Church Planting Lesson #5: Beware Beer

A lot of young church plants, in an effort to declare their freedom in Jesus, have missed the point entirely.  Mounting their attack against the legalists of the world, they fail to heed to Apostle Peter’s warning to, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” (1Peter 2.16). Within the first 6 months of our church plant, we appeared in an article written by the Southern Baptists about our “Bible and Brew” Bible studies and “Poker Nights”.  Needless to say, it wasn’t a flattering article.  We were simply part of the collateral damage from a larger attack on Acts 29 as a network of beer-lovers.  It didn’t stop us from men bringing beer to our Bible studies or from an occassional men’s event where we’d gather make our own brew (Rootbeer too!). It did, however, result in a couple leaving our church.  Among their reasons was our position on beer.  Ironically, they had provided the alcohol (good beer included) at the community group I led in their home.  I later found out that they were compelled to hide their alcohol when their legalistic parents came to town.  The tension of living two different lives proved too much for them. 
I look forward to the day when we can just be ourselves and live in the freedom of the gospel.  Make no mistake about it, this is a gospel issue. This is not about alcohol and its abuse in the world, its about the gospel and the fact that they don’t understand what sin actually is.  Everyone who is oppossed to a church, pastor, or Christian drinking beer privately, publicly, or whatever, has their own personal story.  Their stories are usually very emotionally charged and they share it with the utmost passion.  Then, as if they need to bolster their argument, they’ll throw in some spiritual sounding arguments like:

  • We need to protect the “weaker brother”:  this comment is rarely made from a “weaker brother” but by someone else who is concerned.  Of course, they never take the time to actually ASK the individual if it is a problem–they assume it is.  Not to say that we don’t have a responsiblity for a weaker brother.  We should ask the hard questions and, in an effort to love and protect them, abstain in a particular situation.  We must also recognize that, the weaker brother, also has a responsiblity to speak up or not participate if it is that much of a struggle. 
  • Leaders must be above reproach – in other words, Christians can drink but not pastors–as if there is a difference.  As pastors are setting an example, they should set an example of abstaining from something that has caused serious damage.  No one is arguing that alcohol has been abused, but as Martin Luther said, “So have women.”  We’re not about get rid of them.  If that is the case, pastors better adhere to strict diets, stay off the internet, and never play bingo because it could turn into compulsive gambling. Does it matter that Jesus is the THE LEADER who is very epitome of above reproach?  And he drank? Is it possible then?
  • It isn’t sinful but it shouldn’t be promoted – I don’t know where the line is between promotion and presence.  In other words, just because you say call something “Bible and Brew” does that mean you’re trying to PULL people in because there will beer there?  I guess that certainly could be one motivation from on perspective.  From another perspective, it could be viewed as missional in an attempt to break down some misperceptions of chruch people being tee-totallers–if it is a misperception.  Overall, the idea of “promoting” is based on assumptions not necessarily the truth.

The point of this post is not to argue that churches should talk about beer.  In fact, I would suggest they shouldn’t.  Mentioning the word beer will polarize your church and you’ll be a magnet for arguments that take a ton of energy and accomplish nothing. The truth is that people are afraid, that is why everyone builds up “new laws” to make themselves feel safe. Unfortunately, one such “law” like don’t drink or churches shouldn’t talke about drinking is just the beginning.  Eventually, you are a full fledged legalists with different rules you can justify based on what you see in the world, and not what you see in Scripture.  I’ve realized it doesn’t matter how you explain what you do, it matters who is listening.  Fearful legalists don’t listen.  They have their mind made up so its best not to even have conversations with them, to show them passages like Romans 14.1 and let them move on should they choose.


Author: Sam Ford

Sam Ford is a preacher, planter, and pastor from the Pacific Northwest. He is currently pastoring Restoration Road Church in Snohomish, WA.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s