03 June 2012

'Theology on Tap' with Flatirons Church

Photo: epiclol.com
(not an endorsement)
It's not exactly a secret that the visible church today is populated with more women than men. This reality has caused more than a few unfortunate reactions, and it is not a new problem.

Perhaps men became wary of church if given the impression that to repent and turn to Christ suddenly means that they must forfeit all sense of masculinity and instead turn into tear-filled, emotional saps who desired to end each conversation with a hug. Spurgeon took notice of this problem in his own time:
When I say that a man in Christ is a man, I mean that, if he be truly in Christ, he is therefore manly. There has got abroad a notion, somehow, that if you become a Christian, you must sink your manliness and turn milksop. It is supposed that you allow your liberty to be curtailed by a set of negations which you have not the courage to break through, though you would if you dared. You must not do this, and you must not do the other: you are to take out your backbone and become molluscous; you are to be sweet as honey towards everybody, and every atom of spirit is to be evaporated from you. You are to ask leave of ministers and church authorities to breathe, and to become a sort of living martyr, who lives a wretched life in the hope of dying in the odour of sanctity. I do not believe in such Christianity at all. The Christian man, it seems to me, is the noblest style of man; the freest, bravest, most heroic, and most fearless of men. If he is what he should be, he is, in the best sense of the word, a man all over, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot. 
(Spurgeon, C. H., & Williams, S. G. (2009). A Good Start: A Book for Young Men and Women (16–17). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc).
In attempts to alleviate this particular problem, many churches and pastors have quickly sailed to the other extreme. They take "manliness" to a whole new level, as if a man cannot truly be a man unless he hunts, drinks and drives a motorcycle. They preach Jesus as if he was an Ultimate Fighting champion, apparently assuming that men will not want to follow a Jesus who is anything less. For the record, this writer is not advocating for the overly-feminized Jesus who has been portrayed in movies and many modern-day worship songs. What is being called for is that pastors and churches would just preach the Jesus of the Bible. If the passage being preached is one that demonstrates Christ's compassion, then preach it. If your sermon takes you to the cleansing of the temple, preach it. Just stop trying to make Jesus more appealing by adding tattoos, alcohol and a Harley.

Nevertheless, seeker-driven churches still attempt to lure men to church through "manly" means. One would hope that a Christian man would desire to attend church or church events simply to hear the Word of God preached and proclaimed. However, apparently the Bible becomes more attractive when you're holding a beer in the other hand.

Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette, CO may be a bit behind the times with their "Theology on Tap" events, but hey, who cares when you have a "finely crafted beer" in your hand?
Source
The description reads:
Theology On Tap is a men’s Bible discussion group held at various pubs and brew houses in the Denver/Boulder area. The goal of Theology On Tap is to create a venue where guys from Flatirons (and their friends) can get together and talk about some of the big questions of life and faith over a finely crafted beer or two. We’ve got eight different pubs and brew houses (and one coffee shop) that have agreed to give us a little space for our guys to get together. (Source)
Now, the intention of this post is not to engage in a discussion over the freedom of the Christian to drink alcohol. This writer has her own personal opinions and no doubt each reader has his or her own thoughts on the subject as well. Let us agree that the matter is not one of primary or salvational significance and simply leave it at that (i.e., do not hijack the comment thread to discuss this).

The point of this particular post is rather to offer another lamenting sigh over the need to make the Bible more relevant, more appealing, more interesting. In addition, the issue of alcohol is such a tricky and potentially dangerous one. What of those who struggle with alcoholism? What message might this send to unbelievers, especially those whose current god is alcohol? Might they be led to think that they can get their free ticket to Heaven and keep their idol?

Flatirons also recently hosted what they called "The Man Event: Part Deux"
Don’t miss this all-out manapalooza celebrating the (near) half-year mark since the Man Event on January 8th. Come early. Come hungry. Free hot dogs plus food vendors* including: Quaker Steak & Lube, Chick-Fil-A and our very own Theology On Tap Beer Garden**. We’ll host the 1st Annual Man Event Classic Car Show and have multiple games of skill like: Fastest Pitch, 3-Pointer and Longest Drive. Prizes will be awarded to the winners at each event and there will be a drawing for some major door prizes from Jax Outdoor Gear. We’ll cap off the evening with some worship and a message from Lead Pastor Jim Burgen. Bring your buddies…bring your sons (13 and older)…bring your neighbor….just come! (Source, emphasis added)
A source has confirmed that there was indeed a beer tent at this event (the website does indicate that an ID was required). Just in case the reader has forgotten: this was a church event. This took place on church property (the website notes this event was held in the church lobby and parking lot). How interesting also that, in listing out the many attractions, there is a casual mention at the end that there will be "some worship and a message" from the pastor. Could these things not be listed first? Likely not. After all, worship and a sermon don't draw crowds, and they certainly could never draw a respectable sized crowd without offering hot wings and beer.

There is a sad irony when a church such as Flatirons offers these alcohol-related events and attractions. Most mega churches have very active, large addiction and recovery programs. Flatirons, being an extremely large and popular church in the Denver area, is no exception. Their 12-step program, called "Shift," is a "Christ-centered program based on the 12 steps that provides lasting healing and hope for any hurts, habits or hang-ups," (source). Further, "At Shift, we can find life skills and Biblical wisdom that lead us to a better way of doing life so that we can be peaceful and live life more fully." So what are these 12 steps?
Source
Time and space do not allow for an examination of these, nor does it allow for a discussion of the controversial nature of 12-step programs in general. A review of the website for Shift, however, reveals no mention of the Gospel. As for the name of Jesus, it appears only once, in the "Serenity Prayer" that you see above. It must be very difficult to overcome addiction by merely trying to live out the Law without the Gospel. In fact, such an approach is no better than that taken by the world, as struggling sinners seek to right their own lives in their own power.

It seems that, in its efforts to appeal and attract, Flatirons may have created confusion for some. To offer a 12-step recovery program one day, while flaunting a beer tent another day seems not only insensitive but unwise. So where do we draw the relevance line? At what point do we finally look at these gimmicks and admit that we have been treating Jesus as though He's simply not enough: not cool enough, not catchy enough, not interesting enough? At what point are these churches essentially saying, "Hey Jesus, thanks, but...no thanks"?

*Note: The opinions contained in this post are based upon information available on the church website at the time of writing.
FURTHER READING:
Emergent Inebriates (Herescope)

7 comments:

  1. The American church is so pathetic. The “Manapolooza” is a marketing event designed to appeal to the appetites of men. An offer of free hot dogs, a beer tent, cars and competitive games would draw in just about any man around looking for a good time. The only worldly thing missing from this event is pretty waitresses in Bavarian-style shorts!

    The thing that really bothers me is that this is a classic “bait & switch” advertisement: Have Fun! / (Get Religion). This technique is rightly seen as deceptive and dishonest when used in commercial marketing, but somehow it’s ok to use in the American church.

    Don’t get me wrong, hot dogs, cars and games are all things Christians can enjoy. It’s the MARKETING-EVANGELISM approach that is so repugnant; the appeal to worldly appetites as an avenue to evangelizing the soul.

    To be serious…Christian manliness is the courage to stand for the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures without regard to personal cost. It’s being a man who possesses a character full of the fruit of the Spirit, including gentleness and self-control.

    Thanks Erin for your valuable research and articles. Carol

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    Replies
    1. Good comments, Carol, thank you.

      I owe thanks to a reader for alerting me to this story. You all are invaluable and your research and tips make my job much easier!

      Delete
  2. Its interesting to me that you would make so many assumptions not only about why we do what we do at Flatirons but that we didn't wrestle with any of the issues you brought up. Its also interesting to me that you would write an entire blog post about our church when its clear you haven't been to our church or listened to any of our sermons. You seem to assume that we did this to draw a crowd and that worship and teaching would never draw a crowd. We probably had 2000 men at this event, but we have around 14,000 people attend for worship and teaching on a given weekend. We have many men who already come to Flatirons so we don't do these things to draw more men, but because we already do. If you are actually concerned about our church it would seem to me the most productive way to go about expressing your concern would be to ask questions of our leaders as opposed to launching criticism without knowledge via internet blogging. If you would actually like answers to some of your questions, feel free to contact me scott_nickell@flatironschurch.com I'm the teaching pastor.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Scott,

      I appreciate your comment and your openness and willingness to speak with anyone who would like to inquire further. What I did here was merely pose some questions and concerns based upon the public advertising that's available. Every reader of course is encouraged to formulate his own opinion on such things based upon Scripture and their own convictions.

      Thank you for stopping by and expressing your thoughts.

      Delete
  3. It seems like some important research is missing from your blog. Theology on tap is not only offered to men but they also offer these gatherings to the women in the church, just as the restaurants and brew pubs are listed, so are coffee houses that are part of the "Theology on tap" dates. These events are not advertised outside of the church, making them not a " outreach marketing tactic" but the information is given within the church body already attending Flatirons. I am a restaurant manager that offers space for these events at my brew pub. It has been a true pleasure seeing complete strangers come together in a group and see them find a connection...it is not the fact that these events are set in a brew pub, it's the fact that it is opening an opportunity for someone to bump into Jesus and find a community of people that are seeking to live life...now, a member of Flatirons, I get to see...not a mega church, but a place were I can be real, a place were I don't "put on my Sunday best" but learn how to be a believer all 7 days a week, connections with other people that struggle and can say " me too" Without being judged. It's not about Christian menliness with a beer in hand...it's about finding ways to meet people wherever they are in life, make true relational connections,, and running after God together. Just like Jesus taught. I hope that as other readers alert you of stories as this one, that you research what you blog about a bit more and gather the facts ...Cristina

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  4. Erin:

    While I appreciate your attempt to maintain a blog that supports freedom of expression and thought, I am a bit surprised at its lack of objectivity. You clearly state in your “about” section that you seek to “objectively report what you observe” yet you fail to be objective. Authentic, ethical, and respectable objectivity would provide the reader with a fact based subject matter background, something you so clearly overlooked. Anyone can take a program or two from an organization/church/company and put it in a vacuum and poke holes. Put these programs within the framework and structure of the values of that organization/church/company and you start to understand what they are really about. Failure to do this borders on ignorance.

    In your response to Scott you state “…merely pose some questions and concerns based upon the public advertising that's available.” In what appears to be a "seek first to be understood" rather than a "seek to understand" approach it is clear you didn’t see the Flatirons Community Church Values. Listed in the “About Us – Who We Are” section of the website you will see the Values of Flatirons Community Church. I have posted them below for you to review.

    Our Values

    Acts 2:42-47

    1. Biblical Authority... "A Better Way to Do Life"
    We will present God's Word with grace and truth. We recognize its authority and our need to adjust to it. (John 1:14)

    2. Relational Intimacy... "Grace and Truth"

    No matter what disconnected you from God, Jesus is the only way to reconnect with Him. (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 6, 8)


    3. Authentic Community…"Me Too"

    Pursuing truth together is the best opportunity for truly living out and applying that truth. Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-35

    4. Gifted Service... "Purpose and Personality"

    We recognize that God distributes Spiritual Gifts (time, talents, treasure) to equip the Church in order to serve as Christ to the world. (Romans 12, Galatians 5)

    5. Excellent Environments... "Bump into Jesus"

    We aren’t in the business of changing people. Rather, we embrace our role as creating a space where people can work out their stuff with Jesus. (Colossians 3:17)

    6. Relational Evangelism... "Come and See"

    We will intentionally leverage our influence in the world for the purpose of introducing people to the awesome love of Christ. (Mark 2, Matthew 28)

    You state that, “It seems that, in its efforts to appeal and attract, Flatirons may have created confusion for some.” I play in the Worship band and am involved in various other ministries at Flatirons Church. Erin, I am no way confused. I serve because I believe God calls me to do so and b/c I believe in the Flatirons vision: “To Bring The Awesome Life of Christ to a Lost and Broken World”. I would encourage you to attend a service and reach out to those of us that attend or are involved in the various programs/ministries, myself included. I would be happy to provide you with my contact information should you desire.

    Tom

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  5. I sincerely appreciate everyone's comments, opinions, and gracious disagreements, though it seems a few may have misunderstood or misapplied some of my words. Regardless, let me repeat again what has been made clear, this post was written based upon information available at the time of writing.

    Please know that I have no personal vendetta or grudge against this particular church. It is difficult for me to understand, however, why some feel it is necessary to resort to gimmicks in order to make Jesus and His truth as found in His Word interesting or exciting. This is a point upon which we will all have to agree to disagree.

    I appreciate the zeal with which so many defended their church. It is my hope and prayer that, as times grow worse and persecution draws nearer to our own homes, that same passion will stand firm for Jesus Christ and His Gospel of repentance and faith.

    With that, and due to the age of this post, I will be closing comments.

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