Beer Church

Beer O’Clock

In pursuit of a dream I share with my two brothers (to someday open a Monastery Microbrewery and Pub), I’ve been studying the American beer industry a lot lately. It didn’t take long for me to see parallels with the church:

  • Major Breweries & Mega Churches. There are only a few of these in the US, but they’re the ones everyone knows about. They seem to emphasize a bland sort of consistency, and there aren’t a whole lot of differences from one brand to another, so they rely heavily on image and marketing to “attract” consumers. They are run by highly paid professionals, and often family dynasties. By trying to please everyone and offend no one, they strip the soul out of their heritage. The “bottom line” (money or numbers) is the ultimate measure of success.  They’re also the most likely to be seen on television.
  • Microbreweries & Local Churches. These are more connected to their communities, and their supporters are fairly passionate about them, but many are still too preoccupied with numbers. Some are trying hard to move up to the next category. Reputations are built by word of mouth and limited advertising. In general, they are still managed by professionals, but they often celebrate their uniqueness and heritage.
  • Brewpubs & Emerging Churches. These are hard to put in a box – each one has its own distinct character and approach. They are willing to experiment greatly, but still within an established set of boundaries. They are highly focused on serving their segment of the community, often located in urban districts, and inspire intense loyalty among their young, trendy supporters. Often managed by jack-of-all-trades types who definitely “drink their own brew.” Most are relatively new to the scene, so heritage is not a big deal, but diversity and flare are important.
  • Homebrewers & House Churches. These are the most experimental, and usually the most passionate (and knowledgeable) about what they do. Amateurs not only run the show, but *are* the show, and readily share information and resources with each other through loose networks and affiliations. They’re a little bit hard to find, unless you have the right connections with the underground.  With no controlling authority, there is infinite variety and possibility, however, they often share common methods and philosophies with the very first practitioners from the ancient past.

I’m curious to know if this latest metaphor rises to the “bar,” or if it’s just a lot of froth and foam. As always, you’re encouraged to pull up a stool and share your thoughts with the bartender. If your comments start to get incoherent, I’ll call you a cab.

Other Posts in the “Odd Church Metaphor” series:

  1. Fat Church
  2. Masturbation Church


Beer Church — 13 Comments

  1. I think I hear Rich openly weeping in the other room. They are tears of joy and gratitude for this post. 🙂 Keep us informed so that when the time comes for us to commit to a religious institution of some sort, we can make a solid decision about which beer church to join.

  2. Neal,great metaphor. And I have to admit I like the Masturbation Church idea, too. Also, I’m real excited to stumble across your blog; Adam WC has mentioned you to me before, but I hadn’t heard you’d made the decision to come to PTS. We have a 4-year-old boy and just added a daughter to the family on Dec. 12. Sounds like our kids are of similar ages. Looking forward to meeting you next summer.

  3. Pingback: Mr. Locke’s Classroom » AIDS Evangelism

  4. OK so you can metaphorize the church into any context. But you left out the alcoholics. What are we?? Chopped liver? Akin to atheists? Hehe. Just make sure you have a pot of coffee on and don’t expect me to participate. I tried beer, and loved it, but in the end it burned me and I found out what it was really all about. Now that you know there are people who can’t fit in to your “church system” What is your responsibility and what are you going to offer us???

    p.s. I hope you know I’m using metaphors also.

  5. Beer church? So you plan on being the minority? because all those mexicans at your church are gonna want you to learn to preach in spanish.

  6. Glorious!
    We’ve been brewing something at home for a while. It’s a hoppy little ale called corum dei. But interestingly enough, it’s more like AA than anything else… so, where to shove that in your metaphor… ?

  7. @dydimustk: I actually have a friend in AA (who reads this blog sometimes) who asked me the same question — I wonder if AA in the beer church are all those recovering from a decade or two or ultra-conservative envangelicalism, some to the point of considering themselves agnostic?

    Of course, all metaphors fail at some point or another. Now here’s a random irony — freshman year of college my “wing” (Christian college where fraternities were taboo, so “wings” were the closest we came) was called “Corum Dei.” Enjoy your brew, and may it ferment well!

  8. Hello Neal!

    Discovered your blog through the presbymergent website.

    Our congregation, Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Oklahoma City, is seeking a person for a newly created ministry staff position. Perhaps as a result of your recent conversations with colleagues and other friends in ministry, you may know of someone for whom this calling would be especially meaningful and challenging. Please review the position and church information below and pass this message on to others in whatever format you consider appropriate. If you have questions or desire more information, you (or others) can contact me at the email address stated above or call me at (405) 820-5150.

    Thanks so much!

    Gil Mitchell
    Associate Pastor Nominating Committee

    Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)
    4400 N. Shartel Avenue
    Oklahoma City, OK 73118
    (405) 524-2204

    Position Description: Associate Pastor for Outreach and Contextual Worship
    Primary Responsibilities will include: oversee the development and production of experiential, participatory, image-rich and theologically sound worship gatherings especially designed to attract the unchurched and others to a vital relationship with Christ and his community of disciples known as Westminster Presbyterian Church. S/he will integrate a wide variety of liturgical, dramatic, technological and musical genres to lead people into a meaningful and Christ-centered worship experience. By these and whatever means necessary, we hope to bring people to a place of heartfelt worship that is uniquely Westminster; give direction to significant outreach ministries designed to reach, welcome and integrate persons into congregational life; leverage modern culture as momentum to compel others to Christ, by remaining both culturally accessible and faithful to Biblical orthodoxy.
    Secondary Responsibilities will include: create opportunities for Christian community among multiple generations in an increasingly individualistic culture; lead and equip evangelism efforts; share in the pastoral duties of WPC including worship leadership, preaching, teaching, administration, pastoral care and participation in the life of the Presbytery; perform tasks and responsibilities, as the needs of the congregation and staff require.
    Characteristics and qualifications needed in a person who would fill this position: Christ-like character; innovative and passionate; guided by Biblical theology and a passion for God’s sovereign power and grace; extensive training and experience in Christian formation; understanding of (but not swallowed up by) post-modern culture; not easily overwhelmed; possesses tactics for greater leadership in ministry with others; creative; willing to work outside the box; compelling public speaker; ability to relate to multiple generations; willing to work in a collegial fashion with other staff and lay leaders; ability to lead/oversee worship support teams (multimedia, creative, hospitality, tech, etc.); prayerful, relational, genuine; with personal and spiritual integrity.
    Primary skill choices: Evangelism, spiritual development, preaching, corporate worship/sacraments, communication (written/oral), leadership of staff/volunteers, teaching and young adult ministry.

    About Westminster Church
    Westminster Presbyterian Church is located in one of America’s most livable heartland cities. The church campus is located just three miles northwest of the capital and surrounded by half a million residents. The congregation has a healthy mix of 1800+ older and younger members, many of whom are leaders in business, medicine, community organizations and politics. The church staff includes three ordained pastors and a program staff of 12.
    Westminster began a contemporary worship service in January 2006 using a praise band, computer graphics and video presentations. We’ve found it challenging to remain faithful to our denominational tradition yet culturally relevant to the unchurched and those believers who aren’t comfortable in our three traditional worship services. This format is constantly changing and we aren’t finished yet.
    During the past three years, our members have engaged in critical analysis of their faith in Christ Jesus in a number of congregation-wide studies, including the Alpha course, Experiencing God, the Bethel series, The Bible in 90 days, and currently a year-long study of the Gospel of Matthew. This congregation has extended its faith roots deeper and is on the brink of transformation of themselves and their community. We are definitely committed to provide compassionate care to our neighbors.

    Westminster’s Gifts, Skills and Resources for Mission
    Westminster has a gifted membership with proven commitment. It is financially secure, with program staff that is mature, experienced and collegial. We have excellent children’s and adult education programs. The facility is in good shape. The congregation has a strong will to change in whatever way needed to thrive in the future.
    Our Senior Pastor/Head of Staff, Bryan Eckelmann, arrived at Westminster only a year and a half ago with a vision for building on our strengths of worship, lay leadership and Christian education. His particular passions are spiritual transformation, missional outreach and relational ministry. Under his direction, the congregational care, adult education, administration, financial support and youth ministries departments of the church have been significantly strengthened, and renovations to the sanctuary and church exterior have been completed (debt free).
    Now, the focus is turning toward outreach and reforming our methods of worship to reach a changing culture. In the neighborhoods immediately surrounding Westminster there is a diverse population with many who have yet to experience the transformative power of Jesus Christ and the love of his people. We want to change that.

    Key Theological Issues That Are Reflected in the Ministry of Our Congregation
    Westminster is unique in our denomination. It is growing and attracting an increasingly younger membership and is thriving in an urban/suburban setting. It has strong Bible-centered Christian Education programs, and a mission- and justice-centered heart. It suffered through a 5-year period of financial and pastoral scandals, but has remained healthy and enthusiastic about its future. As one of the largest and wealthiest congregations in the Presbytery, WPC could succumb to complacency. God forbid! Complacency will not meet the challenges of a rapidly evolving post-Christian culture.
    This culture demands that WPC become increasingly effective at reaching populations of un-churched individuals with the timeless truths of the Gospel. While using methods that honor the people to whom we minister, we are called to affirm the unchanging truths of Scripture and our Confessions. The imperative of evangelism, the call to purity and the need for relevance must be maintained in prayerful tension as we seek faithful forms of worship and ministry. We trust that with the Spirit’s guidance, we will rise to this challenge.
    Many Westminster members are involved in civic volunteer work. Our challenge is to take Christ into those activities transforming them into Biblical missions of mercy. We are also maturing in our relationships so that our members can live out Christ in their everyday lives. Determining what God has called us to do in each of our lives is a key issue faced by the membership.

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