Thank you for being here today. You had options. There are churches all over, offering all sorts of incentives and enticements. For instance, the Castle Church Brewing Community in Orlando bills itself as “Orlando’s newest destination brewery.” If you are asking yourself, “Is that what it sounds like?”, the answer is yes. They actually brew, sell and drink beer. Not in the actual assembly, mind you — at least, not as far as I can tell. But immediately afterward, and pretty much any other opportunity that affords itself.
Their roots in Lutheranism shows in products such as Indulgences double IPA, Wittenburg wheat porter, and All Saints Einbecker ale. Those are all beers, apparently; I am pleased to plead ignorance on the subject. Martin Luther himself is quoted as saying, “Whoever drinks beer is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long does not sin; whoever does not sin enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!” You can’t argue with theology like that.
The beer aspect of their work is doing OK, it seems, but the church aspect is surprisingly slow catching on. Personally, I would have expected lines out the door every Sunday morning. Maybe they are charging too much.
But allow me to indulge a rather optimistic view of the matter. Perhaps the idea of using the devices of the world to draw people to Jesus is flawed in its concept. Admittedly, plenty of carnal appeals have been used by churches through the years, often with great success (numerical success, anyway). Everything from Bingo to sandwich suppers to rock music have been openly embraced by churches as tools to advance their “ministry.” But those tactics are seen by most people in the world as morally neutral. (My position on such matters can wait for another day.)
Beer is different. Plenty of Christians have no problem with “social drinking” — despite what the Bible says about it, even “when it sparkles in the cup” (Proverbs 23:31). But even so, even the heaviest of drinkers will acknowledge alcohol as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. I have yet to hear anyone explain how drinking alcohol in any amount brings a soul closer to God. And I have yet to hear anyone explain how drinking alcohol in excess is of benefit to the drinker, anyone the drinker knows, or society as a whole.
That said, perhaps a beer-infused gospel is a bridge too far. Perhaps someone who is seeking God knows intuitively that this is not the way, and that those who try to drink their way into God’s good graces are paddling down the wrong stream.
Jesus is all about steering clear of the things of the world; you don’t have to be able to quote Romans 13:14 to realize that. So why would anyone come to Jesus so he could have better access to the things of the world? How can this be anything other than spiritual compromise? And why would spiritual compromise appeal to those who are truly seeking Christ?
It is no accident that Jesus’ warnings about prophets in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15) is found in the immediate context of His condemnation of those who call Him Lord and yet do not obey (Matthew 7:21-23). We can dress up worldliness all we want, but Jesus knows the difference (2 Timothy 2:19) — even if we fool our neighbors, even if we fool ourselves.
You will not be led to alcohol by the Spirit (Romans 8:14). You know it. I know it. They probably know it. The question is, then, do you want to be led by the Spirit at all?