Last night we held our first Theology Pub at a great, local Irish Pub (McNally's). We've wanted to do this for a long time now, but things just seemed to get in the way. God's timing and all. Well, we finally launched and it was a great time.
What is Theology Pub? For us it is a public dialog about matters of faith and culture. What we are doing is creating a context for and a culture of open discussion concerning the subjects that really matter - subjects that are inherently theological. These are often the issues that we should be talking about, but rarely do. So I really don't teach here, but I introduce the subject, ask questions and facilitate the dialog. The exchange of opinions, even conflicting opinions, is good for everyone as it can help us all to evaluate our own convictions and gain a better understanding of each other. For many this is a time to begin thinking through ideas long neglected that merit our attention. For some it will amount to a kind of pre-evangelism where we discuss issues that do ultimately relate to Scripture and the gospel, but this is no bait and switch. You know, where we advertise a discussion on poverty, and then tell them that unless they are "poor in spirit" they will never see the Kingdom of God. We're up front about what we're talking about. The goal is to get people thinking and talking through the things that matter. This builds relationships between individuals, between the church and the community, and that provides more opportunities for the gospel to be seen and discussed.
The pub we meet in is one of my favorites. Great food, great people and the atmosphere is awesome. I don't have any photos that show off the inside, but I hope to have some next time. We meet on the second floor of the pub where we can seat 50 or more for sure. At our first gathering we had 20 people, though we heard from many who wanted to come but couldn't. We're expecting a bigger turn out for our second Theology Pub.
This first gathering focused on "spirituality and religion in suburbia," and it was a great mix of people who had many insightful things to share.
People have asked about the structure. We're still figuring things out, but here's how it went down.
7-7:15 people hanging out, ordered food, drinks, etc. 7:15-7:20 I introduce Theology Pub, and then the subject of the night. 7:20-8:30 Questions and answer, back and forth. 8:30-8:35 Wrap up - why this format and subject matters to me and our church.
As I continue to talk with non-Christians I find that many are ready to have these kinds of conversations - so long as they aren't sitting down for a sales pitch. People are ready to talk theology! Just ask Rainn Wilson (you know him as "Dwight" from The Office).
I have been talking to Jonathan McIntosh (Hanley Road Campus Pastor at The Journey, he's also the guy who developed "Theology at the Bottleworks") for years about this, and even went down to Saint Louis to see how the people from The Journey do it (and they do this very, very well). Big thanks to Jonathan and the people at The Journey for all your encouragement and advice. I know a few others who do similar events and would love to have everyone sharing their experiences.