Larry DeBruyn, the guest writer of this ABI blog post, received his Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1974 and has been the Pastor of Franklin Road Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana for many years. Pastor DeBruyn has published two books; regularly writes articles as a guest contributor on several websites; is a conference speaker; and has taught internationally including at the Word of Life Bible School in Hungary.
“Some thoughts on Sunday night church in a bar.”
As he begins to rip into “a screaming guitar solo,” the band member yells out at the audience, “Let’s go to church boys!” Welcome to Pub Theology. As the reporter describes it, the theology is “a Sunday night show that’s one part church and one part party.” Among other posters on the bar’s walls is an alluding slander of the final verse of the biblical chapter on love. It reads, “Faith, Hope, Love and Beer” (The actual text reads, “But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love,” 1 Corinthians 13:13, NASB).
Being “shaggy-haired, body-pierced and colored with assorted body art,” some members of the Sunday evening pub rock group double as members of a mega-church’s “worship team” on Sunday mornings. Confessing to love both Jesus and rock ‘n’ roll, band members will burn through a pack of cigarettes and exhort the audience to cozy up to the bar and buy beer. Skeptical about hosting the “Pub Theology” on Sunday nights in his bar at first, the owner of the business admits the band has turned an otherwise dead night into a profitable evening.
Regarding this new outreach—the mega-church’s ministerial staff fully approve of Pub Theology—one of the band’s members says: “We want to be sincere and authentic and be who we really are, whether that is wearing jeans and a T-shirt or having a beer,” remarks one of the band members. “I think that is real, and I don’t think it is wrong or that God is unhappy about that.” Another band member relates, “I can drink a beer and smoke a cigarette and play some of my favorite songs and hang out with my friends and maybe meet someone and tell them about Jesus.”
Interestingly, most of the band members were raised in religious homes. In fact, two of its members are former PKS (i.e., preacher’s kids). Having been a former pastor, their father now sees the light and has become the band’s roadie (a catch-all term covering all those managers and techies that accompany the band). The band accounts for the band’s existence and novel ministerial approach for reason of their legalistic Wesleyan upbringing—“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t go to R-rated movies, I don’t dance.” But the casual and alcoholically lubricated atmosphere of Pub Theology raises an important issue, for a reporter asks, “Does Pub Theology produce any lasting effects, or is it just a casual encounter with church in a bar—a spiritual one-night stand?”
First, Pub Theology is not church. If it is, then where’s the reading of the Scriptures, the apostles’ teaching, prayer and observance of the Lord’s Table? (Acts 2:42) We can also be certain that the band members will avoid any impression of being preachy.
Second, Pub Theology is not theology. Reportedly, the band’s opening song was Joan Osborne’s one-hit wonder, “What if God was one of us?” The lyrics also add, “Just a slob like one of us.” Imagine . . . God’s a slob like one of us. Given the humanizing of God in the song “What if God was one of us?” what we’re dealing with is not Pub Theology, but pub idolatry as “the glory of the incorruptible God” is being exchanged “for an image in the form of corruptible man” (Romans 1:23, NASB). Do you think Joan Osborne’s lyrical questions affirm the great Christological passages of the New Testament (John 1:1 ff.; Colossians 1:15-17; Philippians 2:5-11). By the way, these three passages are comprised of theological statements extracted from early Christian hymns. Would the pub-theology band sing them? I’d estimate the lyrics of these hymns to be far too dogmatic, stodgy, and preachy for the “boys” at the bar!
Third, Pub Theology is not Christian outreach. It’s the use of carnal-fleshly-worldly means to attain spiritual ends. The Apostle Paul would not have engaged such means for he wrote: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, NIV; Compare Galatians 5:21 where Paul labels “drunkenness” a work of the flesh). Given the atmosphere surrounding the Pub Theology, Paul’s majestic description of love as it exists on the barroom wall might be contemporarily translated, now abide these four, “faith, hope, love, and beer,” but the greatest of these is beer!