By Paul Koch –
Last night, three of my colleagues and I rendezvoused at a local pub for a few drinks. It has become a tradition of ours every Lent and Advent season. You see, we team up during these times of the year to collaborate on a common theme to guide our preaching. We all follow the fairly standard tradition of holding a midweek service during these special times of the church year. Instead of preparing multiple sermons for a Wednesday night service, we each prepare one sermon and then preach it multiple times, at each other’s congregations.
This practice has offered us added benefits outside of trying to manage the extra workload. Most notably, we have grown to know each other’s parishioners. I have gotten to know some of my brothers’ flocks by name, and they know me. It builds upon the fellowship of our Lord’s church. No matter how unique your service might be, no matter how geographically isolated you might feel, there is a larger church that you are a part of. This means that what you do in your particular congregation does not happen in a vacuum, away from the rest of the church. And what happens at one place will actually affect another. This then has ramifications for correction, encouragement, guidance, and compassion from one church to another.
Which brings us back to the bar.
At the bar, we sit to toast the end of this hectic preaching schedule even as we look forward to all the events of Holy Week. But there is truly something wonderful that happens there. In fact, it happens at bars all the time. It is perhaps the one thing that makes a public house such a great place to gather. It is not the glass of whiskey per se that is a blessing, but the conversation that ensues. Conversations in a bar tend to be unique.
The requirement to enter into the bar isn’t very high. You have to be of a certain age and be somewhat tolerable in public, but other than that the list of requirements isn’t very extensive. So, as you lean on old worn wood forever sticky from years of spilled drinks and take your seat on the cracked barstool, you find yourself sitting among equals. The line cook, the teacher, the firefighter, and the college professor all have an equal voice and are welcome to give it on a wide range of topics. Be it politics, movies, sports or concerns over artificial intelligence, everyone is welcome to sway the majority with their well-reasoned arguments. One’s credentials don’t automatically give them a leg up.
As pastors, this is a refreshing and welcome change of pace. It is a place where the size of a particular congregation or the style of worship or the method of preaching doesn’t automatically mean you are better than the brother next to you or that your preferred way is correct. It is a place where we are equals, lining up shoulder to shoulder at a bar. It is then a place where there is courage and laughter as we lose ourselves in stories and actually learn from each other.
Sure, we tried to persuade each other that our way is the best. Of course, we threw insults and used cheap rhetorical tricks to make our points. But over and again it melted away into laughter—not that cheap complimentary laughter you hear in a meeting of bureaucrats, but that deep, room-filling laughter of men who are not afraid.
Get out, meet together with friends, and buy a round. It is good of the soul. Oh, and Tim and Matt, I’m still right about hymnals. Just ask Ernie.