So if you wanted to ask me why a church would include a Beer Truck at a Party, this is how I’d respond.
The goal of Riverfest is to provide a great experience for our members, neighbors, and friends, whether Christian or otherwise. Many of our vendors are probably Christians though some may not be. One of the Christian vendors is the Casual Pint, owned by C3 members Ken and Kayla Franse. While it is not characteristic of most of the Christian world to view alcohol in a suspicious or sinful manner, we know that certain elements in the Southern US culture have done so and, while sensitive to that point, we take a wider and more Reformed view of the matter. The Session and Deacons would concur with Martin Luther on this – “I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept [cf. Mark 4:26-29], or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.”
When some Christian people demand that other Christian people have no contact with alcoholic beverages as a point of godliness we have a responsibility to gently but firmly disagree, noting that, as Jesus taught, it isn’t what goes into us that defiles us but rather what proceeds from our hearts. At the heart of the Gospel is freedom, though such freedom must not be used in selfish ways. The presence of a beer vendor at a festival like this seems perfectly appropriate to the occasion and it further breaks down unnecessary walls of distinction between the Church and the world; true distinctions there are, but this isn’t one of them. We celebrate with champagne at weddings and enjoy a decent Merlot as much as anyone.
What if beer is a ‘stumbling block’? Do you mean it’s presence or your consumption of it? See, here’s the thing: there’s nothing sinful at all about beer or its consumption. Or wine. Or whiskey for that matter (let the Scots Presbyterians say ‘Amen’). Saying that these substances are sinful in and of themselves is not Biblical at all. Imposing that as a standard of godliness on people is insufferable legalism. Any person may choose not to consume one of these beverages as a matter of conscience or for other reasons, like personal health or even because they have some pretty dark memories of people they loved using alcohol in ways that led to unhappiness, or because they’ve struggled with alcohol dependence. But choosing not to consume something for one’s sake or the sake of others is not the same thing as banning something from others. We cannot forbid what the Scriptures not only allow but positively endorse. Jesus turned water into wine to make sure the wedding celebration at Cana went ahead unimpeded. And he made a LOT. And it was GOOD. We are not more holy than Jesus. And we sure aren’t going to tell Ken and Kayla that their business, which is something many of us regularly enjoy with Christian and non-Christian friends, is somehow not all that holy and is unwelcome among us. No one HAS to have a beer and some most assuredly shouldn’t. That said, no one can bar someone in the name of Christian holiness from receiving one of God’s good gifts as well.
Yes, we are very aware that some people struggle with the abuse of alcohol, or have suffered at the hands of those who do. Noting this, the Session consulted with our Counseling Center, especially via Cindy Blom and Bruce McCurdy. This is even more important when we recall that C3 is a certified Tennessee Recovery Congregation. Both Cindy and Bruce have emphatically and enthusiastically endorsed the presence of The Casual Pint as a vendor for Riverfest. If you’re not certain this is a good idea, I know they’d be happy to meet with you – and I’d encourage that conversation – to explain why. In short, they believe the proper use of such beverages in the open defies the improper abuse of such beverages in secret. This is also why the center endorses small amounts of wine etc in our other church events and the use of wine in communion as
In addition, we consulted with Youth Ministry staff and found the same response. The Youth Staff have voluntarily decided to refrain from consuming any alcoholic beverages at Riverfest, but completely support their presence as a way of showing true Gospel holiness and what actually
distinguishes us in the world as Christians, namely love rather than avoiding any particular substance. They are encouraged that our youth will see a proper place for such beverages among the people of God rather than separated out from us in a dark place that leads them into other places of real and very deep brokenness.
The Deacons looked at all the liability issues involved, and these rest entirely with The Casual Pint. We also have uniformed police officers present who will be highly visible and this also will help to reinforce the proper consumption by any who choose to do so.
I actually think the Donut Truck might be a far more serious threat to the good health and well-being of our community than The Casual Pint (But ya, I’m eating a donut too). It’s odd to me that alcohol is pointed out as a sinful substance but those who make that case seldom if ever seem bothered about gluttony or obesity. Again, I don’t think donut eating is a matter of righteousness… “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14), but then neither is drinking a beer on a sunny afternoon in the company of friends celebrating God’s good creation and sharing his love with others. Growing up Lutheran, I experienced kegs at Church potlucks and never saw one moment of abuse. We are not highlighting the Casual Pint (it is simply one vendor among many), and we do think it’s presence makes our gathering more joyfully holy, not less so.
I do hope this helps and THANK YOU for asking me!!
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