Theology on Tap was the first public ministries we’ve done as Epiphany Church, and it is still going strong, meeting at the Riverpark Pub, in Gloucester City the 4th Tuesday of the month at 7pm.
I know the idea of discussing philosophy, ethics, and theology over some beers with a Pastor moderating the discussion may raise all kinds of questions and I don’t mean to answer them here, only that we feel like we stand in pretty good company. You know that guy who actually turned water into wine. (John 2:1-11, Luke 7, Mark 14:23) Like everything else in life, we believe that alcohol and be a good gift enjoyed responsibly, but a terrible master.
One other thing we do want to make clear while not addressing all the concerns people may have about our ministry in the bar, nobody is getting drunk at Theology on Tap, and we don’t encourage anyone from the Church community to participate in this ministry if it would jeopardize their hard-fought-for sobriety. We are actually ramping up to launch a recovery ministry for those in need, in the Church family and those out in the community on April 8th called Celebrate Recovery.
Here are 8 reasons I’m thankful for Theology on Tap.
1. Our views are out there and clear.
There is no vagueness in our faith, those who are new to our Church can find out exactly the way we articulate our faith (1 Peter 3:15) and how we engage really difficult and sensitive subjects (1 Cor. 9:19-23) like drugs, sexuality, science, morality and God’s justice. Some have suggested to me that allowing people to ask questions in this forum is some kind of compromise (Rom 12:2). To be honest, that could not be farther from the truth. It’s so much easier to preach to the choir, it’s harder to stand up and explain what you believe even when you are in the minority (Jude 1:3). Nobody who has been hanging out with us for worship or at Theology on Tap can be caught off guard or shocked by our beliefs which are shaped by the Holy Scriptures (John 17:17) no matter where the culture stands.
2. We learn to see beyond points to people.
It’s a two-way street. In our day and age of keyboard warriors, it’s so helpful to actually have to sit across a table from someone and dive into the issues of our day, and the issues that have face humanity from the beginning (Ecc 1:9). It softens us up in a good way (Rom 14:1), to see beyond a point to the person (Jer. 17:10), with a whole set of experiences that have led them to where they are now. Truth matters to us (Is 40:8), but there is hardly anything truer than the value of people (Mt 6:27). Relationships matter too.
3. A real community has been formed.
A diverse community of folks, religious and skeptical, liberal and conservative, young and old has been formed over the months. When we first gather and just catch up, we catch up as good friends (Mk 2:17), but there is always room for one more at the table (Mt 11:28).
4. Opportunities to pastor people are huge.
Having a chaplain at the bar, someone ready to listen, ready to pray, ready to remind (Mark 10:45; Gal 5:13) you of the goodness and grace of God when life seems everything but good and gracious has been like a deep need in some peoples souls they did not know they had (Titus 2:11-14) . Often people say about others ‘nobody really cares about religion’ which is ironic because I find that one on one, while people have many legitimate beefs with religion, and struggles to overcome in their own life, most people deep down are seeking and spiritually sensitive (Ecc 3:11). Even those who are making the loudest opposition to the faith (Rom 9:18).
5. We ask deep questions about things that really matter.
How you think matters, but we live in a day and age that no longer thinks in paragraphs, proofs and well-reasoned arguments (Prov 18:2). Many have slid into thinking in soundbite tweets. Religious or not, the style of follow-up questions, and forcing you to explain yourself (Prov 14:15) at Theology on Tap helps people dig a little deeper than they are used to.
6. My apologetic game has gotten better.
I have always loved apologetics (2 Tim 4:2), which is the Christian defense and explanation of the faith (Philipp 1:16 ). However, in the past year it’s been so fun to spend literally hundreds of hours preparing (2 Tim 2:15) and then discussion super difficult issues with people on all sides of all kinds of issues (Col 4:6). This only helps your apologetics game improve (2 Peter 3:18).
7. People newer to the Church learn about the faith.
Folks who are newer to the Church (1 Peter 2:2) learn how to articulate their faith in a helpful way, in live discussions with folks coming from various points of view. They also have a chance to hear the rationale for why God calls them to live and think differently, something that sadly is often missing in the Church.
8 People who grew up in the Church learn how to talk more gently, respectfully and wisely with those who hold diametrically opposing views.
Sometimes people who grow up in Church have no idea how to talk to anyone outside of that Church bubble. Theology on Tap is a great place for you to learn how to break out of the bubble, and talk to people (Mark 16:15), and also how to address real doubts you have. Starting by realizing they exist, and it’s not a sin to doubt! (Isaiah 1:18) But at the same time, holding those doubts as well at an arm’s length and re-evaluating them in greater light.