When the congregation at tiny San Marco Church in Jacksonville began transforming from an aging group to a millennial assemblage, the church began seeking new ways to study the Bible. Members sought something outside the walls of the formal church setting.
|Held at Aardwolf Brewing Company in Jacksonville, members of the Brews and Hebrews Bible study meet Sunday evenings. The San Marcos group was looking to meet outside the walls of a formal church setting.|
Just over a year ago, about a dozen members began gathering each Sunday evening at Aardwolf microbrewery, a few blocks from the church, for a Bible study dubbed Brews and Hebrews.
“It’s really been more successful than I expected,” said Pastor Steve Painter. “I’m excited about it. I expected five or six people to show up, and we’ve got double that.”
The small group borrowed from Bishop Ken Carter’s Twitter feed last year when he preached about Luke, then Acts, probably because they cover exactly 52 weeks, Painter surmised. “That’s why we did it.” Now, the group is discussing Hebrews, a chapter of the Bible none of the members had previously studied.
Talking the Bible over a beer isn’t a brand-new concept. There are numerous similar groups nationwide, including one called What Would Jesus Brew.
The conversations can be very interesting, Painter said, noting one particular evening when the group was reading about angels in the Bible.
“It is more of an informal setting than church,” Painter said. “The guy that is leading this, Tom Lewis, picks up where we left off the Sunday before. He reads a couple verses, and when we come across something interesting, we stop and talk about whatever it is. For example, in the first chapter of Hebrews, it talks about angels quite a bit. We had a very in-depth conversation on how we view angels versus how those people (in biblical times) would view angels.
“It was interesting,” Painter said. “Today, we view angels as messengers, and the impression we get from reading the scripture is it looks like they actually worshipped and held angels in too high a regard.”
These Bible studies not only get a conversation going, but also expose the surrounding community to the San Marco congregation, Painter said. The area is a community going through gentrification. “We are a very young congregation. I’ve just finished my fourth year there, and when my wife and I got there we were the youth group. Now, I call us the senior citizens.”
In addition to Brews and Hebrews, San Marco has a Fresh Expression it calls Brew Theology, held at the same microbrewery. “A number of people like that format,” Painter said. “Recently we’ve had one or two unchurched people that found us through the Fresh Expressions group, so it’s a nice next step for them.
Brews and Hebrews usually lasts about 90 minutes.
“You can see people in the room who have finished their beer, but aren’t ready to leave because they are listening,” Painter said. Occasionally, the bartenders will pass through a few times and listen in. “Bartenders will walk through just to hear what we are saying.
“It’s a big change for our church,” which draws about 50 worshippers on any given Sunday, he said. The average age now is 35 to 40.
--Yvette C. Hammett is a freelance writer based in Valrico.