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Beer and the Bible
People may be interested in learning about God, but they may not have a suitable place to do so. Here's how a university student overcame that problem.

An expedition out on the waters of life to draw and reveal the truth about God's gracious character and forgiveness.

When Peter first began to comprehend who Jesus was, he fell to his knees and told Him to go away. I reflect on this often. The thought of being in the presence of God is no comfort, even for many theists. Peter's encounter reveals that we have many deep emotional barriers that plague us and keep God at a distance. In our increasingly secular society the largest barriers I have seen is that people imagine God in negative ways, so they would never consider following Him. A second barrier is that even if they had interest in getting answers, they have no palatable places to learn about God.

"We talk about God in a pub!"

Just like Jesus helped Peter overcome his barriers, so too we have been sent to help others overcome theirs. The challenge forever remains how. I met a young man named Jake in a university course. Over several years, he began to discover and encounter Christ in his life. During this time, I kept warning him not to distance himself from his secular friends. Two years ago he asked me, "If I invite my friends to the pub for a beer, would you come and do a discussion on something from the Bible?" Jake instinctively knew his secular friends would be uncomfortable in a church setting or even a Bible study.

But he thought they would be OK with talking about God in a pub. When we started "Beer and the Bible" it was a flop. After a couple of no-shows, I asked Jake what he wanted to do and he felt we should keep trying. Every month for the last two years, despite low turnouts, Jake has faithfully invited his friends to the Dalhousie University Grad House to talk about God. This past September, eight people attended. In October, 15 people turned up. In November, 20, as friends started saying to friends, "We talk about God in a pub!"

Jesus responds to Peter by telling him not to be afraid because, "From now on you will catch people. " I often reflect on this too. Jesus' plan for Peter is not the sedentary Christian life that it has become today.

I am constantly astounded at the level of honest and vulnerable discussion that occurs at "Beer and the Bible." During one of these nights when the topic was on addictions, many students shared openly about struggles. We talked at length about perceptions we have of God and how Jesus related to "sinners" and people who pretended to be perfect. One student said to me afterwards, "This was really good. It was like a mini intervention."

To be a Christian implicitly means that we are with Christ on a fishing expedition. How to help people step over their barriers and encounter God takes ongoing initiative and patience. Maybe "Beer and the Bible" is not the solution for the people you encounter in life; so then, what is?

Ron Abarbanel is the Christian Medical and Dental Society’s associate staff member at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia and he works with the Navigators in Halifax. He can be reached at www.baldguynavigators.ca.

Originally published in Focus, Spring 2009.

Used with permission. Copyright © 2009 Christianity.ca.

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