies and outreach activities. What this resolution means is that instead of creating a community often we end up creating a programme. Programmes, meeting, commitees, Bible studies we can control, we can tick all the right boxes, fill in progress reports and feel like we can justify our salaries or time involved. But how do you measure community, how do you evaluate love. Community is a much less quantifiable, much more messy commodity than a programme will ever be. There is nothing wrong with programmes it is just that community is so much bigger than programmes. Community may incorporate programmes but it is bigger than and can exist without any programmes.

An example that Colin gave from his recent visit to The Crowded House. Colin made the grave mistake of asking Micheal Tinker, his host and leader of a Crowded House missional community, “When exactly do you meet?” Micheal’s response was something along the lines that they do not meet at any specific time at the moment (they may later?). Rather they continually are gathering together to share life in one another’s homes (they all live in relative proximity to one another), a natural part of this gathering is the sharing of one’s faith.

The thinking behind this is that as soon as you have a “regular Bible study”, then people start to associate that with the misisonal community. And comments may be made to the extent that “our missional community was not so good last week”. What does that mean? The Bible study was not as good as last week. A missional community is not primarily something we do it is what we are! This is the problem traditional churches will have with attempting to formulate community. With so many structured programmes, we will always find it easier to tend towards our default mode away from community and towards control.

3. It was also decided that it was a very good idea to allow non-Christians to be a part of these missional communities at all levels. For instance at The Crowded House if they are say discussing how to reach their neighbourhood or praying for their friends and suddenly a non-Christian friend (probably already a member of their community pops round. Rather than create this false divide between “Christian time” and “outreach time”, Steve Timmis has been encouraging them to invite this unconverted member of their community in and allow her to be a part of whatever is happening, if they want to be. The value that is key here is belonging before believing. What this says to the community is simply this we love and value you. You don’t have to jump through all sorts of faith or moral issues before you can be one of us – come on in, join in, we would love to get to know you. And perhaps you can experience the life of those who follow Jesus.

These were the main resolutions passed on a memorable and chilly winter’s evening Any items for the agenda of future meeting or ammendments of clarifications on the past meeting can be added to the bottom of this post. Any applications for membership of this elite society must be put in writing together with a sworn affadavit of intention to buy the first round.

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~ by John on June 12, 2008.

7 Responses to “The Beer and Theology Society”

  1. This is my ‘in writing’ application:

    When can I come?

  2. As a founding member of this society, I can assure you that: 1. You may laugh at the Irish, but they knew what they were doing in Dublin 2. The evening consisted of too much talking … some of it could have been carried over to a next meeting where Mr Guinness (the third member) could have provided refreshemnts once again. 3. There was a lot more said than the few resolutions in John’s minutes. 4. I have the feeling that not all of what he recorded was all that clear … I was there so I know. So if you want clarification on these very NB subjects please attend the next meeting or chat with us online.
    Lastly … Stephen, I have not met you but I like you already. No questions asked.

  3. Do you invite visiting… drinkers?

    One thing that might be helpful to clarify from our perspective is that sometimes people get twitchy about ‘belonging before believing’ (and I think rightly) when it is not added that we want people to feel comfortable around us, at home to some extend, but we always want there to be a feeling that they don’t quite belong… We want them to feel welcomed, after all Jesus died for us while we were still sinners, but the fact is they are not part of God’s people. So there should be something uncomfortably comfortable, a feeling of welcome, yet not quite belonging… and then the desire to belong fully! Does that make sense?

  4. Why thank you colin – having heard much about you I look forward to meeting you outside of second life.

  5. Thanks Michae for the corrective … right on the button!
    Stephen, why don’t you speak to the guys at GWC who are keen, and we can have a second Society evening. On the agenda will be creating a network of missional thnkers and practitioners in SA before they all vanish.

  6. Wow you write a post with beer in the title and suddenly everyone is rushing to comment.

    Micheal thanks for your clarification – that is really helpful. “Uncomfortable comfortable” – I like that phrase! Just a thought is that often we feel we need to create that feeling that non-Christians do not quite belong and we end up instead conveying the feeling that – you are not welcome here! My experience has been that mostly people know that they “do not quite belong” even though they are welcome.

  7. Colin – it will be great to invite all these other guys. But I do think that we need to see proof of their buying power. Mr Guinness is a demanding chairperson…

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